I already knew what Americans thought of Asians—great at math, terrible drivers, wonderphở cuisine—but what does the rest of the world think about Asians? I was in Spain to find out.
The Gran Oasis Report, where my sister and I stayed, offers nightly themed dinner buffets featuring different cuisines such as Tex-Mex, Italian and Spanish. Shirley and I purchased a three-night buffet for two, so we had to be selective on which dinners we participated in. Having to decide among all of the delicious themed buffets was like choosing your favorite American Idol each week—everything looks and sounds amazing, but there’s always something that makes you vomit. Eventually we decided that Wednesday was a must: it was China night! Cha-ching!!!
I couldn’t wait to find out how Spaniards interpret Chinese and Asian cuisine. Would they get fancy and prepare lobster sautéed with a garlic chili sauce? Or perhaps a safe dish like wonton noodle soup. Or maybe they’d be daring enough to grill canine kebabs (jk).
Shirley and I were silly with excitement and decided to each write down five guesses on what the dishes would be. The winner would get bragging rights for the next five years, which I desperately needed since she already has three years on me for working at Amazon while I am at a non-profit. Here’s how we did.
|Chicken Fried Rice||Egg fried rice with shrimp||Shrimp fried (Spanish) rice|
|Sweet and Sour Pork||Beef and broccoli||Beef chop suey
“chop suey de ternera”
|Vegetable chow mein made with spaghetti noodles||Chow mein with peppers||Chow mein with peppers, mushrooms and onions|
|Teriyaki Chicken||Garlic chicken||Shrimp chips with tomato sweet and sour sauce
“salsa agridulce tomate”
|dim sum surprise!||Hot and sour soup||Hot and sour soup|
James 0 – Shirley 3: As you can see, my sister correctly guessed the hot and sour soup, chow mein noodles and shrimp fried rice. I didn’t get a single dish right, but I shouldn’t be surprised by the result either. The quality of the Chinese buffet was strikingly similar to my sister’s own cooking—both charmingly adequate. I’m not holding that against the Spanish though; they get a B+ for effort (Asian translation: fail).
Did the hotel get everything right with the food and décor? Heeeecccck no. But I’m ok with that because they weren’t trying to recreate an authentic cultural experience. If they had, it would have presented some factual problems—like Buddha doesn’t melt in the sun. Instead, they were simply doing their best to provide a variety of cuisines for their international guests (playing Gangnam Style three times that night was a fine touch too). I appreciated the fact that the hotel was trying to cater to their Asian guests, even if there were only two of us. It goes to show that as Asians become more active travelers, our unique preferences and tastes will be reflected in the hospitality of countries that choose to welcome us. Here are some other ways my Spanish hosts created a fantastic experience and made me feel right at home (and by home I mean an over-the-top Las Vegas casino three blocks off the main strip). Muchas gracias España.