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What to eat in Beijing, China

What to eat in Beijing, China

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Ask me what the highlight of our Trans Mongolian railway trip was and I’ll tell you it was Beijing. There are many reasons I liked Beijing (you can see what we did in Beijing here), but one of those was the food. On our first trip to China, I wasn’t impressed. We ate something that Google translated as “pig arse” and there definitely wasn’t a highlight dish on our trip. So, when it came to this China trip I hunted out the best food to eat in Beijing and we did a food tour which was AMAZING.

If you’re visiting Beijing then be sure to find these best meals to eat in Beijing! Seriously, eating has to be one of the top things on a “what to do in Beijing” list!

Useful resources and articles for planning your Trans Mongolia Railway trip
Our Trans Siberian Railway itinerary
How much did our trip cost?
How to book and plan a Trans Siberian Railway trip
Lonely Planet Trans Siberian Railway guide
Booking.com for great deals on accommodation
Skyscanner for cheap flights
Getyourguide.com to find great small-group tours
Airbnb experiences for unique experiences

12 things to eat in Beijing

About Beijing food

Whilst the foods listed below may not originally be from Beijing, that doesn’t mean they’re not good. Beijing cuisine is hugely varied and is a reflection of the different cultures found across China. Because of this, eating in Beijing is a true delight and some of the best food in Beijing is also the best food in China.

Another major influence on Beijing’s cuisine was the tradition of the “Emperor’s Kitchen”. This refers to the cooking facilities inside the Forbidden City where 1000s of cooks from all over China showed their best culinary skills to impress the imperial family.

A lot of the main Beijing dishes involve some sort of frying and rice is less often seen as an accompaniment to dishes since local rice production is limited by Beijing’s dry climate.

Best food to eat in Beijing

Be sure to try these foods of Beijing during your trip! I’ve also listed a few Beijing restaurants below so you can sniff out the best places to try each of these foods.

Peking Duck

peking duck in beijing china

Chinese roast duck, anyone? Peking duck is the food everyone will tell you to try in Beijing. It’s definitely a must eat in Beijing.

You can find Peking Duck served in restaurants all over the city since it’s such a famous food in Beijing. But, of course, the quality of the dish is going to vary massively. Your best bet is going to be to go to a restaurant that specialises in duck, rather than somewhere that does it alongside a million other dishes.

Peking duck is going to be different to Chinese crispy duck pancakes you may have had back home. The accompaniments are different too. Sure you still get the sauce, cucumber and the pancakes but there are a few extras there too!

We got a tonne of recommendations from people we met for Peking duck restaurants while travelling in Beijing and also through research before our trip.

What is Peking duck?

Peking duck is the Chinese food in Beijing that you have to try. It’s a Chinese dish consisting of strips of roast duck served with shredded vegetables, a sweet sauce and pancakes.

The duck is often bathed in honey and sherry, air-cured for hours or days, then slow-roasted over a fire to produce the crispy duck with pancakes that you’ll surely be aware of.

How to eat Peking duck?

Although I’d already had Chinese Pekin duck at restaurants in the UK, the Pekin duck in Beijing came with a lot more accompaniments.

Our waitress demonstrated a couple of different flavour combinations that we could try out with our crispy aromatic duck. We then tried even more on our own.

Basically, you grab a pancake, spread some sauce on it, add some duck, maybe some spring onion and cucumber and then the duck. Fold it up a bit like a burrito and you’re good to go!

Where to try the best Peking duck in Beijing

Have a look at these restaurants in Beijing for a great place to eat Chinese duck and duck pancakes!

  • Siju Minfu: Where we went. Good as they serve duck as a half portion too if there’s just the two of you. Always a queue but they serve snacks and drinks to pass the time.
  • Da Dong, Beijing: More high-end and serves super lean duck. A lot more expensive so more one for a special occasion.
  • Qianmen Quanjude: One of the oldest restaurants in the capital, dating back to 1864.

Mongolian hot pot

mongolian hot pot in china

Did you know that Mongolia used to be in control of China? Nah, me neither until our Airbnb food tour. The lamb hot pot is technically the Mongolian hot pot and it’s become a winter staple in Beijing.

These hot pots are still heated with charcoal which makes for quite the experience.

While the water was bubbling away we added dried shiitake mushrooms, ginger, leeks, goji berries, jujubes (small red Chinese dates), fried tofu skin, spinach and lamb. The sesame sauce made with fermented tofu was delicious with all the hot pot ingredients!

