Thursday, July 23, 2009

Chong Qing Restaurant - Haymarket, Sydney

Don't judge me, but I almost NEVER visit any of those Chinese restaurants on Dixon St. Chinatown - not so much because they're kind of tourist traps, but because of those annoying waitresses who stand in front of their respective restaurants calling on and shoving menus to unwary potential 'victims' (which are always Caucasian, non-Chinese, or touristy-looking customers).

I also bear a personal grudge against these waitresses, as they always, always assume that I'm not Chinese and shout stuff like "SIR, WOULD YOU LIKE SOME NICE DINNER?? TWENTY FIVE-FIFTY PER PERSON, VERY GOOD VALUE! COME AND LOOK AT OUR MENU!!!"
This bugs me a LOT. How can they tell that I'm not Chinese? I look like a Chinese - but that's not the main point. The main point is, I AM Chinese, I just didn't grow up in China nor speak the language proficiently (okay, I lied. My Chinese is lousier than a fifth grader).

I always complain about this to my friends, but they didn't believe me. They thought that I look VERY Chinese (which bugs me a bit as well, as I love being racially ambiguous, LOL). So, one day, I dared them to do a little experiment.

'twas Monday night, the restaurant strip part of Dixon St was reasonably quiet, so imaginably, restaurants started to get all worked up to fish some wayward customers walking on the street. Therefore, they placed their prettiest, most alluring and seductive waitresses, some even clad in (surprisingly) pretty nice qipaos. Their faces are covered with make-up which are thicker than that of Singapore Airlines' flight attendants. So there they stood, carrying several menus, prepared to pounce at any given time.

My 2 friends and I (one from Hong Kong and another from China) stood near the Chinatown paifang (the Chinese gate thingy) and we had planned to proceed walking along Dixon St one at a time, at the same pace and speed, and see which one of us gets called by the waitress(es). First to go was the Hong Kong guy, and as he walked along the street decked with waitresses standing on both sides of the street, he got called by no-one. Second to go was the Chinese guy, who ALSO walked along the street, passing many waitresses with no-one calling or offering him the menu.

Then came my turn. I walked confidently, in focus and looking straight ahead, creating the illusion that I have a sense of purpose and direction and have no interest on having dinner anywhere. But ho-ho, surprise surprise, the very FIRST waitress I approached SHOVED me her menu and informed me that they've got "Special offer on set menu! STIR FRIED CHILI KING PRAWN only 10 dollars!". I immediately felt irked. But then, stir-fried king prawns for 10 bucks in a restaurant is a pretty good deal, an....wait a minute, *FOCUS, erique, DO NOT GIVE IN! Just keep walking*. Then, after walking past a couple of idle waitresses, another one shoved me a menu AGAIN! "NICE DINNER, SIR! FORTY DOLLARS FOR TWO PEOPLE, COME IN AND TAKE A LOOK!!". Damn. I was seriously pissed. I mean, if I can speak Mandarin, I would tell them to save their sweet-talk to some tourists or Caucasians!

But at least I proved my point to my friends that apparently, as ridiculous as it seems, people CAN tell that I'm not Chinese-Chinese. China-Chinese. Whatever you may call it.

So, we decided to go to this place, Chong Qing Restaurant instead (they DON'T have waitresses standing in front of their establishment shouting menu items, which I very much appreciate)

Pickled gingers, steamed peanuts

-> The free stuff (or rather, the prices of these stuff are built-into the non-free items). I love steamed peanuts. It's very common in Jakarta, where I come from - basically any crowded area has at least one steamed peanut peddler.

-> The two-way steamboat - mild chicken soup and hot soup. The hot one is ridiculously delicious and saliva-inducing. It's tongue-numbing hot as well (lots of peppers), however, you can choose your desired level of hot-ness from the menu (this one was MAXIMUM)

Beef tendon ball & Pork sausages

-> It's just beef balls & sausages, but when cooked inside the hot soup, they becomes freaking awesome. If I don't have a weak stomach, I would eat these hot stuff every single day!

Beef roll & lamb roll

-> Imagine these bad boys soaking all the aroma and flavor of the hot soup...mmm, it doesn't get any better than this...

Enoki & oyster mushrooms

-> These are great, but the real reason why we ordered these is just to show the world that we aren't some greedy, gluttonous carnivores who only eat meat, meat, and meat.

Northern-style pancakes

-> Okay, this thing is indispensable. It's quite crisp on the outside, and soft on the inside, so when you soak these pancakes with the spicy soup, it soaks up the liquid, creating that incredible yet momentary texture of crispiness and moistness, coupled with some pretty intense and glorious flavors and aroma....this is truly the food of Gods. (too hyperbolic?)

Be wary, though - as this is an all-you-care-to-eat restaurant, they tend to shove this a lot to you so you would fill up on carbs and consume less meat. Amateurs might fall for it, but not us here at eatlikeacow!

