Them's good eatin'.
Despite what you might think after reading--or at least looking at the pictures in--my Beijing Phog, life here is not all dirty air, terrible traffic, and pissing kids. (Not for the first time, I will say simply "thankfully.") Although it's not like those things don't exist--I do, after all, have photographic evidence--but there are some good things about Beijing as well. Besides foot massages, which will be a post on some unspecified later date, there is also ... food.
Yes, food. Food here in Beijing has two things going for it: it's very good, and it's very cheap. A meal that might cost fifty or sixty dollars in the states will cost us fifteen or twenty here, and be just as good but with much, much, much better service, thanks to a virtually endless supply of cheap labor. Really, I don't know how I'll be able to go back to the US and have only one waitress. I have now come to expect at least two or possibly three, and they should all stand there from the time I sit down until I get ready to order, so as to be ready to take said order once I feel ready to place it. Unless I decide I want something to drink first, in which case they can leave to go get it. That's not unreasonable, is it?
Whatever. The thing is, those prices are mostly just for foreign food. Chinese food is not only much, much cheaper than that, but also much, much better than any Chinese you have ever eaten in the US. And yes, this goes for all of you, no matter where you live or how "Chinese" the people at your favorite Chinese restaurant are. (Likewise, for example, the Pizza Huts pizza here just doesn't taste the same--or as good--as it does in the US. Seriously.) The Chinese food here is just different, and by "different" I mean better. I don't know how else to describe it beyond that--beyond "it's better"--but you'll just have to believe me, and since I'm here and you're not, who are you to argue? That's what I thought.
Anyway, one thing that definitely is both cheap in and good around here are the jiaozi, or--in English--potstickers. (It's pronounced gee-yao-dzuh in Chinese. And yes, that's "yao" is in Yao Ming, although I'm pretty sure there's no connection there.) In fact, I can say without exaggeration, hyperbole, embellishment, or any other word that means pretty much the same thing that the best potstickers in the world--yes, the entire freaking world--can be found, conveniently enough, just outside our back gate. Seriously. If you don't believe me--although as we discussed above, you probably should--you can ask either Holly, my mom, my dad, or my sister, all of whom will tell you the same thing.
Here is the potsticker shop in question.
The Best Potsticker Shop in the World
As you can see, it is--pretty literally--a little hole-in-the-wall type of place: only two people, or maybe three skinny ones, can sit inside at one time. (Although I don't have to worry about that because I generally use the take-out window in front.) The brown containers stacked up in the left part of the window are bamboo steamers for cooking the jiaozi, so when you order he just grabs a steamer--the lowest one, I believe--for you to have, and then puts the rest of the steamers back onto the ... um ... steamer-thing, I guess. (Yes, I am a writer, why do you ask?) If you are staying there, you sit down and eat the potstickers out of the steamer; if you're not, he puts them into a little plastic bag for you, which is how I always get them.
And now for the most important part: the price. How much for a bamboo steamer full of the best jiaozi in the world? Exactly three Yuan, or--in once-might but now feeble US Dollars, thank you George W--about thirty-six cents. Yes, just thirty-six cents for eight or nine of the best potstickers in the world. And really, you just can't beat that. Unless, of course, you get two steamers worth for seventy cents, as I did in the following picture ...
The Best Potstickers in the World