Food Feature: Hangzhou Xiao Chi

Food Feature: Hangzhou Xiao Chi

Last semester I told you all about my favorite restaurant in Rome, Osteria dell’Anima, with the pear pasta I dream about sometimes. Although it seems I eat out for every meal here in China, there haven’t been many times where I eat out downtown instead of around the campus, because unlike Rome, there are restaurants taking every inch of space at UIBE’s perimeter. So let me tell you about Hangzhou Xiao Chi, which is located just three steps outside of East Gate, or as we call it, Eats Gate. I really wish the internet would cooperate and let me share pictures with you, but when I get back to Chicago you betcha I’ll upload them on my first day of work. You’ll just have to trust me right now.

Hangzhou is owned and operated by one small family from, you guessed it, Hangzhou City. They’re adorable and I love them. Just like a lot of small family-owned restaurants here in China, it’s not always easy to tell how exactly they’re all related, but they usually are. Hangzhou has two Ayis, or aunties, three Mei Nus, or daughters/younger women who help out, and then four Shu Shus, uncles, who do the cooking. The restaurant is about half kitchen and half seating area, and the seating area is six tables with small stools to sit on instead of wasting space with real chairs. It’s always packed. They serve both baozi, stuffed steamed buns, and jiaozi, dumplings, as well as about a hundred (that’s an exaggeration – perhaps fifty really) dishes, although I prefer to get their vegetable noodle soup, so then I can add anything I want, or otherwise I really enjoy their Chongqing noodles, which are flavorful, with chicken and peanuts, and spicy as all get-out.

They speak no English, but they’ll teach you the proper pronunciations of whatever food you want, and they have pictures posted of their most popular foods so you can just point. And ‘baozi’ is the easiest thing to say. You can’t visit Hangzhou Xiao Chi without getting a ‘lou’, or a plate of them. TBC students are currently heartbroken because one of the Ayis went back to Hangzhou for Spring Break and won’t be coming back until next semester so she can help her daughter study for the college entrance exam that all Chinese kids have to take if they want to go to college.

Eating at Hangzhou is like eating a home-cooked meal made with love, and the staff there can recognize all, if not most, of the TBC students by now. We go there… a lot. I’m not going to lie, before Spring Festival there was a week where I went every single day for seven days straight. I can’t help it. For ten baozi and a bowl of warm noodles, it’s less than 20 kuai, which is about three dollars. Three dollars! I’m going to cry when I get back to Chicago at the prices.

You can’t, and won’t, miss Hangzhou Xiao Chi if/when you come to TBC. Did I make you hungry? I’m pretty hungry myself. Guess I know what I’m having for dinner tonight.

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