As the political, cultural and administrative center, Beijing is not only famous for its vital historical status, but also for the yummy local delicacies, integrating the cooking techniques of Han, Manchu, Mongolian and Hui ethnic groups as well as absorbing the soul of many local dishes from other cities and regions. Having a taste of Beijing palatable dishes should be jumping on your Beijing travel list. Let TOC be your guide of this wonderful Beijing-Cuisine-Exploration trip!
Yummy Local Snacks
With a profound history, Beijing snacks can be divided into three sorts: Han, Hui and imperial snacks, which are generally prepared by steaming, deep frying, frying in shallow oil, and instant boiling. The followings are some detailed information about Beijing snacks.
Beijing Pea Cake(Wan Dou Huang)
Pea Cake is a traditional Beijing snack, available in spring when the pea is ripe. Made from boiled as well as mashed peas and small Chinese jujubes, it tastes sweet, soft, delicious and full of aroma. To prepare the cake you need good yellow peas and a kind of special herb which is added to the pea paste 10 minutes before stir-frying. lf the herb is added too early, the yellow color it brings will disappear. Moreover, the peas should be thoroughly rinsed and the paste should be carefully filtered. A suitable amount of water and heat should be applied before a quality pea cake out of the oven.
The most authentic Pea Cake is made by Fangshan Restaurant, where you can also enjoy other yummy local snacks. And if there happens to be a temple fair in spring, pea cakes are sure to be served for customers.
Extra-thin Beancurd Skin(Mung Tofu)
Mung Tofu is a typical Beijing snack just as popular as Mung bean milk, being loved for its secret ingredients and marvelous tastes. With a profound history that can be traced back to hundreds of years ago, it was first loved by the poor who had no better food to eat. But surprisingly, the rich also fell in love with it. Most major restaurants in Beijing now offer Mung Tofu, but the taste is different from the original ones because of the oil used has been changed from caproic oil to vegetable oil.
Sticky Rice with Sweet Fillings (Ai Wo Wo)
Sticky Rice with Sweet Fillings, also named as Ai Wo Wo in mandarin, was once a court snack in Yuan Dynasty, and became popular since then. Available from the Chinese Spring Festival till the late summer, it is made in a complicated process---first being steamed, pounded into pulp, shaped into a ball and then filled with sesame and white sugar, pea flour, jujube paste or some other fillings such as walnut-meat, melon seeds, greengage etc. And then it is spread over with rice flour. Ai Wo Wo tastes smooth and soft while its fillings are loose and sweet. What a kind of enjoyment!
Palatable Main Dishes
Besides the amazing local snacks, Beijing is also famous for its main courses such as Beijing Roast Duck, instant-boiled mutton, Wheaten cake boiled in meat broth, Quickly-Boiled Tripe, Hot and Sour Soup, Stuffed Sausage etc. Among them, Beijing Roast Duck and instant-boiled mutton are the super ones.
Honored as a "national dish", Beijing Duck is not only the most yummy food of the city, but even a major symbol of the local cuisine culture. Just as reputable as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, it has become a must for foreign travelers when touring around the city. As early as the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368), the duck had already been recorded as an imperial dish by Hu Sihui who was an inspector of the imperial kitchen in the book of Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages. Normally there are many dishes served with the duck, including a dish of fine-cut shallot bars, a dish of cucumber bars and finally a dish of paste-like soy of fermented wheat flour. It is unnecessary to order extra soup, for the duck-bone soup is already included in you order. It will be served as the rear dish for the dinner. You are assured to enjoy yourself to the full.
The most renowned restaurants that sell roast duck are Quanjude and Bianyifang. Quanjude is a famous Chinese restaurant known for its trademark Quanjude Peking roast duck and its longstanding culinary heritage since its establishment in 1864 in the city. What dose Quan Ju De mean? According to our esteemed former Premier Zhou Enlai, Quan means perfection without a flaw, Ju means gathering without departing and De means virtues to be supreme. Thus, the restaurant Quanjude implies perfection, union, and benevolence. Established as early as 1416, Bianyifang is the oldest Beijing Duck restaurant in Beijing. It is said that Beijing Duck can be divided into two types: roast duck made with closed oven (where the heat is from inner oven wall) and roast duck made with half-open oven(where the duck is hung over heat source such as fire). Bian Yi Fang's roast duck is the representative of the closed oven type, which is made without using open fire. Specially made soup is filled into the duck during the cooking, it is actually roasting outside and boiling inside, thus reducing carcinogen resulting from open fire roasting. Crispy outside and tender inside, fat but not greasy, closed oven roast duck enjoys the reputation of being a healthy food. Welcome to Quanjude and Bianyifang for the enjoyment of the delicious Beijing roast duck!
Instant-boiled mutton, or dip-boil mutton, is a very popular Chinese hot-pot dish not only famous in Beijing but also all over the country. It uses mutton from the back, rear legs and tail of the sheep and is dipped and boiled in soup in a hotpot, fresh and tasty but not greasy or smelly. Besides, it is served with seasoning made of sesame sauce, preserved bean curd, leek flower, sliced spring onion, ginger and shrimp oil. Lamb is pre-sliced and served on the table. The requirement on the lamb slices is that the slice must be as thin as paper with each slice being complete. Because lamb can be cooked in very short time and longer cooking will make the lamb more solid, the way of having the lamb is to take some pre-sliced raw lamb by chopsticks, put it in the boiling hot-pot and take out as soon as the lamb changes color. In China, when having instant-boiled mutton, people put a hot-pot filled with water at the middle of a table. Normally food materials boiled in the pot include Tofu, Chinese leaves, bean vermicelli etc.
The best place to taste the instant-boiled mutton is Dong Lai Shun, the oldest and the most famous hot pot chain in Beijing. You will be attracted by its cost-effective hot pots for sure.
Distinguished Beijing Food Street
Qianmen Food Street
Qianmen is a street that gathers a lot of long famed century-old restaurants such as Quan Ju De, Dou Yi Chu Shaomai, Lao Zhengxing Restaurant, Yitiaolong Restaurant etc. It is not a simple dining street, but a main representative of the time-honored cuisine culture of Beijing. When you enjoy the delicious dishes, you will surely be attracted by its charming rich culture.
How to get there: take bus NO.2, 5, 17, 22, 44, 110, 120, 201 and 826. Or take Metro Line 2 and get off at Qianmen station.
Having a visit to the Great Wall, appreciating Beijing Opera as well as tasting Beijing Duck and Instant-boiled Mutton are the must-dos for you to travel in Beijing. Nevertheless, after the 2008 Olympic Games, there appears a lot of new incredible sceneries such as Water Cube, Bird's Nest, the Olympic Village etc., all of which are full of beautiful memories. Since the theme of this page is about Beijing cuisine, please do protect your stomach from eating too much! Have a nice trip!