Once again, at the weekend, my kung fu club, Fujian White Crane, took over the whole of Joy King Lau restaurant in Chinatown for our annual Christmas meal. This is not turkey with all the trimmings, you understand. Oh, no. This is full-on Chinese and you can see the set menu below.
I went training first (worked up a decent appetite) and then a load of us went together to the restaurant, where the meal was scheduled to start at 2 o’clock. Of course, these things never start on time and while we waited for Dennis to arrive, we worked out where we were to sit. The only table that had no one sitting on it, in fact, was the one reserved for Dennis. I checked with Adam that we could sit there and he said that was fine as long as we were nice to Dennis. Well, I think we could manage that. So there we were. Dave arrived with his son (wife and girls were at a ballet exam), and the meal started shortly after Dennis arrived.
During the meal, one of FWC’s newest students (youngest, in kung fu terminology) was saying how she would be squeamish about eating certain things. Dennis said, in all seriousness, that he wouldn’t, in that case, want her in China with him, and proceeded to explain food etiquette. If you are invited to a meal in China, and someone in that group refuses to even try a particular dish, that is a grave insult. The result may be that your group is never invited back to that restaurant again. Imagine that happening while FWC were in China for a fortnight’s training… I’m not sure if this girl thought Dave was joking when he said we’d never be invited back, but I know he wasn’t. The worst thing that can happen in China is for someone to lose face. To refuse to try food you’re offered is considered one of the worst insults (especially when the customary greeting in China is not, “How are you?” but “Have you eaten?”). She also said she couldn’t eat dog, especially as she sleeps with her dog in bed, and Dennis was horrified. He asked her how she could refuse when she was quite happy to do something as revolting as sleeping with a dog that FARTS?! He was not especially quiet when he said this and I suspect the whole of our floor might have heard. Anyway, we felt compelled to ask whether Dennis thought a dog fart or a cat fart was the worst of the two evils, and he was in no doubt. Dogs. If he feeds his own dogs different food and they don’t like it, they tell him so by farting.
We also heard about Five Penis Soup. Yes. (When we were on the train back to Brighton, we discussed this. The conclusion was that minced or sliced would be fine, but if we were presented with a bowl of soup with five cocks sticking up, it might be a different matter altogether…) Oh, yes, the conversations we have at FWC are a source of endless entertainment.
While we ate dessert, the speeches began. Dennis was first, of course, then Tim, though Tim saved his famous poem for the end, as all the instructors, who have to give their own speeches, agree that no one can top Tim’s poem.
One of the things Dennis said was that, when some of the guys were in China for the competition, some Chinese masters turned to their students while our guys were up doing their patterns and said, “Watch. Watch these guys.” And that meant more to Dennis than all the medals FWC brought back (and there were many). It was an emotional moment, and a reinforcement of the certain knowledge that what he’s teaching us is proper. No half-arsed martial arts for Dennis Ngo, oh, no. It’s hard work, for sure. But it’s real.
When Adam turned to me and said he needed my chair to stand on, I stood and, before I knew what was happening, Dennis had grabbed me round the waist and sat me on his lap. It was a surreal experience, but this is the nature of our club.
After this, the cards were brought over to Dennis’s table from each club, embarrassing him thoroughly, and we at City & Islington were informed that Dennis has renamed our club – we are now known as the Funny Farm (or, said Sharon, the Weird & Wonderful – Dave said he’s the wonderful, and we’re all weird). Quite why we’re particularly noteworthy for being a little odd is a mystery – there are many FWC clubs – but there you go. I, for one, rather like the idea. And at least it means we stand out among the crowd.
I went to say goodbye to King, who pulled me in for a hug (she runs Joy King Lau brilliantly and the food is always spectacular), and then some of the guys went to the pub and we went to the Chinese store round the corner and picked up some goodies before heading back to Brighton.
Once again, a fabulous afternoon at Joy King Lau (more information can be found by clicking here). And, as though I needed a reminder, pride at being part of the best kung fu club ever.
- Shredded chicken with jellyfish.
- Baked soft shell crab in salt & chilli.
- Capital spare ribs.
- Butterfly king prawn.
- Lobster with ginger & spring onion (on noodles).
- Braised duck with seafood.
- Honey pork chopped.
- Asparagus with fillet beef.
- Steamed sea bass fish.
- French bean with minced prawn in spicy sauce.
- Pak choi with garlic.
- Boiled rice.
- Mango tapioca pudding.