A Food Lover’s Guide to Beijing

Aiwowo | © 松林 L / Flickr
Fran Lu

Beijing is hardly the top choice for foodies who crave Chinese food – often the only local cuisine that comes to mind is the ubiquitous Peking duck. But while Peking duck itself is definitely worth the trip, the biggest advantage of the Chinese capital is that it attracts the pick of fare all over China. If you find yourself in Beijing and want to sample the best of the country’s dishes, be sure to check out the following places.

Where to get the best Peking duck

Peking duck is a treat for both the stomach and the eyes. The best Peking duck restaurants usually have chefs preparing the duck in front of diners before they serve it. You’ll see how the tender duck meat and crispy skin are separated in the most skillful manner, and can even tailor your meal by asking the chef to cook soup with the duck bone or save it for takeaway.

The most time-honored brand of Peking Duck is Quanjude. Its flagship store in Qianmen is always fully packed, with a long queue outside. Apart from Quanjude, there’s Da Dong, a contemporary Peking Duck restaurant once visited by former US first lady Michelle Obama, and Liqun, a hutong Peking Duck restaurant opened by a former chef of Quanjude.

Liqun Roast Duck

Beijing – street snack heaven

Beijing is way more than a city for Peking Duck. It is also a heaven of street snacks: from the variety of snacks that were passed down to the public from the imperial court, like wandouhuang pea cake and lvdagunr, the snacks invented by the long-established halal restaurants in Beijing, like aiwowo, to the probably less historical but an essential part of almost every Beijinger’s childhood memory – bingtanghulu (candied hawthorn), the street snacks are a treasure of Beijing’s food culture.


A secret that only the hardcore foodies know

What you’re going to read here is a secret about Beijing that only circulates among the hardcore foodies, and also what make the foodies feel so proud of living in Beijing: That is the fact that nearly all of the other Chinese provinces’ authentic flavors are accessible at their Beijing offices. For example, you may easily taste the original flavor of cross bridge rice noodles at the Butterfly Spring Hotel, which is attached to the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture’s Beijing Office, or kung pao chicken at the Xinchuanban Restaurant, which belongs to the Sichuan Province’s Beijing Office.

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It’s a matter of luck when it comes to hutong restaurants

Although we made a list of the best hidden hutong restaurants in Beijing, there are two appendix clauses you need to know: 1) nearly all hutong restaurants are more or less hidden (just imagine the maze-like topography of Beijing’s hutong alleys), and 2) good hutong restaurants are actually inexhaustible. For foodies, little is perhaps more fun than discovering the hidden delicacies by themselves, but still, searching for good hutong restaurants is like a gamble – you never know what’s behind that inconspicuous restaurant door or the shy, tongue-tied shop owner. It might be just what it looks like, but once it surprises you it’s going to be one of your most unforgettable food-hunting experiences.

Beijing Hutong
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