WHY IT IS GOOD TO KNOW A DOCTOR IN CHINATOWN

January 1, 2009

"Can a girl get some buns?"
This very question I ask myself and the woman on the telephone, numerous times in broken Mandarin. And the answer is a resounding "NO", followed by a "click". hello?

(I need the peking duck buns for the momofuku pork belly buns I am making for a birthday party.)

2 minutes later: "Hi, I would like to order 120 peking duck buns for tomorrow to pick up". [We can't]. "But you said so!" [NO, too busy]. click. hello?

5 minutes later: I call my father in a panic, he said i could order buns! Who the hell cares if tomorrow is a Saturday and dim sum orders are pouring out their ears? I need buns. For God sakes, they make this shit everyday! My father says he will take care of it. click. hello?

[OK Katie I got my patient to make you buns for tomorrow, 10 o'clock. He is 87 years old. Write this down: Mong Kok] "COCK?"
[Yes, Mong Kok bakery. Washington and Stockton, right around the corner form Chinese hospital. Just tell them you have an order to pick up for Dr. Kwan. ok buybye.] click. wait, dad, hello?

So the next day I make a mad dash to Mong Kok at 11:30 am after my father chews me out for being late. What if they gave my order away? I realize that being flaky on an order is very disrespectful. Lisa is driving while I am having anxiety.

We get there and there is a line out the door, bbq duck pork gizzards et al in the window and half a dozen Cantonese women wearing red hairnet-bonnets taking orders. I am way out of my league. To set the record straight, I speak broken Mandarin, but everybody in Chinatown speaks Cantonese. I begin by asking about the peking duck buns, which is the best way to describe them. Straight faced, they look at me and say [No. We don't have any].

"My father called yesterday. He ordered some. Dr. KWAN." A vague look of recognition comes to one woman's face as she heads to the back. In mandarin she tells me that [they have the buns, but no peking duck inside. ] "That's fine". An old lady pokes me from behind as I flail about, ordering some dim sum.

The women comes out of the back, where she has dug up 3 pink cake boxes, filled with cold buns. [There is no peking duck inside the buns] they say shaking thier hands at me.
"Yes, I know. That's ok." Lisa swifts them off the counter. and I am left with random 20's in my hands, intending to pay. Someone is pressing me against the glass counter. Gee, so pushy. I jut my elbow back.

This is where it get's interesting. The women begin a conversation about me in Cantonese, which I cannot comprehend. I stand there repeating the only three words I know in Cantonese over and over again: "DOCTOR. CHUK. KWAN." I am trying to get them to understand that I am his daughter. They eye me up and down.

And then they start speaking in Cantonese again and shaking their open palms at me. What the fuck is going on? I stare for a good long time, trying to pay for the buns, but get denied. Although I don't understand, I feel as if they do not want me to pay. We do this dance for about a minute, at which point I promptly pick up my dim sum, turn around, and run out the door and into Lisa's car.

She stares at my perplexed face. [What's wrong?] "Um... either we just got those buns for free, or there is no duck in the Peking duck buns."

So I think I got free buns from my father's patient. If not, I just pissed off a lot of Mong Koks. I tell my father this, and he laughs, telling me that I should've just walked straight into the back kitchen to ask. Um.....

I thank my dad, reiterating how nice it was that they gave it out for free. [Ha! Nothing is for free]. click. hello?

2 comments:

Jane Wardani said...

Katie what a hilarious story!!! Thanks for sharing the minced pork peanut sauce with the rice and black sesame crackers at last Friday's underground market!

katie said...

Yeah! Hopefully, I can get the recipe up soon!

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