lostnchina

…because not all of us have our Peking ducks in a row

That Chinese Chick Can’t Cook Rice

All hail the Chinese rice cooker!

For my birthday I had a group of friends over to my place for a birthday / leftover X’mas / Chinese New Year hot pot (fondue) dinner.

Traditionally in the Chinese culture, the birthday girl is supposed to treat all her friends and not the other way around.  I’m supposed to have an elaborate spread, make sure that everyone’s had at least a bottle of wine each and several gallons of food, then let them crawl home.  If I don’t achieve this, then I have failed as a Chinese.

And the guilt would be enormous.  The Chinese are very much like the Catholics in terms of guilt, with my Mom being the torch bearer.  If you go to her house and have her signature dish, black cod with secret sauce, but don’t praise her effusively enough, she’ll go into the kitchen, turn on the gas oven and stick her head inside…at least till the stewed pork on the stove was done.  Because guilt about proper etiquette would compel Mom to take her head out of the oven long enough to serve the pork to her guests.

I’ve inherited this Chinese guilt as far as throwing dinner parties is concerned.  I had marinaded some spareribs for my signature Thai spareribs platter one day beforehand.  About 8lbs of ribs.  On the day of, I bought a trunkload of food for the hot pot.  And, just in case any of my guests were coming directly from their 10-day trek to the Himalayas, I also got several pounds of assorted dim sum and chow mein.

Less than 15 people were attending and 3 of them kids.  I had enough food to feed Sri Lanka.

Then, one of the kids asked for RICE – that white, granular, carb-loaded staple of Chinese cuisine.

“Sure!”   I said brightly, Aunt-Susan style and proceeded to get the water in the pot ready for my Minute Rice.

“YOU…YOU…are going to…to cook – MINUTE RICE?!”  The child’s Mother pointed at me in disbelief.

“Yeah.  What’s wrong with Minute Rice?  It’s fast and it tastes like rice!  Besides, I don’t know how to cook rice properly in the rice cooker.”

“YOU…YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO COOK RICE?!” The Mother then turned towards my living room and yelled, “Hey, hey everybody!  Susan doesn’t know how to cook rice!  She can’t cook rice!  Can you believe it?”

All the voices in the living room hushed.  There was a loud thud, like someone fell from his chair onto the ground.

“B-b-b-but…I don’t really eat rice.  I mean, I prefer quinoa….”

Then, it started.

“Susan, OH-MY-GOD!  You can’t cook rice?!  It’s OK…it’s OK.  Nothing to worry about.  It’s never too late.  Let me teach you.  It’s SO EASY.”

“Susan, Susan: where’s your RICE COOKER?  I’ll show you how to cook rice.  You HAVE a rice cooker, don’t you?”

“How could this be, Susan?  I’ve known you for more than 10 years!  You were bridesmaid at my wedding!  How come I didn’t know about this?!  It must be my fault.  I was not enough of a friend to you.  I’M SO SO SORRY, Susan!” (My guilty girlfriend of 10 years is also Chinese).

As friends prepared for an emergency Rice Intervention by setting up Iron Chef work stations, I realized how my inability to cook rice the traditional way has affected my “Chineseness” in other people’s eyes, and this was a bitter truth they didn’t want to face.  It was like discovering that swollen ugly mole on your chest is really a third breast.  Maybe you kind of knew all along, but who wants to face the reality of having a third breast?  I mean, how would you shop for bras?

Frankly, I don’t care for Chinese food, unless it’s served Panda-Express style with a crunchy fortune cookie written in that tacky Chinese font I love so much.

I make enough good “Asian” food – usually Thai or Vietnamese – to keep me on the right side of being Chinese.   None of my Caucasian friends knows any other Asians and will often introduce me as their token Asian: THIS – IS – SUSAN – FROM – CHINA! – as if I was that rare moose milk cheese from Sweden that sells for over $500/lb.

At parties I’d regale people with stories about living and working in China and I thought they listened because the stories were interesting and my delivery entertaining, but now I realized it was probably because they thought I was Chinese.

During a Christmas party last year, I spent nearly an hour haranguing a poor Caucasian lady into using acupuncture to cure her leg pain, even though she’d tried it several times and found it uncomfortable.  I had recently discovered acupuncture – through a Caucasian practitioner in the US, no less – and it helped me with everything from insomnia to stomach cramps and neck pain.

I finally convinced the poor woman to give acupuncture another go, because my petite Chinese self was so persuasive.  If I were a 5’10” red-haired, freckle-faced woman I’m sure she would have thought twice.  Now, I think I should call this lady and tell her to take some extra-strength Advil instead.

