Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Chinese Food Fix


Total Mangos Eaten: 9
Total Mosquito Bites: 22
Total Showers Missed: 2

This must be a sign that I’ve completely adjusted to living in Ghana because I am no longer frantically trying to create new mental maps to fit in all of my Ghanaian experiences. Instead, I’m falling back into old habits that I had in the US. The most obvious habits are my feeding behaviors.

I love to snack and have the biggest sweet tooth. My food counter used to be filled with my Cliff bars and fruit that I had picked up in town. But, slowly local cookies and sweets are crowding the counter. This is an unfortunate detriment to the maintenance of the weight that I have happily lost in Ghana.

Moreover, as if I was pregnant, I also developed insurmountable cravings for Chinese food. I can no longer convince myself that the Ghanaian fried rice sold on the streets is real Chinese food even though soy sauce is used to prepare the rice. My sisters delectable pictures on her blog are cruel reminders of all that I cannot have and the gluttonous delight I usually derive from eating fried plantains is slowly diminishing.

My flatmate, Shy, had suggested going out to eat Chinese food several times before. The thought of being disappointed by Ghanaian-Chinese food used to illicit the ugliest repulsive look on my face, but as the weeks passed and my sister’s food accounts increased in number while she was traveling on the China Synergy Programme, my mind became singularly fixated on wontons. My desperation had grown to a point that if someone offered me a wonton for my kidney, I’d probably say yes without a second’s hesitation. As we pulled back into the Clinical Students Hostel after a bumpy ride back from a weekend trip to Cape Coast, I woke up from my fitful sleep and proclaimed that tomorrow I’d eat Chinese food.

China’s presence is really inescapable in Ghana and there is no shortage of Chinese restaurants. After consulting with some of the Ghanaian medical students, we decided that Royal Park Hotel probably offered the most authentic Chinese food in Kumasi. After anxiously anticipating the food all day, we arrived at the door steps of the Royal Park Hotel, which was fully decorated with comforting Chinese vestiges—golden dragon wall hangings, stone guardian lions, and a big red carpet with the characters Huan Ying Guang Ling 歡迎光臨 (Welcome).



When we walked in, I saw other Asian people in the restaurant—always a good sign, even in the US, that the food should be decent. As we sat down at our round table complete with a lazy sally, I felt like I had reached my oasis. I poured through the menu and ordered over 40 Cedi worth of food, just for myself. They sadly did not have my wontons, bok choy, or the beef chowfun that would have made the perfect meal, but over six pages of other good options. I ended up ordering Jiachang Tofu 家常豆腐, beef lomein, Royal Park’s twist on lettuce wraps, and pan fried pork dumplings. The fatty in me made a valiant effort to clear the table in one sitting and I ended up with just two take-out boxes…not bad, right?

My overall opinion of Royal Park’s Chinese food? Out of five stars, I’d give it three. It was certainly better than Panda Express or your average Chinese American restaurant called any iteration of Lucky Bamboo or Happy Ding. But, it wasn’t fabulous. If in the US, Royal Park would not be a Chinese restaurant that would deserve a second visit. But, since I’m in Ghana, if I’m ever overcome with the overwhelming need to eat Chinese food, I’ll be back at Royal Park devouring another four dishes on my own.

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