Top tip: Try seven ‘swishes’ in the hot water with your lamb and it’ll be cooked perfectly!

Places to go in Beijing for Mongolian hot pot

  • Old Liu’s Mongolian Hot Pot: The one we went to is on 73-1 Beixinqiao Santiao.
  • Dong Lai Shun: Old favourite with branches all over the city
  • Manfulou: Has a location right next to Jingshan Park.

Biang Biang noodles

Biang-Biang noodles beijing

Where to start with these noodles. If I could eat a big ol’ bowl of them right now I’d be incredibly happy.

These noodles have quite the back story and apparently, their name comes from the sound that’s made when the chef whacks the noodles on the counter in the preparation process.

Another fact about these is that the character for ‘biang’ is made up of 58 strokes in its traditional form which makes it one of the most complicated Chinese characters. It’s so complicated that when put on a phone screen or printed out it’s basically a black square so you’ll often see the word written in a menu. 

These noodles are wider than most other noodles and the dish comes with greens, sometimes meat, and a spicy sauce. You gotta try them!

Best places to eat in Beijing for biang biang noodles

  • Qin Tang Wei Dao: Fly me back to this restaurant now. You can also get lamb kebabs here. This was one of the best restaurants in Beijing we went to ’cause I love those noodles so much!

Lamb kebabs

beijing lamb skewers

img from flickr via JLim02

I don’t know about you but Beijing and BBQ isn’t something I’d first think off.

In Beijing, BBQ places are everywhere and you’ll know you’ve found one when you see the “串” symbol.  Want a way to remember it? It kinda looks like a kebab! Plus you’ll probably be able to smell those BBQ meats.

You can find pretty much every meat being BBQ’d in Beijing but one popular favourite is the lamb kebabs. They’re usually flavoured with cumin and chilli which made me (someone who doesn’t really like lamb) a fan.

We tried some alongside our biang biang noodles although they’re more commonly eaten on the street and washed down with some Chinese beer like ‘Mons’.

Where to get Lamb kebabs in Beijing

You can find all sorts of meat on kebabs along Wangfujing snack street but these Beijing restaurants are a good place to stop too.

  • Crescent Moon Muslim Restaurant: Serves chunky lamb skewers and a variety of other dishes.
  • Jianghu Weidao: In Jiaodaokou and serves classic Xinjiang dishes.

Dumplings

dumplings in beijing

You can’t go to China and not eat some dumplings! If you’re still wondering what to eat in China then add dumplings to the list.

Dumplings are also everywhere in Beijing and Oh my god are they good. Jiaozi, as they’re called, come in two forms. There are the boiled version or the pan-fried ones.

You can get them in pretty much every flavour but (if you’re not vegetarian) then ones with pork are always a good choice.

Where to eat dumplings in Beijing

  • Crippled Brother’s Restaurant: This is where the Beijing dumplings we had alongside our Mongolian hot pot were from and they were so soft and tasty
  • Baoyuan Jiaozi Wu: These ones are also died with ingredients like spinach and red cabbage to make them colourful.
  • Jin Ding Xuan: 24/7 dim sum restaurant with tasty dumplings alongside plenty of other dishes.
  • Man Jie Dumpling: The largest selection of dumplings in Beijing with plenty of veggie options too.

Rice wine

rice wine in beijing

Rice wine is older than Japanese Sake and it usually has an alcoholic percentage of between 12-15%. It only needs rice, water and yeast to make it so it’s pretty commonly made in southern China (where the rice fields are). Now, it’s getting more popular and can be found all over the world.

We had a rice wine flight during our Beijing food tour and it was such a good way to try different types. Plus the bar was super cool itself; tucked away in a hutong.

Where to try rice wine in Beijing

You’ll be able to find rice wine all over Beijing but check out the bar below for lots of different flavours to try.

  • Nuo Yan Rice Wine: Order a rice wine flight to try plum flavours and more!

Donkey burger

donkey burger in beijing

Sounds weird, right? And yes it is actually donkey meat you’ll be eating in a donkey burger.

We were told that donkey meat became popular during the time the Chinese railway was being built. The workers couldn’t afford to kill and eat their horses but donkeys were more plentiful and so they became the meat instead.

Donkey meat tastes a little bit like pulled pork and it’s served with some green peppers and a little bit of gravy. It’s not the most flavoursome meat you’ll ever eat but I thought it was pretty tasty. I’d definitely eat a donkey burger for lunch!

