Just outside the entrance to Shin Fu Char Tru (this is how it should look in Chinese (Simplified) 幸福 社区) – or Happiness Community – lies a little shack of a restaurant where I dine daily.
It contains all the essentials for what I consider fine dining; packed with locals, lively proprietors, good food at a cheap price. The Shin Fu Community enthralls me, inside the complex itself are a restaurant (that’s never open), hair salon, smoke shop and a small corner store (not on a corner). I pay a bit more but if I want something quick and as it’s been bloody cold since I arrived, often times my forays are close to home, close to Happiness.
This restaurant just outside the gates remains my favourite place to dine. It offers up fresh noodles in a soup broth with some baby Bok Choy (that’s the common green veggie in this region), or rice with baby Bok Choy, a hard boiled egg, a slice of tofu and some meat, or fried rice or a plate of just noodles or some steamed dumplings – 饺子 (jiaozi).
Now the restaurant offers up a monstrous list of potential dishes and I can likely guess order at a quarter of them tops, I suspect a lot of them are noodles with… or rice with… and then the details are pork, duck, chicken, beef, vegetarian.
My first visit to my local noodle shop remains my most entertaining.
Packed with diners, the husband and wife owners and cooks looked at me in shock wondering what wandered into their little hole in the wall dripping with condensation. Indeed that’s how I selected the place, tables full and so busy that steam swirled about the ceiling and condensation ran like tears down the windowed front.
I spoke no Chinese then (and little more now) but I pointed at the noodles I saw on the counter and nodded my head. Indicating my desire. The wife rattled off a machine gun burst of Jiangsu-accented Mandarin which I ducked, opting to nod my head, point at the noodles again and then at a bowl. It was the best I could do to communicate my wishes.
From down the restaurant I hear…
Hey, English. I look and there is a young guy poking his head up while the rest of the diners steadfastly study their bowls, plates and chopsticks.
“Sure. Yes. Beef.”
He fires off some words at the woman.
She returns a rapid volley.
“What happened to Beef?”
“No Beef! Duck?”
And so it was that I eventually got my first bowl of noodles in broth with baby Buk Choy topped with a leg of duck.
All told it cost me 9 Yuan (or $1.50). It filled me, it warmed me and it proved that I can order in Chinese… sort of.
Now I just go in and often point at someone’s dish and it is replicated. I will, hopefully, in time be able to order in their language, but for now I point, I smile and they bring me food with I eat with appreciation and gusto.
Because it’s always good and I know I’m giving them stories to share with their friends about That One White Guy.