The Dumpling Tale

I've been suffering from a bitter bout of that nasty writer's diseases, the one that shall not be named (not on this blog anyway) for the last couple of weeks and it's been pretty much been hell on earth for me.

It's not like I'm not inspired to write. On the contrary, there are a ton of things I want to share with you. Unfortunately life has been getting in the way, damn you life!

There's been the the small case of me starting a new job the beginning of April (yes, feel free to congratulate me, even if you have already done so!) and I can still not fathom how over a month has flown by so quickly. Slowly but surely the excuse that I'm only new doesn't appear to faze people around me quite as much as it did in my first two weeks.

Then there is that China holiday I started planning some eight months ago. Suddenly it's a mere month away and I'm planning all sorts of things and running to all sorts of places to sort out all sorts of things, like for example my VISA application. Preparing said application entailed harassing my travel agent in China for all sorts of documents they were thankfully only too happy to supply me with. I'm still astonished how long it took me to fill out that blasted VISA application.

I also had a minor heart attack when I couldn't find the pass photos I had taken for the application and an original copy of my birth certificate (that wasn't actually required but I just wanted to be on safe side). By the way, you won't believe just how often I've had to send my poor father to the registry office in the last seven years to ask for an original copy of my birth certificate. They practically know my dad by his first name at this stage while I feel like just about everyone in the world owns a copy of my birth certificate. 

Yes people, I really was born. I am human, I have human parents and there are legal documents to certify all that. It does get tiring after while, really, it does. The fact that Government entities appear to by default be inclined to think I'm not real is upsetting. Then again that is a different story for a different blog post. One I'll probably never write...swiftly moving on.

While we're talking about distractions I'll briefly name the rest of them like a visit from my arch-nemesis migraine (I really should file a restraining order), studying Chinese, work, Twitter, endless rain which has been getting me down plus it's impossible to concentrate with that constant sound of rain splashing against our living room window. On top of that I've also been simply too tired to do anything but sleep. I have done a fair bit of procrastinating (yes people, we all do it, don't give me the glares), and/or meeting friends (what can I say, a girl needs to socialise and drink the one or other Mojito occasionally). Any other distractions you can blame on Show Luo and/or my Taiwanese drama addiction. You should really credit me for being so blatantly honest with you. Really, I could have just lied straight through my teeth but I actually like you lot so I don't do that.

If you add all of the above up, you'll easily see that I've had little to no time to just sit back, relax and try to write a blog post. I can't very well do it at work. Well I could but I don't think that would go down especially well with my boss. I quite like the fact that she likes me, thank you very much.

To cut a long story short, up until last week I was steadily getting more and more frustrated about not having any chance to take a breather and sit down and write. Then I went for dinner with an old colleague of mine and we ended up going for Asian food for two simple reasons:

1) The restaurant was only a stone's throw away


2) it was lashing rain (Hello, I live in Ireland people!) and we didn't want to walk especially far.

We ended up in Wagamama and I was surprisingly taken aback by the quality of their food and the politeness of the staff. They have a mostly Japanese themed menu though if you ask me it seems to be heavily influenced by Chinese style cuisine also. Their Ramen broth looks like a big bowl of Hotpot. Nevertheless, the food all around us looked delicious and by the time I spotted dumplings on the menu I was head over heels in love with the place. I ordered some straight away with such enthusiasm that the waitress started laughing. 

If you must know, apart from chocolate, dumplings are my ultimate comfort food. I've only good memories when it comes to dumplings. They were my first real, homemade Chinese dinner. My first Chinese teacher invited me to her home and her mother served us homemade Harbin-style dumplings for dinner after class. She practically chopstick-fed them to me and cared little for my heavy protests about being full or maybe she doesn't didn't understand my Chinese. To be quite honest, I didn't really care either, the dumplings tasted so delicious that I was contemplating kidnapping my Chinese teacher's mum while devouring one crispy dumpling after the other long after I had eaten my fill. There was just something about those dumplings and the fact that my Chinese teacher's mum treated me like her own daughter from the get go, worrying about me having enough to eat and constantly fussing over me.

I proudly present: My first
self-wrapped dumpling!
Dumplings were also the first Chinese food I cooked myself. Granted my current Chinese teacher supervised and bossed me around (all the while cooking six different Hong Kong style dishes and giving her friends instructions in Cantonese), telling me how to do it right. She didn't really, in fact she lied and told me I was a genius at wrapping dumplings and maybe I should contemplate taking it up for a living...I totally would except I don't think I could make a living off wrapping dumplings because I'd eat them all myself! I tell you people, wrapping dumplings is a ton of fun. You get to hang out with your friends, natter away in Chinese, argue with your teacher (about things you'd never get away with in class!) and just generally have a good time, while you slowly starve death because you can't wait to get those blasted dumplings wrapped so you can eat them. I did for a while contemplate eating one raw but I could not convince myself to eat raw pork, besides my teacher would have most likely stopped me, so I just kind of behaved and waited for my teacher to boil the dumplings and then fry them after. Yum!

