IN PRAISE OF A FISH DINNER: 涼瓜斑球飯
Linguistic environment: mixed. The white woman asked for her bill and a box in English, I stated what I wanted in Cantonese, the waitress hollered into the kitchen in Toisanwa, and the television serial that held her attention was in Mandarin. When a Northerner entered to purchase some cheung fan, the two of them held to their own tongues, but understood each other perfectly.
Meanwhile, some woman on screen was wailing, "save me, save me!" And piteously weeping. Jiu wo, jiu jiu wo (救救我 ). It sounded like splendid entertainment. A real tear jerker, with lots of bad things happening to nice people, which makes you feel for them and wonder what next.
Probably fifty-plus spellbinding episodes.
Other than the sounds of distress from the counter where the waitress sat, the place was quiet. The rain outside got worse, and bounced off the roof of a van parked in front. Few people passed by.
My food, when it came, was delicious.
Dinner was very cheap, very enjoyable.
I should go there more often than I do.
I dawdled over tea afterwards, enjoying the mood, then filled my pipe and did some shopping. When darkness fell I was under an awning finishing my smoke and watching people hurry home. The light faded at the same tempo as the fragrance from the pipe diminished. The last bit of tobacco left a lingering echo, the ember glowed briefly, and then went out.
I have always particularly enjoyed bitter melon and fish over rice. It is a simple dish, just a convenient combination of two ingredients pre-cooked separately then tossed together with some black bean sauce, but it is a completely happy delight. The crisp toothsomeness and green green zest of the vegetable, the lightly batter-fried fish, tender and perfect, the juices from the pan with that salted black bean savouriness .....
A whisp of ginger, a kiss of garlic.
It's something that you could easily do at home.
But better when someone else does it.
Terms like these are music to my mind: 涼瓜魚片飯，豉汁涼瓜炆魚，涼瓜炆沙猛魚，豆豉鯪魚燒涼瓜，涼瓜魚腩煲，蒜頭豆豉涼瓜炆魚，
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