Like riding a bike

Even though I don’t actually know how to ride a bike (despite being shamefully old for that declaration) the saying still holds true. Being back in Beijing feels natural to me, like I’ve only been away for three months rather than three years. The language skills are returning slightly slower than I would have liked, but I’m still relieved that Chinese stuck to my brain with such tenacity.

Last night I met up with Wang Ke, an old coworker, for dinner at a place called 红宝鼎 (Hong Bao Ding) on 楠锣鼓巷 (Nan Luo Gu Xiang), a street I knew all too well when I lived here before. Nanluoguxiang is a smaller alley that runs North-South between two major roads. While the street itself hadn’t changed much, the feel was very different. The whole neighborhood around it was torn down and under construction, and a lot of that “back alley” charm had been lost.

The food, however, was absolutely fantastic. The specialty at 红宝鼎 is 烤鱼 (kao yu), a roasted whole fish served in a spicy broth with your choice of a selection of vegetables. The fish is dry-roasted, meaning it’s coated in a spice rub that crisps up along the top of the skin. The main component of the spice blend is cumin (自然 zi ran), which happens to be one of my favorite foods on the planet, thus making this fish heaven in a bubbling pan.

Over dinner, Wang Ke informed me that I will most likely be his only foreign friend in attendance at his upcoming wedding in May, and should therefore expect to be very drunk by the end of the afternoon. We may have to pin my address to my shirt like a small child on the train…

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