Back to those dumplings I ate last week. Like I said, I was head over heals in love with them even before I tried them but by the time they arrived at our table and I'd taken my first bite I was ready to jump on the table and announce that my impending marriage to a portion of dumplings. I somehow (and I don't quite know how) managed to do no such thing though (I blame it on the distinct lack of booze). As for the official version, I wanted to spare my friend the embarrassment of having to publicly admit that she knows me while I'm being shipped off to the loony bin for an extended stay in a padded cell with the added bonus of high doses of drugs.

How can you not fall in love with this?
I can be a pretty harsh food critic when it comes to Asian food, especially since I have tried the real, homemade stuff, but I have absolutely nothing bad to say about those dumplings. They were, as Mary Poppins would say "practically perfect in every way". They were stuffed to the brim with fine pork and veggies and came with a delightful soy/vinegar dipping sauce and some garlic. That sauce was so amazingly good (just the right mixture, just like how I remember my first Chinese's teacher's mum made it right in front of my very eyes!) that I wanted to order about five shot glasses full of it to drink it straight up. Again, I did behave and did none of that. I'm way too boring, people. You just wait, I'm gonna live it up in Shanghai for my birthday - you won't know what hit you when I may or may not share the photos with you upon my return. I probably won't because I'm sure most of them will make me look like I'm an alcoholic or something! 

How's a girl supposed to say no to this?
Really I'm not that bad, nor will I be that bad. I do have a five hour train journey from Shanghai to Beijing ahead of me the following day and I really have no intention of being stuck on a train that travels 400km/h while severely hangover. That practically spells travel sickness and I wouldn't want to accidentally puke on half my travel companions. I'm sure they'd involve the officials and I'd have my VISA revoked faster than you can say super-cali-fragilistic-expialidocious. They'd probably ban me from entering their lovely country ever again and I really don't want them to do that because I kind of really like China even though I've not actually been there yet. But I'll be going soon. Very soon. Next month in fact. I can't wait. Shopping in Hong Kong, West Lake in Hangzhou, an awesome birthday in Shanghai, a visit to a Chinese school in Beijing and that's not even one third of the itinerary.

Anyways. Where was I? Oh yeah, those dumplings. I did mention they were awesome, yeah? Well I suppose it doesn't hurt to mention it again, I just want to make sure that we're on the same page here and that you really have no doubts about how I feel about these dumplings. I mean first of all people, we have to clarify that one can only have feelings of love for dumplings, okay? It's pretty much impossible to not like them and if you're going to try and tell me otherwise then I'm telling you right now, I'm neither interested nor will I listen. Dumplings are awesome. Simple as that. They make people happy. They make me happy. They are up there with chocolate. And coffee. And Mojitos. And some other awesome things that make people insanely happy. Like dumplings. I know I mentioned them already but the way I see it you can't mention them enough. Dumplings. Dumplings. Dumplings.

I love you, you pretty dumpling!
Are you hungry yet? I am. And I just had dinner. I had to make sure to eat right before writing this blog otherwise I would have been out the door to go buy dumplings a long time ago. I am still contemplating going out to buy some dumplings but somehow I don't think a fleece pyjama is appropriate outdoor wear, at least not in my world. Some Irish girls do wear this kind of attire but I simply cannot convince myself to do the same. Nevertheless, my mouth is actually watering. Did I mentioned that while my friend ate a Wasabi Chocolate cake (yes that's super yummy!) I had more dumplings? Yeah, I totally had dumplings for dessert. I thought the waitress would never stop laughing and I'm pretty sure the Chinese and Japanese kitchen staff laughed too - the Spanish waitress didn't seem to get the joke but then she thankfully wasn't serving us. Our waitress did ask me three times whether I was sure about wanting dumplings for dessert. I'm not quite sure why you need to be sure about wanting dumplings for dessert or not. I would eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and as midnight snack and anytime in-between that by the way. I could be absolutely stuffed and I would still eat those dumplings. I'd eat them for the rest of my life, happily.

Bottom line, I love dumplings (and I know I'm not alone there), though I think we've long since established that. What really surprised me about those dumplings was that they tasted just like home. They tasted just like I expected them to taste, like the real, homemade thing. It released all sorts of wonderful emotions inside me and shoved that pesky writer's disease right out of the window. I think that's the real reason why I have pretty much been talking about dumplings for a week solid. I wonder how many people I have alienated since I ate those dumplings... 

When I go back home to Germany homemade coffee and buttered bread with tomatoes and Kr√§utersalz (I'm sorry but unfortunately there is no English word for this, however it's salt mixed with a whole bunch of herbs) is what I love the most - it's simple and it's good. It tastes like home, it's like remembering a whole bunch of good memories all at once. The coffee alone is enough actually. There's just no better coffee in this world than my dad's coffee (sorry Starbucks, as much as I love you, my dad's coffee will always win my heart!).

Those dumplings are just a simple and just as special, especially when they surprisingly taste just like they should and make you happier than the best happy pills ever could (not that I've ever taken any happy pills) if you excuse me I need to write myself a note not to forget to write bigger trousers for work and to schedule another 12 work-out sessions. My friend is on holiday at the moment but when she returns next week we will be going out for dinner, a dumpling dinner to be more specific. Believe it or not, even my friend was head over heels in love with those dumplings... That or she just acted really well in the hope I may just shut up and stop talking about those dumplings.