Red Bean Paste: Flash Fiction

Ed’s note (A.T.): Perhaps you’ve heard, but we’re organizing a community flash fiction event on Sunday, July 13 at Great Leap Brewing’s Original No. 6 location, and we’re seeking writers to read their work. All you have to do is submit an original piece of fiction between 500-700 words on the theme of “Beijing” to before July 4; we’ll pick at least five people to read. How easy is this? Let us demonstrate.

Below is a story by Alec Ash, editor of the writers colony the Anthill, our publishing partner for this event. This is a mirror image story in response to a story I wrote, “Mayonnaise,” which you can find at the Anthill. Both are exactly 808 words — which technically disqualifies them as flash fiction entries, but we present them as inspiration to get you writing. Think you can do better? Show us!

Red Bean Paste

Red Bean Paste

Two expats, both English teachers, step out of their respective classrooms in a university district in northwest Beijing.

“Where do you want to go for lunch?”

“I’m hungover and I need meat. Let’s go somewhere close.”

“How close? There’s a Kro’s Nest up by Tsinghua East Gate.”

“That’s a whole fucking Chinese block away. How is that close?”

“There’s a baozi pu over there.”

“Oh shit, I haven’t had baozi in ages. Let’s see what’s steaming.”

“I went the other day. They had pork and beef.”

“Did you go with Lauren?”

“Piss off.”

“Pork and beef? The Chinese sure know how to pull out all the stops.”

“No, not pork and beef. Pork, and beef. And vegetarian.”

“I could teach those migrants a business trick or two. Location like this you got to hit that Western clientele. We have special needs. What if I want a baozi with pork and beef in it? Think they could do it?”

“You’re lucky to get the beef option, that’s rare. Mostly it’s all pig and chives. They make everything at like 4am anyway, then keep it hot. They roll a thousand or something in an hour. It’s like skyscrapers: one week and there’s a new one.”

“One week? BullSHIT.”

“No man. One week. I promise you, I saw it on a blog.”

“All right, what do you want? They all look the same.”

“I don’t know, let’s ask what they have. This is what I hate about baozi pu, only the top ti is ever open, and nothing’s marked.”

“What tea?”

Ti. It’s the measure word for those wooden cylinder things.”

“Did Lauren teach you that?”

“Piss off.”

“Next person. Watcha want?”

“What is this?”


“One ti. What else do you have?”


“Do you have beef?”

“No. Eat here or take away?”

“Eat here.”

“Five kuai. Next person. Watcha want?”

“I want pork and beef.”

“Only have pork.”

(“You’re such a twat.” “Shhh.”)

“That one. One tea.”

“Eat here or take away?”

“Eat here.”

“Four kuai.”

“Do you have four kuai mate? I only have a hundred.”

“You’re such an unbelievable twat.”

“Said the bishop to the actress. Thanks.”

“You’re paying for the next one.”

“I got you that Starbucks. That’s worth at least a hundred baozi.”

“That was three months ago.”

“This seat is filthy. They can’t wipe these off after the last lardass showing more belly than Britney Spears has sweated all over it?”

“Pass the lajiao.”

“Oh fuck!”

“What is it now?”

“What the fuck is this?”

“Did you choke on your own bullshit?”

“That. Is not pork in this baozi.”

“Let’s have a look. Ha. They gave you red bean paste.”

“Who puts red bean paste in a baozi?”

“They put red bean paste in everything man.”

“I’ve never had red bean paste before.”

“Really? How do you like it?”

“I don’t like it. I want pork. Can you give me another four kuai? I pointed at the pork one, it was their mistake, they should switch it for free.”

“Crap mountain. How is it their fault if you point at some random baozi without asking what’s inside it? Why don’t you like it?”

“It’s … sort of like chilli con carne, but with no chilli and zero carne. No, wait, it’s like clay putty mixed with flour and left in the sun too long.”

“Did you eat a lot of clay putty as a kid?”

“How would you describe it genius?”

“I don’t know. I’ve seen it all over the place but … I don’t think I’ve ever had it.”

“Ha! Well screw you, Mr. Let Me Tell You About China. You can shove your measure word for wooden cylindrical things up your arse.”

“I’ve only been here three months.”

“We don’t have red bean paste in Essex, that’s for sure.”

“They put anything in baozi man. Congealed duck blood, pig colon, turtle egg. I had a breakfast baozi with custard in it. Chilli bean is nothing.”

“Read bean’s not a chilli bean dumbnuts. It’s a type of kidney bean.”

“Give me one.”

“If I gave you one, they won’t switch it.”

“Just a bite.”


“It is kind of like clay putty. Less chewy than you think it will be.”

“Let me try it again. It’s a bit like a can of Heinz beans was opened after a hundred and fifty years and a radioactive apocalypse.”

“Give it here. Edible plastic explosive. Taco flavoured cement.”

“Processed plasticine. Quorn playdo.”

“Sweetened mud cake.”

“Marzipan, if it were red and made of beans.”

“Tastes like congealed spunk.”

“Is that what Lauren said last night?”

“Piss off.”

“Okay, enough. I’m going to switch it.”

Outside, the stall owner looked at the ti of cold baozi, six with bites out of them, then at the white man, who was waiting expectantly.

“Don’t want. That one. One tea.”


Alec Ash is founder and editor of the Anthill. Follow him @alecash.

Flash Fiction for Charity will be held July 13 at Great Leap Brewing’s Original No. 6. Please register in advance by emailing There’s a 50 RMB door fee (includes one free beer), with all proceeds going to the charity Educating Girls of Rural China.

    2 Responses to “Red Bean Paste: Flash Fiction”

    1. Jim M.

      I just read the entire thing. My head hurts… and I weep for humanity.

      However, I do feel like a red bean pancake. Haven’t had one in weeks.


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    seven + = 14