This past weekend I had the privilege of having dinner at my friend’s house and experiencing my first Chinese barbeque. I also got a really nice look at what live is like for an average family in Beijing.
My friend picked me up from the school midafternoon on Saturday and we took the bus out to her family’s apartment. Thankfully there is a huge bus station very close to my school and once we got off the bus he apartment complex was right across the street. So, overall it was incredibly convenient.
That’s actually one of the things I really like about Beijing. The public transportation systems are all fairly user friendly and easy to figure out. With one card that I have so far only had to reload once, I can use the subway and the bus systems. Without the card, the bus cost 40毛, which equates to about .06 US cents, and the subway costs 2元, .30 US cents, so not only is it convenient but it’s also super cheap.
But anyways, I spent some time at my friend’s house and got a chance to meet and talk with her parents a little bit till it was time to go to her uncle’s place. It was a roughly thirty or forty minute drive from where we were.
The Uncle’s house was in what is considered to be Beijing’s suburbs. Here, there weren’t buildings upon stacked on top of each other but they didn’t have the same kind of cookie-cutter housing developments that are so prevalent in the states. Instead, it was an interesting mix of apartment complexes and strip malls. The apartment that we want to was on the first floor of the complex and had a tiny little patio where we ate. But it also had two floors much like you would see in a house with a small little staircase connecting the two. Overall, it was a beautiful apartment and very nice to be some place that wasn’t a dorm or a restaurant.
Now for the most important part, what was the food like? I will tell you right of the bat that Chinese barbeques aren’t like American Barbeques. We didn’t have burgers or hot dogs. There was no beef in sight and not even the slightest scent of ketchup. But that was perfectly fine because everything was still mouth wateringly delicious. However, the factor that separates it the most from American barbeques is what was used to cook all the food. Instead of a hulky metal beast of a grill and a galloon of gasoline to match (because those both take up a lot of space and are really expensive), they used a small metal box sort of thing. At the bottom of this long rectangular box, that was open on the top and on either end, they put wood and coal or whatever else to start the fire and then they would balance the skewers of meat or veggies or whatever else on the ridges. Or they would put a small grate over the ridges and places vegetables or breads on there to cook them that way.
The main part of the meal was lamb, lots and lots of very delicious lamb. I don’t know what kind of seasoning they put on it but it probably some of the best lamb I have had in a very long time (sorry dad). Also probably had about ten skewers of it. It really didn’t matter how many times I said “我吃包了”(I’m full) they just kept giving me more and more food. There was a time when I was literally hold four skewers of lamb. My friend’s aunt was especially accommodating, telling me several times to eat as much as I want, to consider her home my home, and making sure that all of the food I ate stayed clear of any spicy ingredients or sauces. Besides lamb we had a lot of grilled vegetables, my favorite being grilled sweet potatoes, and this type of bread grilled and salted that was super tasty. Our cold dish options were very extensive as well. My favorite was this potato salad sort of dish that was very American cookout-esque.
Something else that was different from all the American cookouts that I’ve been to is that no one ever stopped cooking. Even when we left they were still putting shrimp and corn on the grill. So instead of cooking everything before hand than eating around a table after words, we were all just gathered on the little patio talking, as someone else would cook. Then they’d put a bunch of hot off the grill lamb or shrimp on the table in front of us and keep cooking while we chowed down. So not only did I have a lot of food, but basically from about six till about nine I was just eating and eating and eating. It was fantastic and most definitely the best meal I’ve had in a long time.
I left feeling full and happy. It was really nice seeing what life was like for the average Chinese family and really great to talk with someone that wasn’t a Chinese student or one of our teachers. I know it was incredibly kind of my friend and her family to share their home and food with me, even for such a short time, and I am so very grateful.
That's all for now. I'm going to have that Sanlituan post up soon I promise. Until then be safe, be happy, and remember