Sunday, May 3, 2009

Coconut Bun or Chicken Bum Bun?

Here's a map of China. As you can see, China is a very large country with many regions. So you can imagine how diverse China's population can be. With the exception of regions like Tibet and Mongolia, I was always under the impression that most Chinese people either spoke Mandarin, Cantonese and other assorted local Chinese village dialects. Besides local food specialties, climate and topography, I figured that was the extent of Chinese diversity. Boy was I surprised when I recently learned how truly diverse China really is.

For some reason, I thought that people in Southern China spoke Cantonese and people in Northern China spoke Mandarin. I myself am of Cantonese descent as both my parents came from Hoiping, a village in the Province of Guanding (Canton). So when I befriended 2 people from China whose first lanquage was Mandarin, I just naturally assumed they were both from Northern China. I was somewhat right since one of them hails from Liaoning (the brown province located at the head of the Chicken) and the other came from Fujian (the green province located at the belly of the Chicken), just north of Guandong, my ancestral home. The Map of China has often been referred to as a Chicken.

Here's the part which surprised me. I had asked the girl from Fujian to go out for "Yum Cha" one day and this reminded her of a funny story about "Yum Cha". She said that when her family first came to Canada, her mother's friend invited them to go "Yum Cha". Her mother thought "Yum Cha" meant to simply "Drink Tea" which is what "Yum Cha" literally translates to. They are thinking what's so special about drinking tea? It sounded rather boring, so they kept politely declining the invitation. But the family friend persisted and finally they relented and they went out to "Yum Cha" for the first time. And this was when they learned that "Yum Cha" wasn't just "Drinking Tea". It was more like a brunch where you drank tea while enjoying "Dim Sum". "Dim Sum" literally means "Touch Heart" but really means assorted yummy little light dishes served alongside tea, to be shared with friends and loved ones. Now they love going to "Yum Cha".

Here I'm thinking every Chinese person would know what "Yum Cha" and "Dim Sum" was but it turns out that this is purley a Cantonese tradition. Even the girl from Liaoning did not know what the Dining Experience of "Yum Cha" or "Dim Sum" was when she first came to Canada.

Here's another funnier story. I had asked the girl from Fujian if she likes Guy Mei Bou, a cantonese word for Coconut Bun, and she made a face saying she couldn't eat something like that. So, I'm thinking, which person, Chinese or otherwise, doesn't like Guy Mei Bou (Coconut Bun)? She told me that she can't eat chicken bums. I started laughing so hard because now I have this image of a bun stuffed with chicken bums inside. She told me seriously, she couldn't eat chicken bums. I had to explain to her that Guy Mei Bou was really a Sweet Coconut Bun which resembles a Chicken Tail, not a Chicken Bum. At least that's why I think it's named that way. I had to show her what it looked like and believe me, it took quite a bit of convincing before I could get her to take a bite out of it. Yes, the girl from Liaoning thought the same thing too.

Can you believe that these people who lived in the same country for up until their teen years, (even the one from Fujian which just borders Guandong on the North side) didn't know of these foods until they left their homeland and only found out about them when they were on foreign turf? Maybe if they came from the tail end of China, they might have known what a Guy Mei Bou is. Nahhhhh....

Here's a Guy Mei Bou (Chicken Bum Bun) or Sweet Coconut Bun. Does it look like a Chicken Tail?

Here's a five-pack. (A plate of Chicken Tail Feathers)

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