Assignment Kunming

Ethnic Food, 17 of 20
Again on the old Shun Chen Street, these people are visiting an ethnic restaurant. This street has for a long time been dominated by ethnic groups, some from Mongolia, others from the northwestern border areas nearer to central Asia. As is the case in most ethnic enclaves, they are tightly knit--and they bring with them their food.

At one stall, a very friendly man selling bread approached me and said "Angkrit? America?" He was asking if I was English or American, and I said America. He repeated it. I said California, and he repeated it knowingly. I said Los Angeles, and he repeated it again knowingly. He pointed at his chest and said "Muslim." I said to him "Asalamalaikkum" and he said back to me "Laikkumasalam." I had heard this method of greeting in the movie Malcolm X, and I was glad it worked.

I bought a bagel from him and saved it for breakfast the next day, by which time it was rock hard.

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