Guest blogger Lily Evans, founder of the travel blog SkyWeFly, shares her top choices of dishes to be found in the historic capital of China and gives us a foodie’s guide to Beijing.
Beijing is among the most fascinating places in the world and is an ideal destination for both short term and long term visits. It is the perfect introduction to the country and a great place for getting acquainted with Chinese culture, boasting incredible imperial palaces, alleyways and monuments. In addition to that, it has cutting-edge shopping malls and glorious architecture. The unique sights that this city has to offer are unmatched across the world and it should be at the top of everyone’s travel bucket list.
When planning a trip to Beijing it is important to thoroughly research how to get around, where to sleep, where to shop and where to eat – this will make it a whole lot easier when you arrive. It is worth mentioning that Beijing has more than sixty thousand restaurants so finding somewhere to sample some sumptuous Chinese cuisine couldn’t be easier. For those looking for some advice on what to eat during their stay in Beijing, here are a few suggestions.
This is a traditional Beijing dish that has managed to survive the invasion of international cuisine on the Chinese culinary scene. You will probably have noticed that Peking roasted duck has made quite an impact globally but nowhere is it as divine as in Beijing. It has been a feature of the Chinese diet since the 1300s and eating it is considered a ritual, involving well-prepared, paper-thin pancakes and thinly sliced meat. Those who like crispy skin should make this food a priority whilst in Beijing.
Pea Flour Cake
The people of Beijing develop an appetite for pea flour cakes during spring and summer. When it is scorching hot outside, they take this delicious treat and melt it in their mouth to refresh themselves. This cake is made from white pea flour and it has a bright yellow colour with a distinct mild and sweet taste. Together with small corn buns and kidney bean cakes, it is one of the top three desserts that were enjoyed by Chinese emperors. This food is also eaten on special occasions, specifically every year on the third of March as per the Chinese calendar.
Deep Fried Insects
If you really want to try something daring when you visit Beijing, why not pick up a handful of deep fried insects and scorpions. You can choose from a wide range of fried insects including grasshoppers and dung beetles as well as some aquatic creatures such as starfish and seahorses to mention but a few. The Beijing locals are very keen on these delicacies as many are believed to have medicinal values.
Peking pork, which is locally referred to as Jingjiang rousi, is another culinary delight that is really enjoyed by Beijingers and is ideal for someone looking for an authentic taste of Beijing as it was in this city that it originated. It is widely known for its simple recipe, which is just sliced pork cooked with sweet bean sauce, then served with soya beans wraps.
Mung Bean Milk
This drink is slightly sour on the palate, grey-green in appearance and doesn’t resemble soy milk, which most people associate it with. It is made of mung beans, hence the name, and is as popular with the locals as Coca Cola is with Americans. The drink is rich in fibre and protein and it is said to have great medicinal properties. Make sure when you tour Beijing you have a taste of this peculiar but tasty beverage. However, be aware that it is an acquired taste so you are just as likely to hate it as love it.
In essence, this dish is simply lamb or paper-thin slices of mutton cooked instantly in boiling water. You find that in restaurants a hot pot is placed on the table so that whoever is interested in having it for their meal can cook it for themselves. The paper thin slices of mutton are dropped in the pot of boiling water for a few seconds and then, as they turn colour, quickly removed. To spice the meal, a mixture of leek flower, sesame sauce, chilli oil and ginger are used along with a range of other peculiar stuffs.
Fuling jianbing, which is also referred to as Fu Ling Bing, is one of the most popular snacks in Beijing. It has been in circulation for a while, gaining popularity across the city, and is readily available in different shops. It was a part of the royal menu at some point under the Qing Dynasty. This snack resembles a pancake and owes its name to “fuling”, an ingredient it uses which is also a sort of local medicinal food. This snack is usually served cold, as per tradition, and cut into different patterns.
When you visit Beijing make an effort to try beggar’s chicken as it will leave you begging for more, just as it has done with the emperors who treated themselves to this food for centuries. The procedure they follow while cooking it is simple and involves stuffing and marinating the chicken before wrapping it in wax paper and lotus leaves then smearing it with mud and leaving it for a few hours. The outcome of all this is an absolute delight. The aroma alone will make you go nuts, whilst the succulent meat, so tender it just falls off the bones, is to die for.
Shao Mai Dumplings
Finally, when you visit Beijing do not miss these steam-cooked dumplings. They are different from other Chinese dumplings in that they are left open at the top so that you can actually see what is inside. They are usually made with pork but mutton, beef and crab are also used as well as bamboo shoots, onions, chives, shrimp and mushrooms. Sounds yummy, right? Not many restaurants still sell these dumplings but you can always find somewhere to try them if you look hard enough.
Have you tasted any of these dishes or have your own culinary finds to share with us? Let us know in the comments section below or if this has whet your appetite for a trip to Beijing, check out our range of tours to China.