For street food lovers, Beijing is heaven. The city is famous for its great number of traditional halal street snacks like sugar ear and pea cake. What’s more, the street food from other cities in China can also be found here, winning the recognition of Beijingers after some successful adaptations.
You might not be familiar with the name Bingtanghulu, but if you are an expert on Beijing, you may have seen the street stalls that sell hawthorn skewers covered in a sugar coating. The traditional Chinese snack that perfectly combines the sweet taste of sugar and the sour taste of hawthorns originated in northern China. It was called Bingtanghulu (rock sugar bottle gourd) because of the fruit skewer’s similarity to the gourd fruit. While some twenty years ago, street vendors could still be seen making Bingtanghulu on site, it is rare to see that today. What’s more, other than the original hawthorns, other fruits like strawberries, tangerines, and kiwis are also creatively used for Bingtanghulu now.
Lv Rou Huo Shao (Donkey meat bun)
The Lv Rou Huo Shao was first made in Baoding, Hebei Province. Legend has it that the salt gang (people who run the salt transportation business) and the water gang (people who transport food via water) in Baoding had a fight during the Song Dynasty. The fight ended with the victory of the water gang, and the winners decided to kill and cook the donkeys they captured from the salt gang, before consuming the donkey meat pressed in a bun. This was how the Lv Rou Huo Shao came into being. It is a fashion to eat Lv Rou Huo Shao in northern China. People believe that the donkey meat can nourish their vitality and enrich their blood.
Bao Shifu’s Egg and Milk Cake
Though Bao Shifu Cake Shop doesn’t have a fancy shop front, its Beijing “flagship” store near the Yonghegong Lama Temple always has a long line in front of it. The shop sells a range of traditional Chinese desserts including Jujube Cake and Crisp Walnut Cookie, but if you only have room in your stomach for one cake then you must try the Egg and Milk Cake. The little light golden cube doesn’t meet the standard for “good-looking,” but it surely brings out the most down-to-earth taste of egg and milk.
Wen Yu Cheese
Wen Yu Cheese is located on the most crowded hutong alley in Beijing – the Nanluoguxiang Alley, and its existence has certainly contributed greatly to that crowdedness. It features the traditional Beijing royal court cheese – the smooth jelly dessert made from fresh milk, sugar, and glutinous rice wine. The owner used to be the dessert chef of the biggest Beijing dessert chain store, Sanyuan Meiyuan. Despite Wen Yu Cheese’s popularity, the owner insists on running the one and only family shop to uphold the desserts’ quality.
49 Nanluoguxiang, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China, +8610 64055756
Wan Dou Huang (Pea cake)
Out of all the traditional halal snacks in Beijing, Wan Dou Huang is probably the most renowned due to its beautiful golden color and the wonderful refreshing taste that highlights the flavor of peas. The royal court snack is said to have been the Empress Dowager’s favorite snack, and you’ll know that the most powerful woman in the late Qing Dynasty did indeed have good taste once you try Wan Dou Huang for yourself.
If there’s going to be an appraisal of the Seven Wonders in Beijing, then the bun at the Shandong Bun Shop on Gulou Dongdajie is definitely a strong candidate. Only selling these plain white steam-fried buns, a staple food that is usually eaten only with other dishes, the shop sees long lines in front of it everyday. The line is most composed of elderly locals, some of whom even travel for an hour on a bus just to buy the buns here.
Xiaolongbao is a kind of soup dumpling invented in southern China in the 19th century, and is one of the representatives of Chinese food. But you are wrong if you think the Hangzhou Xiaolongbao sold on Beijing streets is the same as the authentic ones. It is more of a small dumpling without soup with a thicker wrap, though also cooked and served in bamboo steaming baskets. The Hangzhou Xiaolongbao is widely seen in breakfast shops in Beijing, and has become a new icon of the Beijing folk breakfast culture.
Doufunao (Jellied bean curd)
Tofu is a traditional breakfast dish in China. While the tofu in southern China, known as Douhua, dips the tofu in transparent sugar liquid, the tofu in the north is eaten with a paste made of soy sauce and materials like edible tree fungus and day lilies. Local Beijingers often eat Doufunao together with tea eggs and sesame buns.