China is a huge country made up of many different regions, with each region having its own unique flavors and foods that they are famous for. Though dumplings are pretty popular all over China, Beijing specifically is pretty well know for them. So, I decided to have dumplings for my first meal here. I went to aplce called Xian Lao Man whose motto is apparently “Our dumplings are the fullest”.
Like it or hate it, English is the de facto common language around the world, and it really puts us Americans (and British etc) at a huge advantage while traveling. Any country you go to, you will find lots of English speakers. Especially when you are “on the tourist trail”, pretty much every hotel, restaurant, bar, etc will have at least someone with some English knowledge that can help you decipher what’s going on. In China though, fewer than 1% of the people speak English. That number is definitely different in the big cities, but even in Beijing i found very few people who understood English. To maker matters more difficult, the tourist infrastructure here is actually more geared towards Chinese tourists and so they dont need to know how to converse with foreigners.
So yeah, getting back to dumplings. Because of the language barrier, doing even the simplest of things here can be tricky. Like ordering in a restaurant. When i went in, they handed me a menu that had both English/Chinese on it, and it was one of those dim sum style menus where you just mark things off with a pencil yourself. Ok, everything should be easy, right? Just read the English, add some checkmarks and call it a day. Umm, not so much.
I check off 3 types of dumplings and one noodle dish (yeah , yeah, i know that’s a shit ton but i like variety, what can i say). I hand the menu to the waiter and he starts talking a bunch.. no clue what he is saying. Finally, after some gestures and pointing, i get that they are out of the noodle dish. Stupidly, i try to pantomime asking him for a recommendation. This leads to extreme confusion and lots of back and forth, before he grabs the pencil and starts scrawling on the menu, crossing random things off, changing checkmarks to squiggles etc. I just stare blankly, having no clue what the fuck just happened. He finally finishes scribbling and talking, and looks at me expectantly. Not knowing what to do, i just nod in agreement. He walks off with my paper and I have no clue what i just ordered.
He eventually comes out with two types of dumplings, but a lot of them. I guess for some reason, my order got changed to two double orders, and i’m still not sure which dumplings they were. But.. they were hella good! One was filled with some kind of ground meat and chopped peppers that tasted halfway between a bell pepper and a chili. The others were deep fried and had shrimp meat and i think egg inside. Yum!!