My dad worked at a bank. He started at the main office then got “promoted” to one of the branches. This branch was in an “industrial/blue collar” part of town (I think there’s a Chinese restaurant on the location now). Along with the car repair shops, the small meat processing shops, and various other small businesses, there were several (numerous?) “mama-san lounges”. Not high-end “hostess bars”, just neighborhood bars, mostly run by asian women (at least on the surface), and staffed by women (maybe one hefty male bouncer or two).
The bar customers were normally the workers around the area stopping in for a beer or two before heading home. Most times, these lounges had an older cook in the back that prepared simple home foods to “entice” their patrons to stay longer (and spend more). Not the high-end foods, simple stew, soups, stir-frys, etc. Usually “cheap” ingredients but well put together.
Many a time the “mama-sans” would come in and claim their bank statements were wrong. Dad took on the task of sitting down with the customer and reconciling the balances with them. Often, they tried to “pay” my father (they couldn’t take “tips”.
Now back in the day, oxtails were super cheap (sometimes free). As you can imagine, oxtail soup (with rice and grated ginger) was one of the staples at these lounges.
So anyway, a couple (or several) times a month, the mama-san or one her “girls”, or sometimes the bouncer, would walk into the bank at lunch time and bring dad a tray with a large bowl of oxtail soup, bowl of rice, and plate of grated ginger. Soup was full of peanuts, mustard greens, carrots, dried mushrooms, oxtail, and Chinese parsley (cook or mama-san made sure Dad got the thick pieces of tail). Dad was in heaven (apparently soup is not considered “pay” in their minds).
Sometimes in the afternoon when I went to pick him up, he would ask me to take the tray and dishes back to the lounge kitchen (all washed of course). Most times one of the “girls” would come into the bank to retrieve the tray, sometimes they forgot. The lounges were nearby. Always used the back door, kitchen side, not front door, lounge side.
A couple of the mam-sans offered to give me a birthday party when I became “legal”, but dad politely refused the offers, plus I was too introverted (if I knew then what I know now … sigh).
In time, dad got “promoted” to another branch in a shopping mall and the supply of oxtail soup ceased. I think the oxtail soup “perks” may have been one of the highlights of his career (not in the professional sense, just in the people way).
Dad, hope you’re getting your fill of oxtail soup up there.
Enjoy. Eat well.
Read Full Post »