Thursday, November 22, 2007

The President's Pad

Tuesday afternoon President Wong's wife took C***o, R****i, and me to Zhuhai to show us their apartment in the college-owned complex. Their unit is on the top floor of the building across from the one we'd visited last weekend. We took an elevator up to the eleventh floor — the first elevator I've been seen in a residential building in China (even ones as tall as seven stories, like the one I live in on campus, have only stairs), but I suppose that as modern high-rises become as common as they are in Zhuhai, they're likely to become standard.

The Wongs’apartment has two floors — another rarity for China — with two bedrooms on the lower floor and three upstairs.

Also unusual are the large windows that flood the living room with light, and the chandelier.

The apartment boasts many modern conveniences, like a projection TV with a large screen that lowers from the ceiling.

The eleventh-floor balcony affords a sweeping view, but unfortunately it encompasses nothing but the other high-rise residential buildings that have gone up in the past few years or are under construction.

After touring the apartment, we headed off for foot massages (which seem to be the favorite affordable luxury among many Chinese people) and then an early dinner (C***o had to be back in time for a 7:00 class) at a hot pot restaurant.

Hot pot, for those who don't know, is a style of dining that originated in the north where thinly sliced meats, noodles, vegetables, and other ingredients are cooked at the table in pots of boiling, seasoned broth. I prefer to have hot pot in the winter — it's a great way to warm up on a cold day — but it's popular here year-round.

The restaurant we went to — located in the Jida district behind the Jusco department store I've been to several times — had a feature I've never seen before: a table with condiments to add to the sauce that you dip the cooked items into.

Beef and lamb are the standard meats used in hot pot. They were accompanied by four or five different types of greens . . .

. . . and several varieties of noodles.

Restaurants in China always have individual pots for each diner; in America, for some reason, there's always a single large communal one that everyone dumps their items into, which strikes me as a far inferior system. Although all the restaurants I've previously been to in China brought out butane burners for each pot, here there were electric burners built right into the table.

Back home Ling and I have often served hot pot as a holiday dinner — it's graced our table at Christmas more than once — but this meal came a couple of days too early for me to think of it as a Thanksiving stand-in. It would have seemed an inappropriate substitute anyway: Cooking a small tidbit of beef in less than a minute strikes me as the antithesis of roasting a turkey for hours.

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