Wonton Noodles

On finding comfort away from home

I step inside the Hong Kong style eatery in Chinatown and feel the cold winter air stop behind me. ‘Wonton noodles and Sweet and Sour Pork. Thanks.’ It was one of those places where you had to share tables. Mostly men, alone. A man’s eatery, where it was safe to come alone. The place was half empty and each patron had their own square.

An elderly man walks in — a regular but was away for the holidays. My pot of tea arrives. Jasmine, served in one of those thin metal sauce pots, the ones where you sometimes find soy sauce. The flowery steam floated through the air, momentarily masking the smell of roasted duck hanging by the window.

A younger man sits down diagonally across the table. He was of the newer generation but not too new, not the age that would bring fearful eyes or envy.

Plastic hits the table. The noodles first, strands firm and tinted egg yellow. Texture similar but bite different.

Wontons not the same. I didn’t expect them to be. Maybe it was the wrappers, or the shrimp, or the hands.

Two old men stand at the chef’s corner. ‘Have I already paid?’ ‘Of course! Unless you want to pay again!’ *laughs*.

The outer shell was too thick but the middle was sweet. You know you’re away from home when there’s more meat than batter. Sweet and sour.

I scanned the menu plastered to the wall as I chewed. Kai lan, 4 times the price from home.

8:30pm and strangely quiet. The swirling of fans only broken by chairs across the tiled floor, takeaway, and shouts of happy new year.

I head over to the counter to pay the bill. It was a decent meal, probably not something I would go back for anytime soon. Stepping outside, I slowly walked back to my London flat, cheeks flushing pink as my mind wandered home.

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