Looking for small delights in the nooks of Beijing

Updated: Nov 18, 2022 By Rene Pastor China Daily Print
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"Tender, juicy, tasty. Just right for the bite. That's a blank, blank hot dog."

I don't know why the jingle for that advert keeps running through my head. I am not even craving a hot dog.

For me, the only red, juicy, crunchy morsel I'm interested in is not a hot dog. It is a watermelon, and I am pretty much hooked on it.

I buy it wrapped and sliced at the supermarket during the weekend. I only get one because it is packed with slices of the fruit.

You can cut them further into even smaller parts. Sometimes, I just pick them up with my fingers and plop them like a basketball into my mouth.

The wonderful thing is that watermelon is both crunchy, and yet sort of melts in the mouth.

After a somewhat long day editing 1,000-plus word articles on opening-up or the latest move to internationalize the nation's currency, there is no better way of getting your mind off things than the simple delight of chomping through a watermelon.

Another incredibly refreshing treat is a pineapple smoothie I get at a Thai restaurant at the Kerry Center in the heart of Beijing's Central Business District.

My wife and I discovered it when, at a time when we were at the mall late, and ducked into the eatery for a bite to eat and something to drink, after working up a thirst by walking around in the late August sun.

I asked for a tall pitcher of the pineapple smoothie, and when it arrived, it was thick and overflowing with bing, or ice.

We finished it in something like 10 minutes and, without a moment's hesitation, quickly beckoned to the waiter to bring us another.

The restaurant itself wasn't exactly a gourmet's delight. The food was far from extraordinary. In fact, what passed for chicken wings were pedestrian and uninspired.

But the smoothie, helped along by the hot, humid weather, was quick to wash them down and was heavenly.

It was the best thing about that restaurant.

From the watermelon to the smoothie, there are tiny nooks in Beijing that provide an absolute delight for a famished, thirsty diner.

You often find these places in the corners of cities where you least expect them.

One of the best parts about traveling is striking upon a place that is plain and unremarkable, but you discover a meal or a drink that is astonishing in their simplicity of preparation.

I remember going to the seaside part of a city in the central Philippines where the fishermen would land their catch after midnight.

We picked a dozen or so crabs and had them deboned. We then took them to a nearby restaurant, mixed them with a dozen eggs, and had a dinner with steamed rice. I still remember that meal, the smell of the rice and the pungent odor of the crab, all these years later.

Simple, but one of the best meals I've ever had.

Tourist hot spots don't all have such places and it takes some patient searching.

But, I suppose part of the fun is in the looking. That is what makes the reward so worthwhile.

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