A Chinese restaurant just opened in Baghdad. That Baghdad.
The “Chinese Restaurant,” located in the upscale (though war-torn) neighrbohood of Karrada, is operated by Chinese emigrants Yan, Tsao, Lo and Wo. Tsao, a native of Yunnan province, has been in Iraq for two years. Yan is his wife and Lo and Wo are friends whom he persuaded to move to Iraq with him.
As for the food, menu items are limited due to the difficulty of obtaining supplies in the middle of a warzone. Guests can choose from dumplings, fried chicken, Chinese breads and sweet pepper and chicken salad. But ultimately, it’s not that much different from here in the States:
“This is the only Chinese restaurant in Baghdad,” boasts Tsao in the few Arabic words he knows.
The furnishings are simple – plastic tables and chairs, with small Chinese red paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Two posters on the pink walls show film stars Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee in fighting poses.
The cooking is done on a small raised platform in front of customers, who can either eat in or order a takeaway.
Wo, a black woollen hat on his head, prepares dumplings and spinach on a gas cooker. The impressive chef expertly dips a fritter in a pan of sizzling oil.
The dishes of the day are displayed along a plastic rack on cheap crockery. On the menu: “Dumplings, fried chicken legs, Chinese breads, and sweet pepper and chicken salad,” recites Tsao.
Under the rack, two bowls of salad are arranged beside a pile of dried sardines. On a stool is the inevitable rice pressure-cooker.
Cooking pots are piled up in the corners between mounds of plates, cleaning cloths and boxes of paper napkins.
Wearing sneakers with built-up heels, Yan washes the dishes in an imposing art deco washbasin that stands out amid the scruffy decor.
The wife of the patron has the hardened hands of a country woman, and she scours the pots and pans with vigour.
“The menu is limited for the moment but it will improve,” says Tsao reassuringly. “Like security in Baghdad, it will get better.”
The last Chinese restaurant in Baghdad closed two years ago due to violence.
Baghdad gets taste for Chinese Takeaway [Middle East Online]
[Image via Middle East Online]