Laobian Jiaozi Take Two

Once upon a time when I was in the far northeastern wasteland that is Shenyang, Co-intern and I decided to visit this restaurant called Laobian Jiaozi. It was an apparently famous state run dumpling establishment, with two special dishes: snowflake dumplings, which are pan-fried dumplings that are all fried together with a lacy layer connecting them, and goldfish dumplings, which are kind of adorable, goldfish-shaped. We wanted to see what the hype was about. We invited some other co-workers with us. The whole evening was very strange, the place was crazy busy, but since it’s state run, they had an inordinate amount of staff working, who couldn’t be bothered to help us. They were all very rude, and the dumplings were only really mediocre.

I went to dinner with Dash, to whom I am very tenuously connected (a cousin went to school and was good friends with a brother, and our families insisted we meet in Beijing), and two of his friends. The original plan was for kaoya, since I’ve been in Beijing for over a month and still haven’t had any roast duck, but the place he wanted to go had no vacant tables. After getting our cab driver lost with conflicting directions, Dash’s friends decided we were going “to this really secret restaurant where all the locals go, it’s great and the tourists and foreigners really haven’t found out about it, not like Baoyuan.” There was a black Audi with a WJ license plate parked outside, which denotes the kind of police you really don’t want to mess with. The restaurant was creepily in the basement and almost mostly empty. When i saw the menu and the restaurant name, wheels began to turn in my head and remembered I had been in the one in Shenyang. I was pleasantly surprised that the staff were much friendlier (maybe because we were one of three tables). The dumplings we ordered were good (although I prefer Baoyuan’s crack dumplings), and lacked the puddles of grease that characterized most of Shenyang’s food. The pork dumplings were nothing special, the lamb dumplings were slightly better, and the snowflake dumplings were rather tasty, but the star of the evening were open faced beef and cilantro. I’m not the biggest fan of cilantro normally, but it worked in this filling.

Open Beef and Cilantro Dumplings

Dinner was without incident, although we stayed there past any other table and I was ready to drop by the time we actually left (it took three-four tries, hey let’s go…oh no you just ordered another bottle of pijiu). The boys were all for trying to find a massage place, at which point I gracefully bowed out and took a cab home.

Wednesday brought me more classes, some puttering around, making a surprisingly delicious snack of oatmeal with soy sauce and scallions, and more Frisbee. I guess I am steadily improving with practice, and I actually made a few decent catches/throws/defensive moves, but I also bruised up my forearm by catching like an idiot. By the end, I was too tired to consider a long sit down meal with the team, even though I was hungry. I whipped up a sweet potato and eggplant sauce at home and found these oak or acorn noodles in our cupboards. The sauce and the noodles were tasty, but I was so drained I nearly fell asleep on my bowl at the table, even with Bambi playing pump-up music to keep us both awake.

Today should be a good day. Cleaning up the third and fourth bedrooms, some adventures in Sanlitun, trivia night and our roommate and a visiting friend arrive tonight! Both of them are fellow alums from the same class/same Chinese department. Bambi’s plan is to pick them up from the airport and basically go straight to trivia to meet the Frisbee team. We’ll see how that goes-when I arrived at 5 in the afternoon after a trans-Pacific flight, I was in no shape to socialize.

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