Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Do you really eat rice??? - Suzhou, China

Some stacks of small Chinese rice bags
I'm at a convenience store to buy a couple of ice creams. If L doesn't take his daily sweet poison dose he's gonna be in a bad mood until the following night. And I'm the one who has to give him that shot.
When I'm walking by the rice corner I suddenly remember that we run out of it last time we cooked some leek and sausage risotto(*). I can't see the prices though. I ask the cashier how much the small(**) packs are, I get one of those and I drag it to the counter. It takes the girl a while to come to, she looks at me with a stunned expression and when she finally decides to scan the bar code she says: 
"Do you rice?"
"Of course I do, why?"
"I thought..." she places her hand down on an imaginary table and then brings it up to her mouth to mime the action she's referring to "...that YOU only ate bread!"
That's funny: if you talk to a Chinese in Chinese like a Chinese he doesn't turn a hair, taking it for granted, but if he finds out that you eat rice he looks at you as if you were Yuri Gagarin who just disembarked from the Sputnik. 
I mean, of all foreigners, to me! I was born in the Po Plain, a land of rice fields, rice weeders and risotto. Chinese people are really great at surprising you by getting surprised at you. 

(*) I read in quite a few Italian cuisine websites that the Asian varieties of rice are not good for cooking risotto. Even though there is some truth in this statement one can positively say that it is a rather inaccurate generalization. The Thai types (jasmine for instance) or the Indian ones (basmati), with long and thin grains, must definitely be avoided. You intend to cook a risotto and you end up pouring on your dish a slab of polenta that congeals at concrete like speed. However the Japanese and Chinese varieties - with short and thicker grains - are as good as the Italian arborio, both texture and taste wise.

(**) The small packs weigh 2.5 kg. Every time I take one home from the shop my shoulder gets dislocated on average three times. Chinese people prefer to by the bigger ones though, 5 kg up, and when they go shopping instead of using plastic bags or trolleys they rent some powerful industrial forklifts.

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