“The ramblings and grumblings of author Ad Hudler”

NOW do you believe me?
Monday, December 26, 2011

I don't know about y'all, but I've pretty much given up on restaurant Chinese food. Stopped eating it for the most part. That's partially because there are so many other options these days -- Thai and Vietnamese, mainly. But I also avoid Chinese food because I'm invariably disappointed in it. Unless I'm in a big city like New York or San Francisco or Washington D.C. ... if I ask for spicy I get something that's about as daring as the gravy in an old-folks' home.

A friend who's married to a Chinese woman explained it to me one time: "You're what they call lo fan," he said. "It means white rice. Look at you; you look like a redneck. Rednecks don't like authentic, spicy foods. They're dumbing it down for you."

Today, very hungry, I stopped into a Chinese restaurant to order some Szechwan tofu with vegetables. It looked fresh and delicious but, once again, it was so benign that I would have fed it to a baby. I wondered: What can I do to convince these Chinese cooks that I like SPICY?

And then I had an idea: I'd just been grocery shopping, so I went out to the truck and pulled out a fresh serrano chili and took it inside and asked to speak to the cook. With him watching, I bit off the chili all the way to the stem, chewed it slowly and swallowed without flinching. His eyes widened.

"See?" I said. "I'm not lo fan. I want it hot. Please. I grew up with Mexicans -- I'm used to it."

He took my entree back to the kitchen and whipped me up another. When he set it down in front of me I could smell that he'd added fresh ginger and I could see red pepper flakes coating the shiny vegetables like confetti.

As I ate my wonderfully spicy food I could feel the cook and his cashier-wife watching me over my shoulder, as if I was some exotic animal that had wandered into their restaurant.

"You want something to drink?" she asked.

"No, thank you." I replied. "This is perfect."


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