It wasn't until I stepped foot into King's Land, a Chinese restaurant in Denver, that I realized ES and I might be attending something a bit more involved than a dragon boat team fundraiser. There was an open dance floor, a live band and a singer up on the stage, and many of the women in attendance were wearing slinky, jewel-colored evening gowns that swished around their sequined high heels. "It's Cambodian New Year!" explained the friend who had invited ES to drop by.
And so began a long evening of partying with the Cambodian community of Denver, and though I did feel terribly underdressed, I felt honored to be in attendance at such an event. The food was good—unlike banquets where dish after endless dish continue to appear long after you've filled up, the menu here consisted of a modest selection of top hits, including a light and soothing pork egg drop soup, pieces of roasted duck in a sweet glaze, black pepper pork chops, and a whole fish, deep fried until the bones were crisp enough to eat whole.
I also tried a piece of this pickled mango, which was topped with a wonderfully salty and spicy chili paste. The flavors were strong and sour and strangely refreshing, though I could only eat a few pieces before my mouth started to pucker. One of ES's friends was going around swearing that if we ate the mango we'd have, um, stomach troubles the next day, but everyone around us was breaking off pieces nonetheless. "It's just so good," they said.
As I watched people eating and chatting, raising their glasses to each other in toasts, and getting into rows to perform line dance routines, I recalled the numerous Chinese banquets I'd attended in the past with my parents and marveled at the similarities. If this had been one with my dance-loving parents in attendance, they would have been the ones leading the Electric Slide for sure!