September 28, 2008

Bao Mi Hua

My greatest love on this earth (that isn't alive) is popcorn. I grew up on it. My dad would pop a huge batch many nights before bedtime, and I would curl up on the couch and scarf down. He always popped it on the stove in oil and then added lots of salt and Parmesan cheese.

Needless to say, it is my top comfort food. And in one's first few months in another country, comfort food is very important. But let me tell ya, popcorn is NOT easy to find around here. I had hunted for it for weeks at all the local import stores, but no one carried it. They had Pop Secret microwave popcorn, which I MIGHT have settled for temporarily if it weren't so expensive. The national brand microwave pop corn was affordable, but after I discovered that it was sugary sweet and flavored like milk, I determined to hold out.

So last night, at a store called "Blue Sky," I found a pile of unmarked bags of dry popping corn. I bought six of them, and carried my prize home eagerly. When I opened one of the bags, however, a very strong chicken feed smell met my nose. 'It just needs to be washed,' I thought, and proceeded to wash the kernels with veggie wash. I then rinsed them with clean drinking water, and began the popping process. I got out my wok, poured 1/4 cup of cooking oil in the bottom, fired up the gas range, poured in 1/2 cup of kernels and waited for comfort to pop.

Well, comfort tasted like popped chicken feed. It tasted like the floor of the market (not that I've ever licked the market floor, but you get my point). Imagine my disappointment! Maybe I'm too picky, but I am a popcorn expert, after all. In fact, the word for popcorn in the language here is "Bao Mi Hua." Its beautiful, isn't it? I got a lot of practice saying it as I was hunting for it from store to store. "Bao Mi Hua?" "Bao Mi Hua?" I like the sound of it so much that I'm considering it for my local name (we all have a local name, one that is easier for the locals to say). I wonder if they'd laugh to have a friend named popcorn.

But alas, as beautiful as the word sounds on my tongue, the hunt for Bao Mi Hua continues. Maybe I'll have to commission one of you to send some my way.