There is no excuse for buying McDonald’s in Hong Kong. But I did, and I will try to explain.
- My first night in Hong Kong led me, quite randomly, to the best Chinese food I’ve ever eaten, hands down. So good, in fact, that I have gone back to the same place twice since, and tried to make nice with the wait staff there.
- The fact that this place is right around the corner from a row of strip clubs has nothing to do with my frequenting this establishment. Honestly.
- I’ve also tried other places, with mixed results. I am currently convinced that I don’t really like the taste of Chinese barbecue; it is sweet and gummy in a way that just doesn’t appeal to me. I’ve also decided that I don’t really like rice noodles either; again, its mostly a texture thing. I’ve been on the look out for some fresh sea food, but no luck so far. This is high on my list of priorities for the weekend. I’ve run into a lot of sushi places, but since I’ll be in Tokyo in a few weeks I want to save my appetite for the real deal.
- The point is that its not from a lack of trying new things. I’ve become quite bold at stepping inside small, steamy restaurants, pointing randomly at the menu, and hoping for the best. Although the city is designed to be bilingual, I’ve found myself in a number of situations interacting with people can’t speak more than a few words of English, and so it is a crap shoot every time.
- I’ve also started working a lot, and running into the city to try new food isn’t always an option. I’ve gone hungry a few nights from just working past the time when it is reasonable to go out.
- I’ve also been drinking tap water, really without thinking about it. I learned today that this is probably the worst possible thing to do, when my bathroom tap water suddenly began to smell like stagnant, moldy water that had been sitting in a homeless woman’s vagina. My bowels have been quite angry at me as a result of drinking this water, and I’ve woken up a few times with a horrible stabbing pain in my guts.
- There is a cafeteria on campus; several of them, actually, but I have been incredibly confused at the process of ordering food, then paying for it, then obtaining it, which often involves moving through several different lines scattered across the cafeteria in no discernible order. This has confused and frustrated me several times, occasionally to the point that I just give up and skip lunch.
- I’ve easily lost 10 pounds since I got here.
- The closest place to get food is a Mcdonald’s in the basement of the main Academic building on campus, which is unfortunately on my way to class every morning and open very late at night. And it is always PACKED full of people. The temptation was too much. So I gave in.
The rituals surrounding meals is strange, and there are things I take for granted about the process that are completely different here.
- Multiple lines, for ordering, purchasing, and obtaining food, are common in all HK restaurants, including McDonalds. I thought it would be a good lesson to go through these foreign rituals in a place that was otherwise so familiar.
- The habits of customers is also different. For instance, people will just leave their food on the table, expecting a service person to come clean it up after they leave. Obviously this is common in sit down restaurants in America, but at fast food places you usually take the tray to the garbage and clean up after yourself. In Hong Kong, you ALWAYS leave your food on the table, and they look at you weird if you bring it to them, as if somehow you are making it more difficult for them by cleaning up after yourself. I still feel guilty just getting up from a table to leave.
- There are also a variety of exotic menu items that are only available in Hong Kong. Most intriguing were Shake Shake fries, which are normal french fries that come with a special bag and packet of shakey powder in a variety of flavors. Walking around the city, you see tons of people with bags of Shake Shake fries, and the seaweed flavoring seems to be most popular. Also, it is just assumed that you want to eat an order of chicken nuggets with the Spicy Garlic sauce that is also incredibly popular here.
- Trip report: Seaweed fries are the shit. Would definitely eat again. But I’m swearing off McDonalds for the remainder of the trip, at least until I get to Tokyo and maybe I’ll try a teriyaki burger.
- This stuff is worse than crack. This is a nonsmoking campus, so in addition to pure sobriety I’ve had to limit myself to sneaking a cig in random corners in the early morning hours. I can handle all that fine. But wave a fry in my face and I’m like a quivering bowl of jelly.
- As an aside, I’ve had to dive under a children’s play set to avoid campus security while outside smoking a cigarette. It was not my proudest moment.
- Garlic Chili sauce, which has the texture of cocktail sauce but makes everything taste vaguely like Chinese food, but like authentic Chinese food and not American “Chinese food”. I didn’t really care for it.