Yesterday, I should have been called Indecision Anderson. I couldn’t figure out what to have for breakfast, where I should go for lunch, what I should wear, or what I should work on first. I was a mess.
There was one thing, however, I was certain of: I wanted to be outside. Why? Because yesterday, when I flung open my curtains, I was greeted by a patch of blue sky. Such blue is a rarity these days, and all I wanted to do was get myself to a park. I wanted to hear the crunch of leaves under my feet, and enjoy the sunshine.
I first had to decide, however, where to go for lunch. I cycled east on Park Road, then north on Buswell, into an area with a few inconspicuous restaurants. It seemed like a good day for noodles, so I stopped at Beijing Noodle House and locked up my bike, pleased to know it would be dry when I returned.
The restaurant is just the right size – big enough you don’t need to worry about getting a seat, and small enough to feel cozy. With the help of a few blogs, peeks at what other tables were eating, and a consultation with my server, I decided to try the Noodles with Soy Bean Paste, Beijing-style ($6.50), and the Boiled Dumplings with Chinese Cabbage (15 pieces for $7.50). This restaurant doesn’t have terribly high reviews on Urbanspoon, so I wanted to make sure I got something the regulars would eat.
The first dish – called zha jiang mian – consisted of a big bowl of wheat noodles topped with sliced cucumber, bean sprouts, and a sauce made of yellow soybean paste and pork. It was garnished with fresh soy beans.
I loved this dish, but here’s my warning to anyone else eating it for the first time – do not try the sauce until it’s been mixed with the noodles. Why? Because it’s a salt bomb that’ll strip your mouth of all feeling if eaten alone.
Ok, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it is a very concentrated flavour that needs to be diluted before eating. After the shock of my first taste, I mixed everything together and enjoyed a bowl of carb-y, salty, strongly-flavoured comfort food. The dark sauce had bits of pork belly in it, and the whole dish was lightened up by the cucumbers, bean sprouts, and satisfyingly crunchy soy beans.
I liked these zha jiang mian noodles so much, they may prove to be a worthy competitor for my beloved tan tan noodles! Here’s a great writeup about how to make your own. I’m not entirely sure that all versions include beer, but it doesn’t sound like a bad idea….
I also really enjoyed the dumplings; they don’t come in any smaller portions than 15 pieces, but you can always take the leftovers home for later. They’re boiled, not fried, so are pleasingly grease-free. They were the kind of dumplings that make me happy dumplings exist.
The first bites didn’t win me over, but that’s probably because they were overpowered by the salty noodles I ate first. Eventually, the flavours of the fresh-tasting dough, pork, and cabbage came through, and hooked me.
The dumpling wrappers weren’t as thin as perhaps some people might like, but they were about the same thickness as the ones at Specialty Chicken and Wonton House, and were very tender. A lot of other tables had also ordered them, so it’s obviously a popular item at Beijing Noodle House, and one I’d certainly recommend.
Filled with noodles and dumplings, I got back on my (oh-so-dry) bike and cycled over to Minoru Park.
Even though we’re into November, many trees have yet to give into Autumn, so we still have plenty of orange, red, and yellow ahead of us.
There were others out enjoying the park, including several dozen geese taking a much-needed migration break.
I wandered around, took photos, and soaked in every last bit of Vitamin D I could. I also listened to a fantastic episode of This American Life, entitled Red State Blue State. With the American election upon us today, it’s a really interesting listen, with ideas that touch on relevant aspects of any democracy. Yesterday, there was no better place for me to ponder the United States’ great political divide than in Minoru Park, with carpets of yellow leaves below my feet.
It was a good day, and of this, Indecision Anderson is certain.
Vegetarian options available