Beijing is by far my absolute favorite culinary destination in the world. The alluring scents of slow roasted meats, freshly clipped herbs, and mouth numbing peppercorns fill the streets of China’s capital city, making the decision about which street stall to order from eat nearly impossible.
You’ll eat well in Beijng. Very Well. So grab a nice cold beer and pull up a plastic stool, because these ain’t your average, luke-warm-Americanized-take-out dishes.
1. Baozi 包子
This magically, fluffy buns can be found on most street corners in Beijing. While there are dozens of filling options, Baozi are traditionally made with minced meat (trust me and get pork) that’s mixed with green onions and stuffed into a soft, white dough. The buns are then steamed for a few minutes in large metal or bamboo steamers before being sold street-side.
2. Jianbing 煎饼
I think the Chinese do breakfast better than most cultures, and jianbing’s are no exception. This crepe-like “fried pancakes” can be found on mobile carts until lunchtime, making it the perfect to go snack before work. A thin batter is ladled onto a hot, iron grill and as it starts to bake, a fresh egg is cracked on top. The jianbing is then layered with green onions and cilantro before being lathered with hoisin and chili sauce. A crispy, wanton cracker is added as a final touch, and the entire crepe is then folded and served to you piping hot in a plastic bag.
3. Jiaozi 餃子
Dumplings have made their way over the Pacific ocean to most international cities, but I dare you to find a better made jiaozi than in China. The filling options are overwhelmingly endless, but usually include a type of meat mixed with green onion, egg, or other vegetables. Beijingers usually boil their jiaozi (instead of steaming or pan frying), which makes for a moist and soft treat thats perfect for any time of day. Eaten with chopsticks and dunked into a mixture of soy sauce and Chinese vinegar, you’ll be wanting to eat these babies for every meal.
4. Hot Pot 火锅
Working for your meal is always more rewarding, and hot pot is definitely something worth working for. This method of Chinese cooking involves cooking a variety of meat, noodles and vegetables in a boiling pot of flavored broth or oils. The classic hot pot machine is split in half, so you can have one side that is bone broth and the other side a spicy, Sichuan broth. Toss in your favorite ingredients and after a few minutes of boiling, you dip it into a soy or peanut sauce before devouring. Hot pot is the perfect meal to share with family and friends, even though I’m positive you’ll be tempted to eat everything on the table yourself!
5. Mapo Doufu 麻婆豆腐
I was never a big fan of tofu growing up, but mapo doufu has flipped my opinion on soybeans upside down. Originally from Sichuan province, it’s thankfully made it’s way to Beijing and to other most Chinese cities. Soft tofu is cubed and cooked with minced pork in a pain-numbingly peppercorn chili and black bean sauce. I know it’s hard to make tofu sound appetizing, but please for the love of God just try this dish.