Top restaurants in Beijing for donkey burger

  • Fatty Wang’s Donkey Burger: This place reminded me of a western kebab/doner stop but the donkey burger was tasty!
  • Wang Pang Zi Donkey Burger: Has a few different locations across Beijing.

Chinese Egg Crepe

jianbing beijing china

img from flickr via jennikokodesu

Every wondered what constituted a Chinese breakfast? Eaten at breakfast, or any time of day really like any good brunch item, the Chinese egg crepe (jianbing) is Beijing street food at its best.

The savoury crisp-fried crepes are all about bold flavours and contrasting textures. The pancake is made of what and mung bean over which eggs are stretched while it cooks. Then puffed strips of fried wonton are added along with coriander, spring onions and pickles along with hoisin and chilli sauce.

They’re super budget-friendly too!

Where to eat Jianbing in Beijing

There are loads of places to eat in Beijing that serve Jianbing. The most authentic way to eat it is to find a street cart. You’ll find these tasty treats on the side of the street as you wander around Beijing and I’d suggest getting breakfast somewhere else on your first day and then making note of where you see the cart and head back the following day!

Beijing jarred yoghurt

beijing yoghurt

You’ll see these jars of yoghurts being sold in shops all over the city. You’ll also see empty jars left on street corners for people to pick up and cash in the deposit on.

In this yoghurt, milk is mixed with rice wine and honey or sugar and left to ferment in the ceramic jar. It’s sweeter than the yoghurts you’ll be used to back home and is usually drunk straight from the jar with a straw.

Where to try Beijing yoghurt

Sold in pretty much every grocery store or corner shop. Look for the foil blue top!

Dough sticks and soya milk

I’ve often wondered “what do Chinese people eat for breakfast” and now I no longer do. Our typical plan for finding good food in Beijing was having a wander around and going into whichever place looked the busiest.

One of these breakfasts felt (and was) a very typical Chinese breakfast. It was a meal of deep-fried dough sticks (yóutiáo – 油条) dipped in warm soya milk (dòujiāng – 豆浆) with a boiled egg.

It was definitely filling and kept us going as we wandered around the Temple of Heaven!

Where to find Chinese dough sticks:

You’ll find this served in most Chineses restaurants at breakfast time. Especially if they look more like a breakfast buffet/canteen-style restaurant.

Chinese chicken wings

chinese chicken wings

Chicken wings are another popular Chinese BBQ food. We ate some in a place deep inside a hutong. It was a restaurant with a lot of rules such as you need an invite, have to make a reservation, must put all the chicken bones on the table not back on the tray that they came from and that ALL food must be eaten or taken home with you.

Agree to abide by these rules and you’re in for a treat with some sticky Szechuan pepper chicken wings.

If you’ve never had Szechuan pepper before it’s an interesting spice. Rather than burn your lips off it’ll make them tingle and almost go numb!

Where to try Chinese chicken wings

  • Fifth Brother’s Chicken Wings: Where we tried wings but you’ll need an invite so book the Airbnb food tour to get in here!

Baijiu

baijiu in beijing china

img via flickr by Tagosaku

Baijiu is the most drunk spirit in the world. Never heard of it before? That’s not that surprising, it’s the most drunk because China’s population is so large!

Baijiu literally translates to ‘clear liquor’ and is a type of Chinese grain alcohol. The drink is usually made from sorghum and tastes a little bit like whiskey (it gives that burning feeling too!).

It’s not usually made in cocktails (the one place that did do that has recently closed down). However, you can find it straight or infused with fruit or herbs.

I’ve seen it being sold in Vancouver so if you discover you’re a fan you may be able to find it back home!

Where to stay in Beijing

We stayed at Nostalgia hotel where we got a nice room with a private bathroom. It was also super cheap costing 315 CAD for 4 nights.

It was within walking distance of the Temple of Heaven which is one of my Beijing must sees. The only downside was that it was a 15-20 minute walk from the nearest subway station. This doesn’t seem that bad at first but when you’ve spent the day wandering around Beijing this walk was a bit of a downer!

However, I’d still recommend it!

Book Nostalgia Hotel here

Other places to stay in Beijing

If I was going to go back to Beijing, I’d book a hostel closer to places like the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square since this area (or line 2 of the subway network) is where we found ourselves spending most of our time.

Here are a few recommendations for accommodations in Beijing based on reviews on Booking.com