We went to one of my favorite restaurants in Beijing and had the old foreigner’s favorite:
Kungpao Chicken 宫爆鸡丁 – maybe the best in town.
Actually, very few chefs can make this dish right; some put cucumbers in it or carrots or peas, while others opt for other completely unimaginable things.
None of this has any place in a good Kungpao though – it’s supposed to be only diced chicken, peanuts, scallions, some chili peppers and maybe a little garlic and some ginger – along with a special basting sauce.
The savoring experience is supposed to be a splendid combination of sweet&sour with a spicy note – and a little of Sichuan-style numb flavoron top.
I guess it sounds a lot easier than it is.
Here’s the good news though: a Kungpao gone wrong can still taste alright – that is, only until you’ve tried the real deal out here!
I was surprised to find that my old neighborhood hadn’t changed at all:
Then we went to see my good friend Yu Fang 余芳 in her studio somewhere near the Olympic stadium in the afternoon:
I had first gotten to know her almost 3 years ago, when she was hosting a TV show featuring foreigners talking about cars. I was one of those foreigners, and neither did I know my Chinese, nor did I know what exactly I was talking about. I am not interested in cars.
The other foreigner on the show was a young guy from Canada who claimed to be a pop singer. “Please sing something for us!” Yu Fang had told him at the end of the show – something perfectly normal in a world plastered with karaoke bars – but the poor dude with the funky haircut had only blushed and tried to make himself disappear.
Good thing I’m not claiming to be a dancer or something, I remember thinking.
Yu Fang knows how much I like bothering people at their workplace, so she had invited us over to hang out:
They were broadcasting a talk show about the Olympics, and I was told that there were supposed to be some stars :
Great!! If there’s anything more fun than bothering people at work, then it’s bothering people who are famous!
…too bad we didn’t even recognize them.
So we went outside and had a look at the Olympic area:
Naturally, it wasn’t that exciting.
It seemed like there were just lots and lots of fences and security people everywhere:
Sometimes we would run into some desperate foreigners trying to buy tickets on the street.
“They always used to have ticket booths at the last Olympics!” a senior with an Australian accent told me. He had apparently been to all the Games in the last twenty years – but this particular time it seemed like he was really out of luck.
Why didn’t you just buy your tickets in advance, fool?