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Great post! If I get the chance one day to go to Chengdu I would love to visit this place!!! :)


This is too funny. I travel basically 2 weeks a month for work and we traveld in a group of 3 or 4. I traveld to China a lot and I was the only Chinese American girl my group. Everytime, I would get cornered with the exact questions you received.

Why do you travel so much? Aren't you worried about finding a husband? How old are you? You need to have children. How much money do you make? Do your parents allow you to travel so much?

I was only 25 at the time!

But ok. I also get interrogated the same way by my parents and any blood relative about marriage and breeding. Now that I am 31 the interrogation has really intensified.


What a sweet story. No wonder I'm procrastinating! Also, mmmmmmmmm!

Jennifer Stanton Chapman

The young cook looks very much in command, I'll have to see if I can find her when I return to Chengdu this October. I love the interrogation. I live in Shanghai and I have come to accept it as normal.


Wow, those dishes are very different from the brown, brown, and brown cereal I'm eating as I read this! But you have not commented on their spiciness. All those chilies look like they would seriously damage one's mouth. How hot was the food?


Such a brilliant piece.

When I lived in tokyo for a year, I once tried out a little dim sum place near my flat. It was empty and the food turned out to be awful but the lady owner sat uninvited at the table with me and proceeded to fire questions at me - with a real emphasis on how much I (and everyone i knew, back home and in tokyo) earned.

In the context of your piece, the questions makes sense to me, but more generally, can you explain what this is about - is it just interest in the wider world and what people do for a living? i found it really odd at the time, like i was being sized up - but looking back it's just a cultural misunderstanding, but i'd like to know more about why it seems to be a classic occurrence?

thanks again, for such a fascinating blog.


The mapo tofu looks amazing as does everything else. I love how well the color of the bitter melon was captured!

marc medina



Wonderful post! I could see how one could become a regular there easily! I don't know which dish I want most; all of them look delicious.
The first few times one is interrogated in Asia (this used to happen to me regularly when I lived in Indonesia), the questions catch you off guard. In Indonesia I still answer "belum"(not yet) to not having children, and I am in my fifties.


What a wonderful post.


Absolutely great! Abt the questions..they haven't changed since I first went to China in the 80s. Now that I am married, they would ask if my husband 'allowed' me to travel so much!


I just about died when I saw the picture of the eggplant dish. My husband hated eggplant until we moved to China and now neither of us can get enough of it. I wish we would have found this place when we were in Chengdu last month.

We also get a lot of questions about why we're here, why my husband can speak Chinese, comments about how we're very young to be married, etc. We're used to it. Thank you for the wonderful blog! I always enjoy reading it.


Oh mine! Your post makes me so hungry!


I think you like Chinese food, yes, I like it very much,becaues I am a Chinese, and I have a chinese food blog. www.chinesefoodfans.com

I want to exchange with you.


oh that interrogation...and the questions about income...is that modern china?


wonderful, I love your blog
Any man would be happy to have her for a wife


I'll marry her!

Brian Asis

You had me craving for mapo dofu / tofu with the first picture. I thank you for the wonderful and informative post :D


Very beautiful post. I am sure the young lady was smiling from ear to ear, eavesdropping at your conversation.


Thanks everyone for your comments.

Regarding the interrogation, I had not much patience for it when I lived in Sichuan in the mid-eighties and Shanghai/Nanjing ten years later. But no longer being resident in China -- and being older, probably -- has enabled me to see it for what it is: pure curiosity expressed in a culturally specific way.
In China private space isn't a concept that's embraced by many. And that extends to private life, and privacy, as well. It's not seen as rude to ask someone questions that would be considered intrusive in the West.
Another thing is, when I'm in China my own behavior as regards this sort of thing changes quite quickly. No privacy is a wonderful thing if you're a writer who loves to talk to people about their lives. Most everything is laid open, and few questions shock. After an initial adjustment period -- 2 days, tops -- I am asking the same questions, or questions that a Westerner might see as intrusive.

Dan -- I'm not sure I'm a good one to gage spiciness. I'm pretty sure a year's residence in Chengdu way back one seriously skewed my palate. For me, not spicy at all; mildly tingling. For someone who doesn't eat chilies, hot chilies, at least 5 times a week, probably a little challenging.
Then again I found most cooks in Chengdu toned down the heat unless I remembered to ask them to make it "Chengdu person spicy" not "foreigner spicy".

Hi Rich -- thank you for the compliments, and I hope I answered your questions in my preamble.

Sijeleng -- LOL - that's funny! I answer 'no' to the children question and then when the questioner says 'not yet' I reply yes, not yet, while directing their attention to the color of my hair. (Pretty gray -- prematurely, I like to think.)

Stephanie -- That's modern China, China in the mid-eighties when I was first there, and I'd wager, China going decades back! It's just very China, period.

Sarah -- I should think so. She's quite pretty too, especially when she smiles.

johnnyk -- I love your comment! Thank you.

Brian Asis -- credit for that to the photographer, Dave.

J2Kfm -- She couldn't have been. She was moving too fast at the stove!


that eggplant dish is simple in looks & make but wow in taste. seeing these simple dishes makes me want to copy it right away out of the kitchen. Another great read. Robyn does a great job explaining chinese food as simple and wholesome.


I love this story.

I really must visit Chengdu soon. After 2 years in Shanghai, I'm about to leave to return to KL for good.

Because I'm 32, and about to get married :)


The eggplant looks so good, and your interrogation had me chuckling. I'm still not used to being asked how much I make, and I'm 29 and *gasp* unmarried!


What a sweet story.thanks

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