I go to work everyday, from 9 AM to 6 PM at an animation company by the name of Xing-Xing in the Lido area of north-easternish Beijing. This is a really long time for me to be here everyday, and I always look forward to, and reflect fondly upon my lunch break from 12 to 1. I have had a bunch of different things for lunch here, and there are so many options in the immediate area, but I pretty much stick to a pared down fare of comestibles from three particular eating establishments. KFC, Pizza Hut, and Qing Feng Dumpling Shop. Three very different locations, with various different aspects to them all. So KFC is way different than in the states. But nothing to really freak out about. They have fried chicken, french fries, Pepsi, and other American favorites, as well as some very Chinese and other slightly more ambiguous menu items. Pizza Hut, of course specializes in pizza, but as soon as you walk in, you will realize this is a but is an entirely different ballgame than what we’ve come to know and love in America. It’s kind of a swanky place. Most of it’s customers are suit and tie businessmen, grabbing a bite during their break or conducting meetings. There’s even a special “business lunch” option on the menu, which is itself a very interesting artifact. Included among the pizza are t-bone steaks, various fine pasta dishes, and even escargot…that’s snail if you didn’t know. This is the most expensive of the three options, so a lunch here is a little treat to myself on rare occasion.
The crown jewel of my lunch time pit-stops though, would have to be good ole Qing Feng Dumpling Shop. I was turned on to this little place by a couple of Xing-Xing coworkers of mine. One day as I was walking out to KFC, I started talking to this Dutch gentleman, and he asked me if I’d like to accompany him and his friend for some Biaozi, which sounds like Bowzer. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I decided to go along and see. It turned out to be the dumpling shop across the street. It’s all super Chinese, so they ordered for me. I got six niu-rou (beef) dumplings, and a hong (red) tea. All of this cost me about eight RMB, which according to Google conversion is $1.18. Yes. Just over a dollar! At the cash register, you get a little receipt, you take that over to an ordering window to the kitchen, where you see a crew of cooks, producing hundreds of dumplings en masse. And this is a filling meal. So I’ve kept coming back day after day by myself. I get to use a bit of Chinese, save a lot of money, and really feel like one of the people. I am always the only foreigner there, so I definitely get a couple of looks. Anywhere you go around the world, it is very easy to spend a lot of money, but if you learn about the culture, and do things like the locals, you can save money, and probably end up with a more enriching and money saving experience. Check out the pictures I took with my iPhone despite some funny looks in the shop! Enjoy.