I went on to probe my flatmate about my favourite dish of the evening, a curiously Southern Chinese style (lots of chilli) dish with pickled eggs that had become a sort of dark translucent jelly. I might not be selling this well but believe me when I say it was incredibly delicious. It turns out this was 宮保皮蛋 (gong bao pi dan). Now the whole pi dan thing is basically preserved or thousand year eggs. The gong bao is a style of cooking better known rendered in the anglicized Cantonese as Kung Po as in Kung Po Chicken. My flatmate is quite a well read young lad and went on to tell me that gong bao, as dish, was renamed in mainland China during the cultural revolution owing to the fact that the dish was named after the Qing-era governor of the Sichuan province, Ding Baozhen, as gong bao would have been his official title.
So it turns out that I sit at a seemingly ancient Japanese style low-table setting from their colonial era, eating a dish that is a mish-mash of a couple of key cannons out of mainland Chinese cooking, then later have a conversation with the current Taiwanese student generation on the etymology of the dish name. I think all linguistic work should be so nourishing.