You cannot imagine.
After the ice cold commercialism of Xi’an, there was something comforting about returning to Beijing. Perhaps it was the beautiful blue skies, the cold pristine air, the large open spaces, the perfect confluence between the historical, the traditional and the modern. Regardless, I was happy to be back. For the first time, I understood Wang Feng’s lyrics in his song, “Beijing, Beijing”. For the first time, I felt like I was “home”.
Of course, Beijing being Beijing, there are bound to be surprises, good and unfortunate. I curiously found my hotel overbooked, and my reservation, canceled. In these circumstances, you just gotta set your emotions aside, and act rationally. That night, I stayed in a frightening two-star hotel (seriously, the hotel corridor reminded me of that corridor scene in Ju-On), but all of the discomfort evaporated when everything resolved itself the next morning. Well, such is life, you know. Shit does happen, and it will happen to you someday, and rather than cursing the skies, you clean up and move on. I suppose it’s part of growing up.
For brunch, I decided to have my second favorite Chinese fast-food brand, Yonghe King. My favorite is basically this steamed chicken place I visited in Shanghai back in 2011 – I can’t remember what it’s called, but if it ever comes to mind, I’ll let ya know.
Yonghe King is one of the smaller names in China, but with 70 outlets spread across most tier-1 Chinese cities, it has a wider coverage than say, the larger but almost Beijing exclusive Xiabu Xiabu. Like its similar sounding cross-strait compatriot, Yonghe King’s claim to fame is its hand-ground soy milk and dough fritters. These are unfortunately only available during breakfast and afternoon tea, but at other times, you may sample affordable, accessible and mostly authentic versions of Chinese favorites, such as Kung Pao Chicken (from Sichuan), Dongpo Pork (from Zhejiang), Black Pepper Beef (from Fujian) and Three Cup Chicken (from Beijing).
This afternoon, I decided to go for something a little, spicy, a.k.a. the Kung Pao Chicken set, which comes with a plate of vegetables and a seaweed and fishball soup. The drink’s extra. It’s hot lemon tea, FYI. I never noticed it before, but every drink I order is served hot, no matter if it’s Coca Cola, orange juice or plum juice. I suppose it’s because of the winter, and they took a little time to get used to, but I think it really helped to cure my cold.
Anyways, the Kung Pao was deceptively strong – the spice, while mild in its smell (probably due to the weather), packed a punch of heat. I really enjoyed the soup, it was comforting and really warmed up something inside.