Thursday, February 9, 2012

Breakfast in Nanning

What does one eat for Breakfast in China? Since i was staying at a Chinese hotel, the Gui Jing Hotel in Nanning, China, I decided that I should eat a Chinese breakfast. At the Gui Jing hotel, breakfast is Dim Sum. Dim Sum roughly translates as little snacks. In the true tradition of Dim Sum, servers push carts around the restaurant, stopping at each table. You select the dishes you want and they mark it off on a pre-printed sheet of paper on you table.

Here are some of the more interesting offerings for Dim Sum.

You might think that this is a novel way to eat breakfast everyday, especially for a foreigner. I hate to tell  you but after eating Dim Sum day after day for a week or so it does start to become a little boring. I am used to eating breakfast in fifteen minutes or less and getting on with my day. Waiting for someone to come around with cart who might or might not have something that you would like to eat can get old very quickly.

What I did was devise my own system of getting breakfast. I wrote out, in Chinese characters, in my very bad Chinese calligraphy, the names of the things that I like to eat for breakfast. So, when I would show up for breakfast in the morning, instead of waiting for the carts to come around I would tell the servers, or rather show them what I want for breakfast and they would bring it to me. when the carts came around I would also order a thing or two but I would already have something to eat by then.

Now, at home, I typically drink freshly brewed coffee for breakfast. As you would think, in China, I drink tea, at just about every occasion that you could think of. A few years ago, I tried Chrysanthemum tea for breakfast and I never have anything else for breakfast, at least when I am in China. You would be right in assuming that Chrysanthemum tea is made from, well chrysanthemums. They are not your garden variety of chrysanthemums, these flowers are specially grown in a specific area of China. The flavor is wonderful. Since Chrysanthemum tea is not a true tea, it is a herbal tea. Most people combine the Chrysanthemum tea with a regular tea called Pu Erh tea. Pu Erh tea is a special fermented tea from Yunnan province in China. The fermentation process not only makes the tea dark it gives it a full-bodied flavor. When you combine Chrysanthemum tea with Pu Erh tea you get the best combination of both teas. The combination is excellent for breakfast. Actually, Chrysanthemum tea is excellent any time. My wife and I drink Chrysanthemum tea at home, usually on weekends.

One day, during my recent trip to China, I thought that it would be nice to have coffee for breakfast, just for one day. When I sat down for breakfast, the server asked me I wanted Chrysanthemum tea, or ju hua cha as it is called in Chinese. They had gotten used to the fact that I was drinking chrysanthemum tea every morning. I said, " No, I would like to have coffee this morning." Off she went to procure a cup of coffee for me. I knew coffee was a big deal because it was usually only consumed in specialty shops. I waited. They brought my dishes for breakfast but no coffee. I asked the server where my coffee was. Instead, the restaurant manager came to my table and apologized. She said that their coffee machine was broken and they could not make me any coffee. I said, "Don't worry, just bring me Chrysanthemum tea." That was the end of my idea of having coffee for breakfast. The truth was that I had brought Tim Horton's coffee in package form from Canada which I brewed in my hotel room every night. Still, it would have been nice to have a cup of coffee in the morning in China.

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