As we make our way back through all our old food haunts of Saoziying, we have been greeted happily and hospitably by the people who had made our culinary experiences so enriching last year. And with each glorious return not only do we recall the foods we loved but also the way in which they were served...sometimes quite differently than to our Chinese neighbors.
Case in point...One of our favorite places in the alley is a mala tang restaurant that took us months to build up to. Despite passing it every day, we were unsure of exactly what the people who were sitting at outside tables were eating or how they went about ordering. You see, at some mala tang places, you choose the skewered meats, veggies, tofu, and noodles you want and put them into a basket. Then you hand it to the person who is manning the pot. He or she will place the kebabs into a metal basket that is sitting in spiced boiling water and when they are done, remove the perfectly cooked delicacies and put them into a bowl, adding sauce and, on request, hot pepper. This is where a noticeable difference takes place...
Last year when we finally got the nerve to try out this place, the greeting we received made us feel very welcome. Perhaps the restaurateurs had seen us walk by, say, hundreds of times. In any case, when our bowls were ready for serving, they were brought to our table looking quite different from they people around us. While everyone else received a bowl wrapped in a plastic bag (which could be easily discarded when they finished their meal...not the bowl, just the plastic), our bowls did not have the bags on them. Our food was served in the bowl itself, suggesting that they were making a special exception for us...that they didn't mind cleaning our bowls so that we could eat their food in a way that was more "normal" for us.
And so time and time again we ate at this place, noticing each time that our bowls had no plastic. In other words, it wasn't just a one-time fluke. They were really concerned and while we definitely wouldn't have cared if the bowls were covered or not, it did make us feel special.
So fast forward ten months. The mala tang place high on our list, we made our way there in quick fashion. Question...Would they remember us and if so, would the "special treatment" continue?
Check out the picture for your answer.
Ahhh. Life is good!