Dongzhimen baozi lady

22 Dec

After barely two months in China, I have a baozi lady! I don’t know her name, she doesn’t know mine, I’ve barely spoken more than 10 different words to her in the short time I’ve known her. And it’s definitely not that I’m the only customer she ever sees – the exact opposite actually – she’s always got a line of at least 6 people buying dozens of her freshly cooked steamed buns. But she knows my order, and that’s all that matters and what excites me! The past two times I’ve gone to visit her and get my regular fix of her delicious baozi, she’s remembered my order and goes to get the qiezi (eggplant) steamed buns. It’s these things that make me feel like a local and not a tourist.

I’ve eaten a few baozi since I’ve been in Beijing, and there are some that are just mamahuhu (so-so), and others that really make the grade. Then there’s a shop like this one, where there’s more types than I know Chinese words for, and people obviously line up and buy heaps from her knowing they are special. There’s not too much dough, but enough to hold the filling in and not get soggy holes on the bottom from where it’s been sitting on the steamer, the tops of them are crimped in cute designs, with a little piece of vegetable or something to distinguish what it is you’re buying. With more than 20 large steamers to open and pop into plastic bags for her fanatical customers, this woman is a marvel to watch. And did I mention she does all this with a big smile, and without cash register or till – just a small bundle of notes and a little metal bowl filled with “mao”.

It’s the ultimate no-frills place. An open window that opens into a small hole in the wall filled with steam, buns stuffed into plastic bags and nowhere to sit and eat – most people look like they buy to take home.

Anyway, last night I was not planning on eating a baozi, but instead wanted a photo of my favourite bun lady. But, in Chinese, the word used for photos happens to be “qiezi” – it makes the same shape as “cheese” in English. So as I walked up with my camera, automatically she opened her steamer basket and asked me “qiezi ma?” I had to say yes, as I needed her to say qiezi anyway for my photo!

ok, so it may not look quite as pretty as I'd envisaged, but trust me on the taste

But, sadly I fear I’ve been typecast, and will not be able to buy another type of her baozi again…and there’s a lot more to get through that I haven’t tried. A whole list that ranges in prices from 80 mao to 1.20kuai, and I’ve really only tried four varieties. I guess next time I’ll have to say no qiezi, or go when they have sold out (which happens a LOT) and try her other varieties. Luckily her store is around the corner of my Chinese school, and as I’m there two nights a week, there’s plenty more opportunities to see her.

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