There’s obviously the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, but the real best of the best is the food in Beijing. You might not think three days in Beijing is enough to try ten types of Chinese food; but trust us, it is.
Three days is a perfect beginning to find your feet in China. And sampling Chinese food in Beijing is the best way to do it.
We set ourselves a goal of not eating any Western style cuisine while we were in China. And this, is how we did it…
1. Jiaozi 饺子
Eating dumplings in Beijing is non negotiable. You can’t visit China and not eat dumplings! Dumplings are easy to find at lots of restaurants and street food stalls in Beijing. And there are some small, less conspicuous family eateries that only serve dumplings. Ask your hostel where to find the best jiaozi near you.
2. Beijing Hot Pot 蒙古火锅
In my opinion this is the crème de la crème of Chinese food in Beijing. Hot Pot is the perfect dish for winter (we visited in November). There is just something about walking in to a hot pot restaurant in Beijing; the noise, the smells, the warmth… You have to experience this for yourself.
Hot Pot restaurants involve sitting in front a bubbling pot of hot broth, where you will choose different items from the menu to cook in the hot pot yourself.
3. Gong Bao Chicken
Gong Bao chicken is a fabulously understated hot-sweet-sour Sichuan-Chinese dish diced. It is made of spicy chicken piece, dried chilli and fried peanuts in a thick sauce. Ask your hostel where to find the best Gong Bao chicken nearby in Beijing.
4. Peking Duck
Regardless of how long your trip to Beijing is, you don’t want to skip trying Peking duck. This is a Chinese dish that has been prepared since the imperial era, and you can’t argue with that. Even if the thought of eating duck isn’t really your thing; if you get the chance to try it in Beijing it will be worth it…
Where to eat Peking Duck in Beijing: One night we ate at Hua Jia Yi Yuan restaurant which had a huge menu and an 8:00pm stage show of Chinese theatre. Interesting!
5. Black fungus
I’m just kidding. This is not really part of the list of foods you must try in Beijing. But it deserves a few points for interest…
China has over 900 species of fungus! That is an insane amount. Mushroom and fungus are used a lot in China cuisine and traditional medicine. (Note: you do have to know which ones to use for which). This was actually a side dish with our food in Beijing: a black fungus salad.
6. Jianbing 煎饼
Jianbing is a Chinese version fo a scallion pancake. You will see it everywhere at street food stalls in Beijing. It can be topped with different foods and sauces, and is folded like a crepe before serving.
Where to eat jianbing: Wangfujing Snack Street or Guijie (Ghost Street) in Dongzhimennei Avenue.
7. Baozi 包子 and mantou (馒头)
You will see the cloud of steam billowing out of the shopfront or street stall before you can figure out the restaurant sign in Chinese. Baozi are steamed, stuffed buns that are a popular go-to breakfast on the run in China. (And I’d vote it a popular snack at any time of day). They come in all shapes and sizes and with a range of different fillings. If you don’t have any dietary requirements then just go for it. We didn’t know what we were ordering (most) a lot of the time, but simple baozi are commonly filled with pork and cabbage. Delicious!
Mantou are the brother dish to baozi. These are plain, unfilled steamed bread buns. Both of these are a cheap street food snack that will set you back less than a few CNY.
Where to eat baozi: Wangfujing Snack Street.
8. Wontons 馄饨
Beijing-style wontons are common for breakfast. We had noodle soup with egg and wontons on our first morning in Beijing (heavenly after a long flight from New Zealand). The wonton are wrapped in thin dough and stuffed with a pinch of (usually) pork. It makes a good breakfast floating in a lightly flavoured soup broth.
9. Youtiao 豆浆油条
This is often eating with soy milk on the side; literally the Chinese equivalent to a coffee and donut. You will see stalls of youtiao coming to life in the morning as one of Chinas most popular breakfast snacks. Youtiao is essentially a long, golden-brown strip of deep-fried dough.
10. Rainbow dumplings 彩色饺子
This needs its own mention… Chinese dumplings are delicious, but how cool are rainbow dumplings?! The dough is dyed naturally with fruits and vegetable such as spinach, carrot, blueberry and grape. It’s definitely one way to make the outside of the dumplings match the exciting taste of the delicious fillings inside!
I read about rainbow dumplings in the Lonely Planet guide while on the plane to China and added that to my goal for visiting with three days in Beijing. I mean hey, who knows when you might next be back in Beijing!
Where to eat rainbow dumplings: Baoyuan Dumplings, Beijing. Six dumplings is around RMB 10.