China Part 4: Beijing Foods, Hot Pot and Miscellany

My Ursine Counterpart: He didn't stop eating the whole time!

Oh, what? I went to China? Oh, yeah, last December! And I’m still within the one year limit of when I returned from the trip to get all the posts up. After this there is just one more! So without further ado: Beijing-style food and other delicious miscellany.

Peking Duck with all the fixings

Peking duck is pretty much the most symbolic dish of Beijing, being as it shares the name with the city. Whole meals of a single roasted protein aren’t normally my thing, but I couldn’t leave without trying it and my wonderful friends directed me towards a new-ish place not far from where we were staying that would do a great job while avoiding the tourist pomp and circumstance of certain other places.

Jing Zun was convenient to the hotel we were at right then and to the subway. We ordered the duck of course, with the bones fried up afterwards. Our waitress notified us when our duck was being cut and it was like a culinary work of art. The chef made each cut with purpose, every piece of duck with its own place.

Chef cutting our duck up

Then the masterpiece was presented to us. Nothing grand mind you, was done. The crisp white uniform should convey the hospital-like cleanliness and efficiency that gave the restaurant a scrubbed feeling. All of that cool exterior halted when one sweet piece of duck was placed in the mouth.

Delicious Peking Duck

As is tradition, the duck was served with thin, crepe-like pancakes, sauce and scallion slices. The skin as like candy: crisp and sweet, yet meltingly rich. The meat itself was what surprised me the most, managing to be intensely flavorful without being overwhelmingly duck-y. It was apparent immediately to me that I had discounted this meal as just another piece of roast meat. This was truly a masterpiece.

Fried Duck Bones

Just in case that got too serious for you: we finished up with fried duck bones, which turned out to be like the best chicken wings ever did a whole bunch of crack and showed up at an Animal House party.

The other dish that we had pretty much planned our trip around was hot pot. We love hot pot. It actually cures everything. Bad days, illness, whatever. It is addicting, fun and delightful. We went to our first hot pot the night we arrived in Beijing at a place called Hai Di Lao. It was a fancy type place with kung fu noodles that are basically hand pulled noodles prepared while a guy dances around. It was a bit of a show, but satisfied a need.

The second time we got hot pot was at the height of me being sick (if you didn’t read the other China posts, or have forgotten, I had pneumonia or something close). As we waited for seats, I was white as a ghost and standing in 15 degree weather in a tank top while dripping sweat. Everyone was looking at me like I was out of my mind. That place was fabulous. No English menu, we were pointing and shooting. Later, we learned that the guy next to us lived in Vancouver and spoke perfect English. Apparently he just didn’t pity us enough to help us order. Thanks, dude.

Hot Pot Pot ready for cooking

If you’re not familiar, hot pot basically involves a steaming pot of spicy broth, into which you dip raw meats and vegetables to cook them. You then dip it into a sauce to cool it off a little.

Beef: It's what's for dinner!

Hot Pot Meat, sliced, ready to go

Cow Tummies!

And just for enduring that ugliness….

Hot Pot Dipping Sauce

Like an artists palette, no? I don’t know the names of these places, but as per usual, if you are interested in going to any of them I can describe the street and location. Just let me know!

And then one more place that served Beijing style food that we really liked: Lao Man Dumpling. We walked in, just B and me, and panicked. It seemed people were taking numbers. We mimed some numbers. We got one. Wait. How will we know when we get called? Yeah, luckily when nobody answers, they all motion to the white kids. We also learned from some friendly English speakers that the place had one elusive English menu. I managed to order some food. Dumplings, in fact.

The most perfect little dumplings I’d had all trip. We ordered a few different kinds, all were great. There was also some pretty good shrimp, a decent cold mixed appetizer and the second biggest food fail of our trip. I thought I ordered some type of noodle. What I got? Mush. Not even tasty mush. Gross, nasty, baby food colored, throw up tasting mush.

You might be curious as to what, then makes the list as the biggest food fail of our trip? Well, if you know me you know I like bacon. So how could I resist the bacon pastry? It looked so perfect!

Oh Sigh. I’m not sure I can put into words just how bad this was. But B took a photo essay of my reactions as I ate this, and it was very telling. However, nobody else gets to see those pictures.


4 Responses

  1. I had dinner with your parents the other night and they shared with me your blogsite….wonderful photography and imaginary tastes to whet my Beijing appetite. I went there in 1981 – right after China was open to “americans” – the chef who prepared the duck was covered in blood from head to tow – not the pristine picture of your chef. My husband is going next week and will probably try one of your recommends.

  2. […] about the foods from two regions, Sichuan and Xinjiang, as well as Beijing’s Street Food and own cuisine, the thing that truly floored me, amazed me and made me feel as though I knew just so little about […]

  3. Hi, the food looks great there. I am planning to go to beijing soon and was wondering if you can recommend a place for peking duck and for hot spot. Decent price..nothing too fancy or expensive..Just good food =) thanks

  4. For peking duck, I highly recommend Jing Zun, it is far less touristy (and less expensive) than the older, more well known places, but it was recommended to us by a local and turned out to be absolutely incredible.

    For hot pot, the best place we went was right near there, but it had no english name nor address, so I’m not sure I could get you there. That said, we really enjoyed the fancier Hi di Lao, which has a number of places around the city. Another option is how we found our favorite place: look for steamed up windows and a restaurant full of people dipping their food into the tell-tale metal hotpots.

    Good luck, let me know how it goes!

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