Chapter 2: Beijing Minced Pork Noodles (zhajiangmian)
Translated by Crystal of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
After Lin ShuYi finished eating, the grandpa started to clean up. Once it was time for lunch, customers would start coming in, thus he had a lot of preparations to do. Seeing that Lin ShuYi still sat there, he handed him a glass of water and started small talk as he continued working, “Young man, it’s time for your college entrance exams right?”
Lin ShuYi thought about it for a bit, then remembered what this exam was. He shook his head and said, “I’m no longer in school.”
The grandpa was quite surprised, “How come? You’re only seventeen or eighteen right?”
Lin ShuYi thought hard about it before saying, “Both my parents are gone and attending school takes money.”
For the amount of time he stayed in that house, no one appeared. He did manage to find a group photo in a drawer, as well as an ID card. Like he thought, this person was also called Lin ShuYi. Maybe they were the same person, just one in the previous life and one in the current, otherwise, they wouldn’t look so similar.
There were three people in that group photo, however, due to aging and constant rubbing by fingers, at least it appeared like it, plus it was in black and white, it was really hard to tell the original image. The people were blurry as well. Lin ShuYi thought that it was maybe his parents, but he didn’t know if they were still alive or not.
The grandpa was understandably stunned. He didn’t expect Lin ShuYi to have gone through so much by such a young age. He also felt guilty bringing such a sad thing up again. Seeing the boy’s fragile body, the grandpa couldn’t help but feel his pain. Holding out his rough hands, he ruffled the boy’s hair, “Don’t worry, it’s over now.”
Obviously Lin ShuYi wasn’t sad at all, those two people were nothing but strangers to him. How could he be sad?
“Then, are you living alone right now?”
This child was even younger than his grandson by a few years but looked much more sensible than him.
“Yes. Grandpa, do you need anything else done? I can help” Lin ShuYi had thought about going out and seeing the world, but the more he thought about it, the less of a good idea it seemed. Everything he knew, he learned from television. There must be some discrepancy between that and the real world. Also, he didn’t know anyone, so going out was useless anyways.
“No need, no need. Sit down, I’m already done preparing, there’s nothing for you to do. If you don’t want to go home then stay at this old man’s place. Don’t worry, make yourself at home.” The grandpa said. He was alone anyways, and having someone to talk to made it less lonesome.
Hearing the grandpa say this, Lin ShuYi sat down again. It didn’t take long before another person arrived.
“Hey! Old man Yang! Give me a bowl of Minced Pork Noodles, spicy too!” A women in her mid fifties came rushing in. She first shouted towards the opening to the kitchen and then sat down. Once she did, she noticed Lin ShuYi.
“Hey, Old man Yang! Is that your grandson?”
Old man Yang poked his head out the opening and said, “No, my grandson’s already in his twenties.”
The women hit her head a few times and said, “Me and my memories. But yah, your son and others haven’t come back in a while right? I almost forgot what he looked like, much less remember your grandson.”
When women reach middle age, then all tended to be like this, gossipers without a leash. It was just an off-handed comment from her, but grandpa’s eyes instantly dimmed. However, he still refuted, “Actually, they often call home as well. JianGuo’s just busy, I don’t want him to come back either, it’ll be tiring for him.”
Although he said that, Lin ShuYi could see the disappointment in his eyes.
The women twitched her mouth and got even more excited talking, but every line was in defence of Old man Yang. “Nowadays these youngsters are all busy, but no matter how busy, you can’t forget about your father. Look at you, still talking on his behalf. If I was you, I would give him a good talking to. That’ll clear his head. He just listens to his wife and even forgets his father…”
Old man Yang finally stopped responding and brought out the Minced Pork Noodles.
Seeing this, the women finally realized that she hit his sore spot. With an awkward expression she said, “Old man Yang, I don’t have a gate on my mouth, don’t take what I say to heart…”
The corner of Old man Yang’s mouth went up into a smile, “No worries.” What she said was the truth anyways.
Turning around, he saw that Lin ShuYi was still sitting there with a straight back and asked, “Hey, do you watch TV? This old man doesn’t have much here, but I do have a small TV with only a few channels. Still better than nothing, right?”
Lin ShuYi nodded and Old man Yang turned to power on the TV. It truly was small, even smaller than the one in Lin ShuYi’s home. There was a lot of static noise as well, making ‘ziziz’ sounds every so often.
“Old man Yang, who’s this? I don’t think I’ve seen him before.” The women finally became interested in Lin ShuYi. The youngster looked handsome enough, but how come she had never seen him before? Could he be Old man Yang’s relative?
“Ah, him, that little house over there, you see it? He’s the one that lives there, poor child.”
The women followed Old man Yang’s fingers and nodded at the house, “Oh, he lives in that one. I saw it from afar once, but no one seems to come out, so I thought it was empty most of the time.”
Once she finished, she stopped making chit chat and focused on eating.
Old man Yang’s noodles were famous in the area. It was cheap, tasty and healthy. He didn’t go cheap on the ingredients, the meat was there and the vegetables were there in the right amounts. She came over often and sometimes she’d start craving it when she hadn’t had some in a while.
Her favorite was the Minced Pork Noodles.
The pork sauce was made fresh in the morning, using only fresh ingredients just plucked from the earth, so of course it was good. The aroma of the marbled pork sauce was strong but not overbearing. The cucumber, bean sprout, carrot topping was crispy and refreshing. Mixed together, everything became tainted in the golden brown sauce, but it wasn’t greasy at all. She often made this dish herself, but for some reason she could never create Old man Yang’s flavor.
She knew that Old man Yang’s recipe was his source of income, so she couldn’t bring herself to ask for it. Good thing the flavor stood the test of time, unchangingly good, and still very cheap. Even if she paid for the whole family, it would still be in the two digits. The women ate hungrily, slurping the noodles. Lin ShuYi held it in multiple times but couldn’t keep it up and took a look over.
The moment the grandpa brought out the dish, he knew it was different from the one he ate. He was already full, but seeing the women eat, he couldn’t help but feel his craving swell up. He had always been like this. His defences were always low in front of good food.
Lin ShuYi only turned to look once, but even that got caught by Old man Yang. He didn’t say anything, although the corner of his mouth did go up.
Once lunchtime arrived, the customers started rolling in. Usually, Old man Yang was the chef and the waiter, so once it got busy, there wouldn’t be enough hands. Everyone knew each other, so no one rushed him, but today was different. There was a handsome youngster, who they didn’t know what his relationship to Old man Yang was, but he helped out carrying the dishes and cleaned up without a break.
Lin ShuYi just thought that since he was here and had nothing to do, he might as well help out. After all, even if he went back, he would be alone.
Once everyone left the restaurant, the sun was about to set.
Lin ShuYi worked up a sweat and finally decided to go home and take a shower. The thing he was most satisfied with in this world wasn’t the TV or the sofa but the boiler. Not having to go out and boil hot water for bathing was the best.
Before he left, Old man Yang gave him a box. Lin ShuYi looked up at him, confused.
“I saw that you seemed interested in the Minced Pork Noodles, so I made you some. I put extra sauce in it, no chilis either. Take it home to eat, it’s almost night time, so this way you don’t have to worry about making your food.”
Lin ShuYi paused for a moment then with a huge smile on his face said, “Thank you, grandpa.”
He had wanted to eat this, what you call it, Minced Pork Noodles for a while now. Oh right, another thing he was satisfied with in this world was the amount of food they seemed to have. He saw it on TV.