-> Dessert. Okay, can someone tell me what this might be?? it's kind of like a fungus or algae or aloe vera or something - anyway it's delicious...

Rating (for the whole experience): 8/10


Leony said...

Hahahahahaha....(*actual laugh*). Okay, lemme tell u my family experiences then.

My mom, we went to this famous grocery store in Jakarta when I was a lil kid. And the store clerk greeted my Mom "Konichiwa !!!"

My brother, when he was at this all boys high school in Menteng, his teacher ask him, "So Yusuf, you're a Moslem rite ?", my bro answered, "No Sir, I'm a Catholic." And the teacher said, "Oh, I thought you're an Arab." Huahhahahah...

And for me, when I went to the wedding expo several months ago, "Come here Miss... have a sit. So, what kind of decoration that you'd like ? Javanese ?" Hmmmm....and I answered, "Do I look like Javanese ?" And then the lady answered, "Oh...I'm sorry, you're not from Java ? must be from Padang." WHAAAATTT ??? Dang ! And that person who talked to me was definitely Chinese ! How come she couldn't recognize a fellow Chinese?

Oh..and about the waiter who shoved you with menus, at least they don't shove you with foods that you have to pay. I hate the experience at the Duck King. During dinner time, some of the waitress pushed us to take the dimsums by putting the plates on the table and kept saying, "This is good, take this...This one also.." and then left the food on the table. HATE HATE HATE IT! And he didn't do it just once! He'd be back and shove more dim sums that we didn't want. My mom then decided that she will never eat at the regular Duck King anymore (except when she got invited by someone), and will only eat at the Grand Duck King in Grand Indonesia.

Now, let's talk about the food. The last time I had this kind all-u-can-eat hot pot was in Chicago Chinatown at Lao Szechuan restaurant. It costs me only 20 bucks/pax. They allowed us to request for prawn once (2 pcs of king prawn), and as for the other meat, you can eat till you drop. What I can't stand about eating is Chinatown is the loudness of our fellow Chinese peeps when they're talking. The foods are usually good with lots of MSG (yeah !). Oh and the dessert that you had, isn't that some kind of seaweed ? *and somehow I miss the 3.5 bucks aloe vera and jelly dessert in Singapore*

Helen (AugustusGloop) said...

lol. Love the fact you attempted this experiment! I agree, running the gauntlet of menu-shoving waitresses is not conducive to earning any of my business!

Erique Fat Owl said...


I know, right?? I mean, the more they're desperate to promote their establishment, the less I am likely to give them business!!

Actually, there's one time when I took the experiment to another level: When I went for a yum-cha in Zilver, after being greeted by the maitre d' (in ENGLISH, dammit), she asked me how many people were there in my party. Irked, I answered her in perhaps the only Cantonese I can blurt right out without having to spend a minute (or five) to THINK - *in PERFECT tone and pronounciation* "mmh wai" (five persons) - and guess what she replied: "OKAY, THIS WAY PLEASE" Dayyumnnnn.... what is wrong with this people!!


Anyway non, haven't been to Duck King lately - I have no idea how horrible the service is nowadays! I'll make a direct complaint to the owner (I know him) LOL

cla said...

what's your problem? i take pride in not being recognized as chinese... hahahhahhaa

talking about pushy people... i was shopping for fragrance yesterday... well, i was traumatized to say the least... XD

Erique Fat Owl said...

Shopping for fragrance? In Jakarta? I understand your problem, LOL. Those spritzers aren't people. They're money-hungry cougars.

As with my problem, well, you know how people are. It's always like this: Whenever I'm in South Jakarta (where I live), I get offended when non-Chinese people are calling me "koh" (e.g. "kebab nya pake sambel nggak koh?") I mean, what's the deal with that? It's the southern part of the city, not Glodok or Pasar Baru, for goodness sakes. My skin is paler than an average local and suddenly I'm branded a Chinese? Please! (I mean, what if I'm a Manadonese?)

When that happens, I usually just let it go (although sometimes I do not leave a good tip as a sign of protest). However, my mom would tackle it differently. When someone call her "enci" or "ci" in the South, she'll just say "IBU, not enci!!" LOL

In this situation, being racially branded is NOT pleasant.

However, in Sydney, I do expect (at least) Chinese people to recognize me as a fellow Chinese. It's because I made HUGE efforts in listening to Sammi and Kelly Chen, going back-and-forth to Hong Kong for shopping trips, always eating with chopsticks in Chinatown no matter how SHALLOW the rice plate is (and therefore making it very difficult), and support the CCP by disagreeing with Falun Dafa. I hang out with mostly Hong Kongers, so why can't they just assume that I'm Chinese? I mean, it's so racist, LOL

As I said before, I enjoy being racially ambiguous. What this really mean is that I want people to guess wrongly. I want a random Chinese people to speak Chinese to me so that I can say to them "oh, dui bu qi, wo bu hui jiang zhong wen. I'm not Chinese-Chinese". I also want Indonesian people to speak English to me so that I can say to them "oh, I'm Indonesian, you can speak Indonesian to me!"


han said...

the dessert could either be hashima or 'bai mu er' (snow fungus?).

nice blog!

