I have to admit to being a self-confessed foodie. (For “foodie”, other less kindly souls have referred to your favourite blogger as a born pig, but let’s not dwell on that for now.)
One of the fondest memories I have of my time spent in Dubai was being asked to write restaurant reviews for the English-language broadsheet Khaleej Times, thanks to its features editor Sushmita Bose, who had worked out in a moment of genius that she too could regularly get fantastic free meals by asking me to do the work of writing up the establishment while she came along as my minder. (I think that’s what you call a win-win-win situation. One eatery told me their business had quadrupled over night after my write up had appeared in print.)
So when Zhijuan – the principal of the Lang Ge English Language School where I occasionally perform – told me about a friend of hers who was co-owner of a jiaozi (dumplings) establishment based in Shuangjing, just south of the Guomao (World Trade Centre) in Beijing, my ears pricked up and I didn’t need a lot of persuading to go pay her a visit.
The jiaozi enterprise is called Gong Xi Gong Xi – which according to my Pleco instant iPhone translator means Congratulations!
“Gao Hua is my very best friend; and any friend of mine is a friend of hers,” said Zhijuan as she led me down subway lines 13 and 10 to Shuangjing station which opened out directly into the Viva! Mall. (A word to the wise: As I had already heard of two others, each being described as Zhijuan’s “best friend”, I can only assume that “very best” trumps “best” in terms of comparative friendship. Either that, or they each take the title on a rotating basis!)
Gong Xi 2 is obviously a popular munchery, judging by the amount of people. Hua is already there waiting for us, clucking over her brood of 13 staff like a mother hen, as the 120 places start filling up.
The first thing that strikes you is that the place is exceedingly clean – not something for which many of Beijing’s eateries are famous!
And the second thing you notice is that quite a bit of thought has been put into the décor …
…not overpowering and ‘in your face’, but a pleasing combination of colours and designs that even this colour-blind design-challenged blogger can well appreciate.
Naturally safety is high on the list of things that have been thought about…
while if you are just wanting to dash in, buy some dumplings and dash out again, you can do that; though why you would not want to park your sit-upon while enjoying the food is beyond me.
Even the lighting has been nicely thought out, with a series of birdie-lampshades featured along the outer wall of the restaurant.
I am introduced to Hua, whose English is about as good as my Chinese; and despite the fact that we neither of us can understand a word the other is saying without Zhijuan jumping in like a simultaneous translator at the UN, the latter’s promise of instant friendship comes to fruition within about 10 seconds of meeting her.
Within what feels like seconds, Hua’s waiting staff are bringing over a selection of jiaozi – boiled, steamed, and fried. First up we are treated to steamed marrow and egg dumplings (素蒸饺 – su zheng jiao) which all but melt in the mouth. I think the official English term for these is “more-ish” – ie you can’t stop eating them and always want to eat more.
Another plateful of more-ish dumplings arrive, but these are boiled and made from minced pork, squid and vegetables (恭喜饺子– gong xi jiao zi… which from the name you will realise is the house speciality). Fantabulous!
A third plate – this time of fried pork, water chestnuts, leeks and mushrooms (恭喜煎饺 – gong xi jian jiao) is laid out and immediately takes the level of my ‘fantabulosity’ index up another notch or two.
Oh, I should have mentioned that we each have our own little petrie dishes of vinegar and chilli oil for dipping the jiaozi into; though I follow the girls’ example and pour one into the other to make a delicious combined dip.
Gong Xi 2 doesn’t just do dumplings; to complement the jiaozi, we are also served a plate of 东北拉皮 – dong bei la pi, which consists of rice-powder-noodles (which are all but impossible to pick up with chopsticks), ultra thin beef slices, cucumber, bean sprouts and coriander. I make a mental note to try this out at the next dinner party I give.
And then, as if our stomachs are able to cram anything more in after all the above, we have a special jiaozi (榴莲饺 – liu lian jiao）filled with durian for afters. Durian, you will recall, is the large fruit that you see in markets across Asia which the majority of hotels ban you from taking back into your room, since the stench of the fruit is so over-powering. But used for the inside of a dumpling, it is just perfect!
Now, something else that is impressive about Gong Xi 2 is that if you are brave enough to order coffee in the majority of BJ’s restaurants you will normally be served with a horrid sickly sweet instant coffee that saps you of the will to live. Not so in this place. Here it tastes of real coffee and is certainly the equal of anything you will get served up in Starbucks or Costa.
The time passes all too quickly and I have to head on off to work while I leave the two ladies gossiping between themselves, putting the world to rights.
Before I leave, Hua tells me there is another branch of this restaurant near Sanlitun in the Shimao department store (opposite the Jingkelong supermarket). I make a mental note to tell all of my friends.
And to make it easy for them, I will tell them that to find this branch, they should go to Shuangjing on subway line 10, and leave from exit A.
Once they get to the lower-ground level (ie one escalator ride short of street level) they turn right into the mall’s lower ground floor.
Walk straight until you pass a McDonalds Ice cream sign on the right hand side (no, not the one on the left hand side…. It is the one on the right hand side you need) …
… and just after the escalators in the above picture you will reach a foodrepublic eatery. Immediately opposite said entrance is a pair of lifts.
Take one to the third floor, and as you make your exit, Gong Xi Gong Xi is immediately in front of you.
As they say Enjoy! And if you see Hua, tell her that your favourite blogger sent you… just so long as you tell her in your best Mandarin, of course.