Dumplings and small talk

Although I have only been dining in Hong Kong for two and a half days, I have already decided that I love family style seating in the local restaurants. The waitstaff squeezes you in anywhere there is a spot, sometimes shuffling people around to accommodate everyone. Hong Kong is a populated place and you’ll just need to get over the awkwardness of sharing your table with a complete stranger.

On the airplane I read an article about space in Hong Kong. Some foreigners take the aloofness of Asians in these situations as being rude, but actually it’s better to interpret their not wanting strike up a conversation at every opportunity as giving people their space. Maybe the other person simply wants to just eat in peace and not feel forced to engage in small talk. Thank you.

However, this evening I was eating at a local dumpling shop on Wellington Street in the Central district downtown. I was seated and 10 minutes later a lady was seated across from me. As expected, only making mild eye contact before fiddling with a smartphone. Then I had a question about the bill and the waiter didn’t understand what I wanted to say, so the lady jumped in to help out. That broke the ice and the small talk commenced. It’s during these casual conversations that I have learned most about Hong Kong and the people who live and work in this fascinating city. Hooray for family style seating.

IMG_2912The busy waiter brought the menu. First on the list “Roast children w/ vegetable rice”. Umm…I’ll skip the roast children and go straight for the dumplings. As I mentioned, I am building up to the more adventurous Chinese dishes and children upset my stomach. I ordered the pork and cabbage which is standard in this little restaurant that specializes in dumplings. The options are boiled or fried. I went with boiled as I may regret later eating a generous portion of fried dumplings, or fried anything for that matter. They came out in minutes, the perfect temperature and quickly found themselves in a delicious bath of soy sauce. Amazing.

After I finished, I asked my new table mate which flavor she ordered. She got the sea cucumber and “3 other types of seafood” as the menu described. I googled a photo of a sea cucumber on my phone and we both laughed at the ridiculousness of the creature. Then she offered me one. How could I resist?