Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Not the Greatest of Days - But Great Dumplings!

Some days - people just annoy you.

Having a waitress hanging over your table, with a firm hand on the menu intent to suggest special delicacies (suitable for foreigners) and desperate to practice her almost incomprehensible English doesn’t help.

“No thank you, we do not want gong bao ji ding or ma po tofu.  Yes, we like our food spicy.  We eat Chinese food all the time and we are not tourists who managed to stumble in to this place randomly (in Tianzhu town – really!). We live here and that is why we speak to you in your own language so can we please look through the menu in peace and order whatever the f#€%&ck we want!” … or something along those lines.  We were not having the greatest of days.

We were at a dumpling place on Tianbei Lu, on the way to the airport, almost opposite the Giant Store. Stacey had been there before and raved about the dumplings – the inventive fillings and thin skins. We brought our friend Marianne and though I was the one having the very bad day; I am embarrassed to say that it quickly wore off on my friends and the over attentive (obnoxious) hostess didn’t help.

It is like that living here in China; your mood goes up and down and can be triggered by what seems like the smallest, stupidest things. Living here isn’t hard but it is exhausting and if you are not open to accept all the quirks and annoyances each and every day there will be bad days. That is why, after a while, when we see someone throw a fit over the lack of cheerios at the store or how they pack the groceries at check-out or why the waitress cannot just bring ice water instead of steaming hot, we smile in recognition – we have all been there. Still, we were there to sample the food and that was what we did.

Ever since we had lotus root-filled dumplings at a Hoshayu eatery, we always ask for it. The combination of the crunchy filling in the soft skin is delicious but, sadly, very few places offer it and this one was no exception. Instead we chose one plate of jiaozi filled with mushrooms and one with fennel, another novelty – both also including minced pork. As side dishes we choose Szechuan green beans (a requirement when you eat with Marianne), tofu skins with celery, and spicy eggplant – all very good. The dumplings, when they arrived, were perfect - soft and thin skinned with a juicy filling, the beans spicy as we like them and the eggplant flavorful. We were especially impressed with how (temperature) hot everything was. Clearly everything went straight from wok to serving dish to table.

A few Nanjing beers later (to cool of the burnt insides of our mouths), we had exhausted all the reasons for the bad mood. Living here might cause mood swings but we are used to helping each other out, right? We are in this together, experiencing Beijing and China and sharing our struggles. Trust and respect is crucial since your friends become your family. And thank God for good food!

We have no complains about the food at this place and would go back any day we crave dumplings – hiding in a corner trying to avoid the attack of the overzealous waitress….


So, you may be asking why there are no pictures of the food.  This is, after all, a food blog.  Well, we somehow managed to delete the pictures from this visit and just had to go back again (what a shame!).

We hoped that we could avoid youknowwho on our second visit .... but alas, no such luck!  Though we were greeted by a friendly hostess and directed to a table right by the window - BANG!  There she was again - telling us what to do, holding her firm hand on the menu.  We are very patient and generally polite but this one is just pushing it!  We managed to order finally (whatever WE wanted!) and did not have to wait long for our food to arrive.  We tried a shrimp and egg dish this time which was perfect for those who like their flavors subtle - for us, it definitely needed a kick.

We ordered the fabulous fennel dumplings and eggplant once again, and they did not disappoint.  Deciding to break out of our routine, we also tried a yummy dish of preserved vegetables with garlic.  Strangely addictive, it would have been even better folded inside little pancakes or stuffing into little breads.  Finally, we tried Sara's favorite noodles made with sweet potato starch.  They were lovely little gelatinous bites covered with a chili sauce.

Sweet Potato Noodles
Fabulous Fennel Dumplings

Perfect Eggplant
Preserved Vegetables with Chili and Garlic

We finished our meal and asked for the bill - in Chinese. She starts rambling about that we have to pay in RMB and we say yes, yes, no problem assuming they don't take cards (which would be a bit weird since the restaurant is located in a hotel) but it turns out that they cannot take foreign currency! As if that is what we are used to here?! Remember too that we have been speaking to her in Chinese throughout these two visits and told her over and over again that we live here!

Should you be in the neighbourhood; say on your way to or from the airport or have had to visit the GIANT store for sure, eating here is worth your money. It is clean, the food is good, the price is very affordable, the service is fast and efficient.  Just stay clear of the fanatical hostess.

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