LOS ANGELES – Like any other weekend, Universal Studios’ Hollywood CityWalk was bustling with local Angelenos and tourists from all over the world who came to see the sights, take in a movie, or catch a bite to eat at one of the dozens of restaurants that line the pedestrian mall high on a hill overlooking Los Angeles.
On May 18, however, while musical groups from around the country performed on the City-Walk Stage, just across the square, one of China’s most popular gourmet restaurant chains, the Dongpo Kitchen, was co-hosting the “Taste of China” as part of the China Tourism and Culture Week in Los Angeles, a week-long series of special China-oriented events which ran through May 26.
“The Taste of China”, organized by the Los Angeles office of China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, was a delicious buffet featuring many of China’s favorite gourmet dishes, including Peking Duck, Meizhou Pork Buns, Spicy Chicken, Salt and Pepper Shrimp, Dongpo Fried Noodles and Fried Rice, Pot Stickers, Egg Rolls, and Sesame Rolls.
Open to the American press and public, the buffet was designed to introduce more Americans to the delicacies of Chinese cuisine. Many passersby were lured into the event by the aromas of the dishes on offer.
Steve Castro, a big guy and amateur martial artist with a panda tattooed on his arm, came in to sample the cuisine.
He said, “I’ve been to Shanghai with my wife and we loved the different styles of Chinese food, from all the different areas and regions in China. Chinese food uses a lot of more interesting ingredients and has more flavor.”
Michael Tiberi, an avowed foodie from nearby Sunland, had heard about the event and came expressly to sample the gourmet fare. He was not disappointed.
“I like the combination of the different ingredients they use and how they’re orchestrated to make a wonderful symphony of flavors. The Spicy Chicken in particular is delicious and combining it with the slightly sweet taste of the sesame balls for dessert is absolute perfection.”
Jaime, a CityWalk security guard with a lifelong love of good food, sat down to enjoy a heaping plate of Dongpo’s finest offers.
“I like the different spices and the different way they cook,” Jaime said. “Chinese food tastes better, the way they use garlic, soy sauce, and a lot of vegetables and condiments like basil to give it extra flavor.”
Shanna and Kyle, an American couple in Covina, California, came from a good hour’s drive away, saying they are big fans of Dongpo. Kyle happily finished chowing down on all his favorites: the Spring Rolls, the Dongpo Fried Rice and the Peking Duck Sliders.
“We really like Chinese food and have been here a lot. I’d definitely recommend people to try it. It’s much more gourmet than some other Chinese restaurants,” said Kyle.
“My favorite’s the dumplings,” said Shanna. “It’s got meat, cabbage, and vegetables in it. I love the diversity of flavors.”
Wang Gang, chairman of the Meizhou Dongpo Restaurant Management (Beijing) Co Ltd, which owns the Dongpo restaurant chain, explained his almost poetic relationship with food.
“Chinese cuisine is the bridge between the rich soil of China and the diners of the world,” he said. “People say you must never turn away from two things: good food and love.
“A meal or a banquet is a great way to begin a friendship and a good meal can solve a lot of problems.”
Chinese Consul General in Los Angeles, Zhang Ping, attended the event and sat down with his wife to enjoy an informal meal side-by-side with a few lucky locals and visitors to the event.
Zhang plans to make “The Taste of China” into a larger, yearly event as part of the Asian-American Cultural Heritage month in May. In much the same way that Americans say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, so do the Chinese who feel the best way to discern a person’s character is to break bread with them.
Zhang explained: “Cuisine art is a big part of Chinese culture and by launching this kind of cultural exchange, we bring Chinese culture to ordinary people and that helps bring Chinese and American people closer together.
“When you eat Chinese food, it gives you a kind of curiosity to explore the Chinese culture and our country.”
Wu Ning, director of the Chinese tourist office in Los Angeles, was the driving force behind the Taste of China’s promotional efforts. She was motivated by how sharing a meal and learning more about another country’s culture can open people’s minds and broaden their perspective, leading to greater understanding and tolerance.
She agreed with the consul general and said: “Food is a very important part of Chinese culture and only when the people of two countries love each other’s culture can they have good communication and understanding.”
Edwin Marroquin, a young man in his twenties who works at CityWalk, proved her point. “I’m really fascinated with Chinese culture. I hope to visit China in the future, but for now, I just enjoy their food,” he told Xinhua when explaining how cool it was that people from a lot of different cultures frequented CityWalk.
“They can learn from us and we can learn from them,” he affirmed.
Wu had the last word: “Everyone loves food and many people love Chinese food. We want the American people to know more about China and come visit our country and see how beautiful it is.”