Missing my fave food store
One of the primary reasons for homesickness among foreigners in China is a longing for food back home. The first thing they try to find are restaurants that serve their country’s cuisine. I did the same during my initial years in Beijing. At that time, there were about a dozen expensive Indian restaurants in the capital, but none could satisfy my palate for authentic taste.
Luckily, I learned about a store in Sanlitun that stocked most of the basic South Asian and Arabic ingredients and products. As soon as I stepped in, the smell of Indian spices excited my nostrils. I bought so many things one would have thought the shop was going out of business the next day.
The store survived for many years. An old Chinese couple, seemingly as old as the store itself, ran the shop for several years. I became a regular customer.
All seemed well, then suddenly the old couple was replaced by a young couple. The shop had changed hands. One of the new owners could speak a bit of English to the relief of many customers. So, perhaps the change was not so bad.
However, after a few months, I saw a notice up in the shop saying they were moving to another location which was not yet decided.
The government was pulling down all the unauthorized commercial shops in the area. The store remained open for a couple of months until one day I saw them moving out. Soon enough, the authorities destroyed the structure, breaking every brick into rubble. It is just a desolate corner now.
I have always wondered why there weren’t more stores like that in Beijing despite the heavy demand.
Recently, I called them up to find their new location. The young lady had to come out on the street to meet me because I could not find the new store. She told me they moved to a new store in a community, but it was also torn down. Now, they run a scaled-down version out of their small apartment.
The business has shrunk considerably. Only those in dire need take the trouble to find it. She said they are still looking for a proper place, but the rent is exorbitant.
Sanlitun has become Tai Koo Li. Bars have mushroomed. High-end international brands have replaced small stores. But I still miss my favorite food store.