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    Chinese restaurants return to Baghdad

    By Jennifer 8. Lee | January 22, 2008

    Chinese restaurant in Baghdad, January 2008h

    The security situation must be improving in Baghdad: A Chinese restaurant has opened in the Karrada neighborhood. (There had been several Chinese restaurants in Baghdad beforehand, including two in the Green Zone, but all of them they had closed down as security got worse and worse). Menu is limited, but it includes dumplings. And they just don’t seem to have chopsticks.

    Chinese restaurants in Baghdad have a special place in my heart — because it was the Iraq invasion that made me realized how ubiquitous they were. I touch  upon in my book. Here is the draft section from the book (it’s lightly edited from what I have here)

     I was in Washington at the time and a number of my friends were swept up in the historic journey: cynical journalists, idealistic nation-builders, mercenary contractors. Many of them informed me of the two improvised Chinese restaurants that had popped up in the Baghdad Green Zone a 10-minute stroll north of Saddam Hussein’s palace, next to the landing pad of the military hospital. The restaurant in the back was slightly more popular because patrons figured it would be less likely to be damaged by an insurgent attack from the street. These were Chinese restaurants in Baghdad, but the menus were neither in Chinese nor Arabic. They were in English. The Chinese restaurateurs had never been to America, they knew how to attract large American-sized crowds with American-style Chinese food like sweet and sour pork and pan-fried dumplings.

    Among those friends deployed was Walter Miller, a foreign service officer who resembles a cute, bookish version of James Dean. We would talk by phone (His cell phone in Baghdad had a 914 area code, as though he were only in Westchester). In one of those conversations I mused aloud why the Chinese restaurants were so popular with my friends in Iraq, when after all, they were in the Middle East and (in my opinion) they should indulge in the authentic local cuisine of lamb and hummus.

    “It’s a taste of home,” Walter said in his ever-mellow, thoughtful voice. Even against the whirl of Medevac helicopters, Chinese food had become a beacon for American patriots. “What could be more American than beer and take-out Chinese?”

    The revival of a Chinese restaurant in Baghdad just shows that Chinese restaurants are like bacteria. They can exist anywhere that is hospitable to life, even Antarctica! (Thanks to Neal Underleider for passing this on to me.)

    Topics: Chinese Food, Chinese Restaurants, Quirky | No Comments »

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