Just A Laowai Girl

Along with our formerly misbehaving shower, which now mostly cooperates, our washing machine was leaky. The connection of the hose to the faucet is just…well, sketchy, at best. We called the landlord, and because 春节 or Chinese New Year is approaching, no workers could come by to fix it. The landlord came himself. The first time he switched the hose, but then after he left, when we ran the washer, the hose popped right off due to water pressure and sprayed water everywhere. Upon closer inspection, we realized that there was nothing holding the rubber gasket on the metal faucet.
My landlord doesn’t take me seriously, and I think he thinks I put up less fuss than Bambi, so he comes during the day when Bambi is at work and I am between classes. I tell him exactly what is wrong and he says, look I fixed it, but no, seriously, you didn’t.
He came by himself twice more, and each time shook his head and smiled and insisted it was fixed despite my explaining that the lack of screws or bolts or any kind of fastening device meant it was bound to fall off again. He seems like a nice man and not a bad landlord, but his whole attitude just screams, it’s ok, you’re a little laowai female, I know best and you’re silly. He just told me that if there were problems later, have Bambi call him. Oh the frustration. On his third visit I explained again, look, see, no screws, no bolts, you can’t just jam it on and expect it to stay. I honestly thought he was going to start patting my head with condescension, like, all right white girl, I’m the engineer here, trust me, I fixed it for you. Complete and utter fail. He finally found a worker who hadn’t gone on holiday, who replaced the rubber piece with a new hose that screwed on. So much better. No water spraying all over the walls! About time, too, because I was rather running low on clean clothing.

I went back to the Kitchen again on Wednesday, but the party canceled so I got to sit down and eat everything, as the owner simply invited a bunch of friends. Showing up early since I hadn’t realized there were no paying guests, Chairman decided to have me write up the menu in Chinese and English. I couldn’t read her handwriting, but she painstakingly explained each character to me in Chinese, so that I could figure out how to write it. Since I have trouble reading most people’s Chinese handwriting, my own characters are very precise, and Chairman commented that obviously I write that way because look how put together I am, as opposed to Dice. I laughed, since I’ve only been dressing up nicely to go to these dinners, and my handwriting in English is usually atrocious.

The menu at the Kitchen.

The food was excellent, again. They had a guest chef with a very thick accent I could barely understand, but I like having the practice.
The guotie, or pan fried dumplings, were tasty as always, with celery and pork. Guotie are different from jiaozi in that they are seared on one side, to make the skin crispy, and flipped over and boiled in a shallow layer of broth to cook them all the way through. Next, the salt and pepper shrimp were standard but tasty, served heads and shells on as is the usual in Asia. Mala duck was roast duck that had been braised slowly, and then pan fried and then served in the braised sauce. It was tender and juicy and excellent. The black and gold wood ear, frilly seawood-looking fungi, were well executed, if you like them, but I’m not the biggest fan. The beef shank and stewed pumpkin was great, very comfort food, like a Chinese take on pot roast. Broadbeans and mushrooms were unremarkable but a healthy vegetable dish. The pickled cabbage and glass noodles were surprisingly tasty. I’m usually not a fan of pickled vegetables, but the briny taste wasn’t very strong, having been sauteed, and the glass noodles gave the dish a very buttery texture. The chrysanthemum fish was beautiful in presentation: the guest chef had this way of cutting the pieces of fish so that once floured and deep fried, the strips blossomed out and look exactly like a chrysanthemum. It was served with a sweet and sour sauce. The fish was good, but I have a little bit of a fear of the fish in China, having done some research projects that revealed all the nasty parts of fishing farms here. The cumin lamb was really good, without the overwhelming spiciness that you sometimes get when ordering lamb in Beijing. And of course, the caramelized sweet potatoes with sesame ice cream was to die for. I could eat a whole tub by myself. Just cream, milk, bourbon vanilla, a little sugar, and crushed up black sesame, simple and amazing.

Afterward, some of us went to Mao Mao Chang, a little bar far down one of the hutongs in Nanluoguxiang, a hidden gem. Wednesdays are 25 kuai drinks. It was packed, also due to the fact that it was Australia Day. We tried a variety of very tasty cocktails, since Mao Mao has a large variety of infused vodkas. My favorite was the 麻辣 sichuan peppercorn infused vodka cocktails. Surprisingly good if a little numbing.
I met a gorgeous hapa, but he turned out to be gay (seriously, 2/3 of the beautiful hapa boys I know are gay. It’s so unfair.), although happily he is also rock climber, and will let me 刷 his 卡 at the climbing gym. I’m excited to check out what the climbing situation is like here, since I haven’t been on a wall since November.

The next evening I met a friend up in Sanlitun for dinner where we had xiaolongbao and noodle soup. It was a small, cheap place, but tasty, even if incomparable to Dintaifeng. We met up with more Frisbee players later at Kro’s Nest, a pizza joint and bar that hosts trivia night on Thursdays. I didn’t try any of the pizza, maybe next time, but beer and trivia was a lot of fun, even if I could only contribute one answer to my team (I recognized Edith Piaf’s Non Je Ne Regrette Rien from my recent jazz listening kick), and somehow we won, which netted us a pretty decent bottle of red wine.


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