2008-01-09 : There's a Chinese restaurant in my head

I go there whenever I'm in a city in my dreams - usually New York or Indy these days. It's a good place, not fancy. Sometimes it's closed and I stand outside looking at the stuff in the windows. It has a little grocery attached, to one side or sometimes out through the back. It's clearly based strongly on Korean Restaurant in Hadley, but it has other bases as well. Its proprietress is a woman about the same size and age as my mom, but Chinese naturally.

They say that your brain remembers dream stuff the same way it remembers real stuff. Over time and recurrance, dream places become familiar the same way real places do. So sometimes I go in and I'm like, "hey, didn't the door to the little grocery used to be on the other side? I like what you've done with the place."

The other night I was in there and she was surprised to see me. She was setting up for some kind of special event, but of course I couldn't read the sign in the window that said so. I had Tovey on my back. It was raining a little. She made sure I wanted takeout, so I wouldn't interfere with her event, but sure, she'd make me lunch. She pointed on the menu to the things she'd be willing to make. Tovey and I agreed on duck, so she charged me $9.00 for duck chunks in smoky tea broth with thin flat egg noodles. I had the cash in my coat pocket but at the last minute I'd left my coat over the back of a chair in the hotel room - I told her I could run get it and be back by the time my food was ready. She rolled her eyes.

I woke up before I got to eat. I can count on one hand the number of times I've gotten to actually eat anything in a dream. Something always interferes, always. This is the Chinese restaurant of my unfulfilled hungers.

1. On 2008-01-09, Ben Lehman said:

tea broth?



2. On 2008-01-09, Vincent said:

Tea sauce. It was going to be very liquid, in a bowl, with lots of noodles. Smoky tea, soy, garlic, I dunno what else.

I make no claims about the authenticity of my dreams of Chinese food!


3. On 2008-01-09, Ben Lehman said:

No, I mean, it sounds good, I'm trying to think about how to make it. I was wondering if it was a real thing or not. If not, clearly I'll just go hog-wild.



4. On 2008-01-09, Vincent said:

The times I've had tea sauce in a restaurant, a) it's been in a restaurant in Western MA so who knows, but b) it's been on pork, not duck, but whatever, and c) it's been cornstarched.

I've made tofu and/or chicken in tea sauce, using lapsang souchong, but I made it too salty.


5. On 2008-01-09, Vincent said:

I'm startled! Googling "'spicy tea sauce'" returns a million menus for Chinese restaurants, but googling "'spicy tea sauce' recipe" returns not much at all.


6. On 2008-01-09, Ben Lehman said:

Seems like it's just sauce with tea in it. That's not a recipe, that's just permission.

I'm thinking about something:

The cheapest non-bagged oolong or puerh tea you can get. Make it as you would normally, so with water that's hot enough that you don't want to touch it but it won't burn you if you do, maybe 1/4 cup of leaves and a cup water.

Matchstick some ginger and chop some garlic. Get some oil very hot, cook them in it. Maybe add some carrots or bok choy?

Toss in a little soy sauce and maybe shaoxing cooking wine?

Add in chicken broth plus the tea, bring it to temperature.

I guess if you had meat in this you'd want to put it in with the vegetables.



7. On 2008-01-09, Vincent said:

Mmm. Sounds good. Oolong or puerh plus ginger would make kind of a brighter, more delicate sauce, yeah? Than the smoky, rich, dark sauce I dreamed of.


8. On 2008-01-09, Ben Lehman said:

Puerh is super-smoky flavored tea. Chris Chinn called it "barbecue tea."

Unfortunately it's not usually cheap enough in the US to really use for soup.

Cheap oolong is sometimes smoky.



9. On 2008-01-09, Julie, aka jrs said:

I've made a tea smoked chicken using a combination of black tea, lapsang souchong, and a little orange peel. It was lovely, and didn't need sauce.


10. On 2008-01-09, Vincent said:

Puerh is smoky? I must have my teas confused, alas. Homework for me.

Last time I tried to tea-smoke chicken I failed. Maybe from impatience, but I think the foil wasn't tight to the bottom of my wok, so there was a pocket of insulating air between the fire and the tea. It never really smoked, and then I gave up.


11. On 2008-01-09, Julia said:

I'm a puerh addict.

Puerh is quite heavy. It's smoky, but not smoky in the way Lapsang Souchong is. It's my go to tea for making kombucha and life in general. It's also got more caffeine than the average tea. The more aged it is, the better. For the past year I've been on an eBay hunt for some puerh that's 15 years or older, but it always gets too expensive for me. My next course of action is to ask Chris' cousin, who lives in China most of the time, to send me some.

Tran's has a decent puerh for $3.29 a box. Acadia herbals has some (possibly organic) for $2.00 an ounce. I think it's aged 2 years. These are the ones I keep in the house. I'm down to my last bit now. I will probably pick some up tomorrow, so let me know if you want me to pick up an extra bit for you.

Next time you're at the dream restaurant, see if they have any bee larvae!


12. On 2008-01-10, Uriel said:

Isn't often so that when your dreams build up to some thing that you anticipate it either abruptly changes direction or you wake up before the end? They are just half the movie, or with a ending that doesn't quite make sense plot-wise. And even if you conciously want to go back and dram that last bit you can't.

I also think we remember places in our dreams. I often dream about my high school, and even though it's severly distorted, mixed with other places, in my dream I know that there is where I am.

Here in Vietnam the tea is quite foul, but their strange sauces are superb.


13. On 2008-01-14, DannyK said:

If you were a movie character, I'd be figuring by this point that the Chinese restaurant lady is God.  Since you're a real person, I dunno.

Your post has inspired me to try some tea marinades for meat.  It would be fun to try the same recipe repeatedly with different teas.


14. On 2009-11-03, New Fortune in Western Mass said:

Im' eating Beef with Spicy Tea Sauce at my desk in Amherst...googling for the recipe and finding to my surprise, nothing comes up except Chinese restaurant menus.

And this page.  Weird.  I also have recurring dreams about a city at night, only it's usually Springfield.  There's a little kiosk type shop that is open all night, a certain tavern etc.  WIth just as much detail.  I just haven't found your restaurant yet.


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