We all do this kind of racial stereotyping. Would you ask an Asian with Hello Kitty earmuffs to recommend a good taco joint?  What about that sinking feeling you get when you’re in a Chinese restaurant and realize that all of your fellow diners are Caucasian, and that your gelatinous excuse for a Chinese soup contains diced ham and that hideous frozen vegetable mix (peas, cubed carrots and corn niblets)?

What if your fellow diners were Chinese – how would you feel about the soup then?

Things aren’t much better for me on the Chinese side, either.  In China, I’ve been mistaken for a bitchy Filipino, a confused Korean, a half-baked Japanese and a deep-fried Caucasian.  Even my Mom sometimes looks at me and says, Susan, you just don’t look that Chinese, as if I was supposed to be an elaborate multi-tiered wedding cake that turned out to be an incredibly dry and slightly-lopsided pound cake with a corner missing.

My ambiguous Chinese identity has always bothered other people more than it has bothered me, but I thought it’d be interesting to figure out how Chinese I really am by listing some of my characteristics and assigning them with a point system, with positive points indicating that I’m MORE Chinese:

1.  My hair is not smooth and neat, but messy, curly and abrasive, like a nest of barbed wire thrown together by schizophrenic birds before the Apocalypse  (-2 points).

2.  If schizophrenic birds do take up residence in my hair, I’d charge them rent and there would be no rent control  (+5 points).  If I start charging the birds, they’ll probably move to a lower-rent neighborhood  (+10 points for the birds).

Bouncy Buddha says: May peace and enlightenment be with you!

3.  I don’t drive with my head up my ass (-10 points).  I don’t drive with my head up your ass  (-20 points).  I drive a Japanese car (+35 points).  I don’t drive a Lexus or a Camry  (-100 points).  I don’t have a Chinese ornament hanging from my rear view mirror (-250 points).  Buddha’s not on my dashboard (-100 points).

4.  I have four different types of soy sauce (+30 points): low sodium (-25 points), a big bottle of Kikkoman (+20 points), a smaller bottle of Kikkoman (+10 points), and a bottle of what I see now is just aged balsamic vinegar (-100 points).  Honest mistake (-500 points).

5.  Going out for dinner with my sister the other day, we sat next to each other, but were texting instead of talking to each other (+150 points).  Her iPhone (+150 points for my sister) has a pink Hello Kitty cover (+550 points for my sister).  My sister thinks she’s a Hello Kitty (+10000 points for Hello Kitty).   I’m inclined to agree with her (Another +10000 points for Hello Kitty).

Pressing down on the bow will turn the screen on and off.

6.  I’m 10lbs over the maximum allowable weight for a Chinese woman (-25 points).  I want to lose an additional 5lbs as a *buffer*, in case the 10lbs I lose come creeping back (+25 points for overachieving, which is very Chinese).  I’ve gained 2lbs since I started writing this post an hour ago (-500 points, +2lbs).

7.  For the first 15 years of my life, I thought “Kung Pao Chicken” – a spicy dish that originated in Sichuan –  was a play on “Kung POW Chicken” and the dish was an homage to Bruce Lee and our fine Chinese martial arts tradition (-50000 points).   At least, this is what I told my friends growing up (-20000 points).  However, I always knew Bruce Lee was never related to Sarah Lee nor Lee Jeans (+20 points).

8.  My Mom told me that the reason I got the flu during the Chinese New Year was because I didn’t wear the lucky Chinese New Year red panty she gave me (+50 points for Mom, -50 points for me, -100 points to my physician, who didn’t mention this in his diagnosis).

I had given the panty away to a reader in the Philippines, who had won the panty in a contest I held (-100 points).  He asked for the panty to be used, so I blew my nose in the panty and sent it to him (+5000 points).  First class mail (+1000 points).

Elmer, next time you have to be more specific (-20000 points for Elmer).  But there isn’t going to be a next time (Another -20000 points for Elmer).

After tallying up the score, I fell somewhere in between the 10-for-a-dollar packages of Ramen noodles and General Tsao’s Chicken in terms of Chinese authenticity.  I’ll fool all of the Caucasians most of the time and convince none of the Chinese any of the time.

I’d better starting making more Caucasian friends, then.  Could I interest you all in some Minute Rice?

Susan's mystery identity revealed! Won't Elmer be pleased. (Actually, my eyes aren't that blue).

