Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Chinese and Charlie's Bakery

Ever since I lived in Taiwan I have loved Chinese food. This has been a blessing and a curse. It opened me up to all the wonderful foods, dishes, and tastes of China. Unfortunately, I am now tainted because I know what real, good Chinese food should taste like. I still enjoy the occasional Carrs/Safeway Chinese takeout, not as authentic Chinese food, but something completely different.

As odd as it sounds, Anchorage has a pretty good selection of Chinese restaurants. This probably has to do with the sizable Asian population and proximity to Asia. The best place I have found in town for authentic Chinese food is Charlie’s European Bakery. Yeah, you read that right European bakery. (Actually they have changed the name to just Charlie’s Bakery, but you can still see signs and stuff with the old name.) It is a little cafĂ© and bakery located on C Street and Northern Lights. They do sell some European breads, but their main staple is their Chinese food.

One of the reasons Charlie’s is so good is its authenticity. It is owned and operated by a Chinese Family from Taiwan. Their “niu ruo tang” (braised beef noodle soup) and the “hong dou bao” (red bean paste buns) are the best. The only difference between what I use to eat from noodle shops and street vendors is the size. The proportions are definably American.

The other thing I liked about Charlie’s is the atmosphere. It feels like the little bakeries and noodle shops of Taiwan. It has that relaxed, family run feel of all small Taiwanese shops.

Yesterday, I stopped by to surprise my wife with lunch. I got there right at 11 AM right as they opened. They were still just getting started and I had to wait as the hong dou bao came out of the oven. Now I have to confess. I am a horrible eavesdropper when it comes to Chinese. It was a habit I picked up living in Taiwan and trying to learn the language. While I waited, I listen to two ladies behind the counter talk back and forth about sales at Costco, whether or not the today’s portions were too small, or other such routine things. I just smiled as I listened to their wonderfully thick Taiwanese accents. The Taiwanese accent is the Chinese equivalent of a Southern American accent. They soften their vowels and slur syllabus together.

Every once in while they would call back to “mei mei” for an update on the day’s baking. Mei mei literally means little sister, but is also used as a familiar name for any younger female. In this case, mei mei was a lady roughly my age. Still a mei mei at thirty.

I left Charlie’s with four piping-hot fresh hong dou bao, lunch, and smile from ear to ear. Speaking or even passively listening to Chinese always puts me in a good mood.

1 comment:

scribbit said...

I love their coconut rolls, or whatever they're called. Only problem is I routinely get there too late and find they're all sold out.