‘Noodle diplomacy’ a hit at Beijing restaurant

2011-08-23 07:16

Beijing – Black bean sauce noodles and other delicacies served at one Beijing eatery are being snapped up by customers eager to order the dishes eaten by US Vice-President Joe Biden on a recent visit, a meal dubbed “noodle diplomacy”.

Biden and his entourage ordered five bowls of black bean sauce noodles, 10 steamed buns, smashed cucumber salad, mountain yam salad, shredded potatoes and Coca Cola at Yao’s Chao Gan restaurant for lunch last Thursday, racking up a tab of 79 yuan (R89).

Staff at the small restaurant said the number of customers ordering the noodles has risen by four times since then, with many coming in to order what they call the “Biden Set” even if it is not on the menu – though owner Yao Yan plans to include it soon.

“US Vice-President Joe Biden came to my restaurant for lunch just like an ordinary customer, and we treated him like an everyday guest who came from far away,” she told Reuters Television.

“We didn’t give him any discounts or special offers.”

On a recent day all seats were full in the simple restaurant, where diners sit on backless chairs and eat from plain white dishes. A line snaked through the room, with hungry customers eyeing other treats such as fried spring rolls.

Economic concerns dominated Biden’s visit last week, with the two nations turning their backs on a range of thorny problems including human rights and trade in favour of showing shared confidence and cooperation in the face of a jittery global economy.

A few customers expressed surprise that Biden had chosen such an inexpensive eatery for his meal, which Chinese media called “noodle diplomacy”.

Some Chinese bloggers interpreted his visit to the restaurant as an indication of support for the yuan to keep on rising, although there was nothing to suggest this.

Washington has pressed for the yuan to appreciate faster against the US dollar to combat a hugely lopsided trade balance.

Shrugging this off, ordinary customers are now flocking in, forcing the restaurant to hire more staff.

“I travelled from Inner Mongolia to Beijing, and the taxi driver told me this restaurant was famous because the US vice-president came for lunch a few days ago,” said a 30-year-old tourist who gave only his last name, Wu.

“We are here particularly to try what he ate,” Wu said.

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