Erique Fat Owl said...



No, it definitely wasn't Hasma (otherwise they would've charged for it! LOL). You're right, it most certainly is bai mu er (thanks for that!). As I suspected. This dessert is actually pretty common and I've eaten this stuff everywhere, but what I'm looking for is the specific name of this dish. It's made of snow fungus and wolfberries (guo qi) with some jujube / red dates (hong zao). I wonder if this dish has a specific name...

clekitty said...


They greet me in English too when I walk there to get home from work. You know what the annoying thing is? I walked past some Korean place near Darling Harbour and they spoke to me in Korean! Korean's think I'm Korean. The shops in Strathfield think I'm Korean and speak to me in Korean. Japanese people think I'm Japanese! I'm CHINESE!

At my old workplace customers would often ring up asking me to put things on hold and they get all surprised when they come into the store and ask to see "(a very old fashioned French name)" and then I can see the surprise in their face when they see this little Asian girl. (I assume that they thought I was an English girl)

I sometimes pop into the Chinese grocery stores on Sussex or shop in paddy's and they ALWAYS ask me in English. WTF! I speak Cantonese perfectly.

Anyway, I share in your frustration :)

Anonymous said...

Good post, ive been looking for a hotpot place thats not in the city for my birthday later this year, this looks good


Sup said...

Shangcheng Hot pot king along Sussex Street is amazing too.

Anonymous said...

haiya, you fat owl such bloody ungrateful. so do you think you're chinese or not hah?
overseas you want to be recognized as chinese. back to jakarta you refused to be a chinese.
make up your mind....
you just try to play safe for your own sake. feeling shame to be indonesian when traveling overseas??? but when back to jakarta suddenly wanna be indonesian. such a hypocrite, double wonder my indo chinese friend said 'we like ghost, seems to be disliked everywhere'

Erique Fat Owl said...


I would like to maintain that I'm Indonesian FIRST, and Chinese SECOND. That's why no matter where I travel I always say that I'm Indonesian, not Chinese.

It's sad if your Chinese-Indonesian friend says that we're "disliked everywhere". I wonder why he/she feels like that. "unaccepted" - maybe. but "disliked" - I don't think so.

It's hard for Chinese-Indonesians because we have such a big identity crisis. We're kind of 'unaccepted' in our native Indonesia, and the Chinese from China, the land of our ancestors, don't exactly recognize us as a part of them anyway. Therefore, I dislike racial segregation and would like to identify myself as "citizen of the world". That's why sometimes I get pissed when people treat you based on which country or race they assume you are from / are.

It's good if you're not the type of person who 'play safe'. However, if you're born, raised and live in Indonesia, I do hope that you pick a side - the Indonesian side. I'm sick and tired of some of us Chinese-Indonesians who were born, raised, and live in Indonesia yet always identify themselves as Chinese first and pledge their allegiance to China, not Indonesia. I think it's very selfish of them to do that.

And next time you drop by my blog to scold me, please don't be anonymous - unless you're too chicken to debate with me.

alice said...

You actually did raise an interesting point but your personal attack, your crass and offensive tone made you seem ignorant and pathetic.

And also, like a dickhead.

Well, you told a Chinese Indo to made up his mind. It's hard for myself to do so since I'm, well, bloody confused.

Identity crisis is a familiar concept for minorities born / raised in an alien country. Furthermore, Chinese Indos are in a rather unique position. Up til late 1990s, we were not allowed to use our Chinese name, language, or practise the traditions.

I grew up without even an awareness that I am Chinese, until 1998 (the riot). It was truly like a slap in the face, a country I embraced without much thought just, denied me like that. Since then I lost a big part of my patriotism. Meanwhile a newfound pride of my Chinese heritage slowly grew.

Anyhoo, eventhough far too many things in Indo disgruntle me, the home country is dear to me. We have glorious, glorious food, nice people and it's a breathtakingly gorgeous country. And I accept that I am different from mainland or other strongly-Chinese countries like Singapore. Sometimes I envy them, other times not so much.

Ultimately I think we humans hate to be alienated. To be Chinese in Indo is sadly being alienated. Yes, we have a long way towards a mature, racially tolerant society. While In Aussie it would be nice to be recognised as a fellow Chinese because that's who we are as well. Is it wrong to feel a sense of belonging to two identities - Chinese as heritage, Indo as a culture? I think not.

I write this not for you but for other visitors who might share your opinion. I bet you've forgotten you wrote this hateful comment, while conveniently hiding behind the mask of anonimity.

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