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This Post is Kind of Racist

24 comments on “That Chinese Chick Can’t Cook Rice

  1. Tobie Openshaw
    June 24, 2013

    After 15 years in Taiwan, I still don’t know how to cook rice in a rice cooker either – but that’s because I just stop by the buffet restaurant on the corner (you know, the one WITHOUT the sneeze guards) and buy 3 plastic bags of cooked bai fan. And maybe a plastic bag of seaweed soup, too.

    Like

    • lostnchina
      June 24, 2013

      Yes, after all those years living in Taiwan I’ve become well-versed in plastic bags, but not as adept at making white rice.

      Like

  2. Pingback: People’s Republic of WTF? « lostnchina

  3. We were texting instead of talking to each other +150pts. I LOL’d at that. When I have time, I’m reading all of your posts. You’re hilarious!

    Like

    • lostnchina
      April 26, 2012

      Thanks so much for stopping by. Your post was also funny – keep ’em coming!

      Like

  4. TwetnySomethingWaitress
    February 11, 2012

    Your sarcasm makes my world go round. And also, I feel a new kinship with you because I eat minute rice like it’s my job. Like I have time to wait for an hour for rice to cook after getting off work where I run around and have no time to eat. minute rice it is!

    Like

    • lostnchina
      February 11, 2012

      Thanks for the compliment. Yes, I don’t understand all the dissing of Minute Rice. It’s fast and it tastes like rice. And now there’s brown rice, too. Rice snobs.

      Like

  5. Chow Main!
    February 11, 2012

    Donna Chang? She’s not Chinese. I’m taking advice from a girl from the Bronx!?

    Like

  6. tiainkorea
    February 10, 2012

    I’m not Chinese but I’d probably score as low as you on the Sri Lankan point scale.

    You definitely have a gift for writing and had me laughing out loud. A lot. Thank you 🙂

    Like

    • lostnchina
      February 11, 2012

      HI Tia,

      Thanks for your kind words. And nice to meet you here!

      Susan

      Like

  7. elmer
    February 10, 2012

    Well Sue, I have yet to receive my prize. I only hope and pray those parcel service guys didn’t kill each other over the panty. But most likely — after what you did to it — customs officials have it quarantined forever.

    Like

    • lostnchina
      February 11, 2012

      Hi Elmer,

      I joke with you – I did NOT REALLY use the panty in that way. I know you would be scared, especially since you see I have a very big nose from my picture.

      Susan

      Like

  8. jakesprinter
    February 10, 2012

    Nice post very helpful 🙂

    Like

    • lostnchina
      February 10, 2012

      Thanks, Jake. Well, it’s helpful if you’re NOT trying to act Chinese, because I really don’t know anything about that.

      Like

  9. Kitchen Slattern
    February 10, 2012

    Growing up, in may family Minute Rice WAS ethnic food.We never had Rice-a-Roni because it was too “spicy.” In fact, there was only one spice: salt. And when we put that and butter on the Minute Rice it became a meal. Either you’re more Chinese than you think or I’m trailer trash. Maybe both. This is hysterical.

    Like

    • lostnchina
      February 10, 2012

      Thanks, Wendie – but don’t think of yourself as trailer trash, think of yourself as a failed Chinese.

      Like

  10. Emily He
    February 10, 2012

    Oh jeez, this got me thinking about my own Chinese-ness. I think I’m only slightly Chinese-ier than you.

    About that fortune cookie..y’know all those “lions” that guard every Chinese bank? Well they have asses without holes with the expectation that money rolls in without ever leaving. So I say continue with your minute rice and hoard in your riches!

    Like

    • lostnchina
      February 10, 2012

      Well, considering that I probably scored an ultimate -20,000 points on the Chinese scale, it wouldn’t be too hard to be Chinese-ier than I am.

      Did not know that about the guarding lions. Now I’ll be checking the butts of every one every time I go to a Chinese bank. Thanks, Emily.

      Like

  11. mrmarymuthafuckingpoppins
    February 10, 2012

    Loved the post Susanita. There are many cool ways to make rice maybe I can do a post for ya. But ultimately minute rice is my favorite!!! Keep on making it and sending me some extra

    Like

    • lostnchina
      February 10, 2012

      Thanks, Dave! But I’m what you call rice-impaired. My Mother’s already tried several times to no avail. I believe you have to like the food in order to cook it well.

      Like

  12. becomingcliche
    February 10, 2012

    I have two GIANT bottles of Kikkoman in my refrigerator! Does that make me +50 Chinese? Please say yes!

    Like

    • lostnchina
      February 10, 2012

      I’d say two giant bottles is way better than what most Chinese have. BTW, you wants some Minute Rice with all that soy sauce?

      Like

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This entry was posted on February 10, 2012 by in China, Humor and tagged , , , , , .
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