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27 May 2008

Jetsetting Foodistas | Beijing: When in Beijing, Eat As The Beijingers Do

HannahHannah's Beijing Adventure
Jetsetting Foodistas: When in Beijing, Eat As the Beijingers Do
Part 3 of 3

Living in Manila, a place that until recently did not have many dining options, I grew up basically going to the same places all the time. Because of this, I only knew one Chinese restaurant growing up, and apart from home, I had only one view of what Chinese cuisine was supposed to taste like, because I had nothing else to compare it to.

It is not surprising to find out that Chinese food in Manila has somewhat morphed into a cuisine that pleases the tastebuds of most Filipinos. This gives us somewhat interesting variations of traditional Hokkien dishes, as many of the Chinese in the Philippines migrated there from the south of China. Because of this, I can never get sick of having too much Chinese food while in China. With this I'd like to mention some of my favorite Chinese restaurants.

DumplingsThe first establishment I would like to mention, some may argue that it is of Taiwanese descent, but I noted that the original founders were in fact from Shanxi province in China, which coincidentally is the home of the world's best black vinegar. The place I'm talking about is Din Tai Fung which is probably the world's most famous dumpling house, serving their famous Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings) in 9 countries and 41 branches. If you're wondering how good a dumpling could possibly get, look no further. I have to admit, at the beginning I was slightly hesitant, and wondered whether this was just any ordinary dumpling shop that managed to make itself modern. I have to admit I was wrong, ordering the Steamed Crab Meat and Pork Dumplings, Steamed Mini Pork Dumplings with Soup, and Fried Rice I have to admit that I will never be able to fully enjoy Xiao Long Bao in any other restaurant.

I must note that the Xiao Long Bao came with 18 individual folds on top, which not only hints at the high skill level of the chef, but also at the standards that this place sets for their dumplings. Biting through the dumpling skin releases a generous amount of broth that may seem impossible for such a tiny little dumpling. For those who are confused at how the soup gets into the dumpling in the first place, the soup is made by boiling cartilage rich portions of either pigs or chickens. So when the broth cools down, it forms something resembling a big mound of gelatin, which in turn is mixed with the meat, and when heated, becomes the soup that characterizes this dumpling.

Unable to get a photo of the crab meat dumplings, when the Steamed Mini Pork Dumplings came along, I asked my friend if she would mind taking a picture (by this time my camera had already been stolen) and she was afraid that the management wouldn't allow it. Before she could even on the camera, the manager swooped down on us, and we were afraid he was going to give us the cordial version of "NO PICTURES ALLOWED". To our surprise he artfully arranged the dumpling basket and gave us tips on how to photograph it. Our meal was capped off by the Fried Rice, which acted as a filler. Again, how good could fried rice get right? You'd be surprised. I have to admit, this place demands a high premium for their dumplings, but for the sake of being able to say you've tried the best Xiao Long Bao in the world once or twice, it's well worth the visit.

QuanJuDe FrontagePeking Duck is probably one of the first things that come to mind when one things of Chinese cuisine. After all, who doesn't remember passing by a Chinese restaurant without seeing one or two ducks hanging beside the window? My hosts while I was in Beijing brought me to supposedly the best Peking Duck restaurant in Beijing. Being around for more than 130 years, Quan Ju De prides itself in their Chefperfected roasting technique that results in not only a skin that is crispy and lean, but also duck meat that is soft and flavorful.

In the Philippines, Peking Duck is served two ways, only the skin being eaten traditionally and the meat itself prepared another way. In Quan Ju De, the entire duck, or whatever they can possibly get from it, is Duckeaten traditionally, which is wrapping it in a flour pancake with hoisin sauce. On a separate plate is the head and a very juicy portion of neck skin, about the size of your thumb, which is supposedly the best part of the duck. This piece goes to me. Not expecting much I decide to eat it without the wrapper, and chomp happily. It is flavorful, fatty, and best eaten by itself.
In the restaurant, the entire duck is used, from the gizzard to the tongue, no part of this animal is wasted here. This can make for some unusual but admittedly tasty concoctions, but those who are easily offended, you can never go wrong with the Roast Duck. Whether at QuanJuDe or not, trying Peking Duck unadulterated, in the city it was born in should be very high on your list of things to do when you visit this city.

South Silk RoadOverlooking the Hou Hai is South Silk Road, a branch of the famous South Silk Road in Soho New Town, described the New York Times as "the Beijing Art World equivalent of the Ivy in Los Angeles". Known to be completely jampacked during nights, we decided to go for lunch, when the Hou Hai area was relatively quiet and the only other diners there with as was a local Chinese couple. AppetizerThe steel and green theme was very modern, We were given an appetizer of Pink Radish Salad and Pork Spare Ribs, which were served cold and were just alright. Our server took quite long to come with our water, and only after a few more calls did they finally bring us our glasses. The Barbecue Perch with Vanilla comes in five large skewers, slightly spicy and held together with pandan leaves. AppetizerThe sauce is a bit strange (a sour tomato concoction) so I opt not to have it, but the perch is well cooked and you get a tiny taste of Vanilla somewhere there, only sadly it is not much. The Yunnan Style Spicy Fish is very good, and reminds me very much of the Lamb barbecue (Chuar) that is sometimes sold on the streets. This is easily the best dish of the bunch. Lastly are the Apple Cookies, which are sweet apple pancakes Fishflavored with cinnamon. This was a nice ending to a very good meal, which is maybe the next best thing besides going right to Yunnan province, where this cuisine was invented.
Apple Cookies, which are sweet apple pancakes flavored with cinnamon.Fish

I'd like to just say that while these were my personal favorites, there is still practically an entire city of food choices that I haven't had the time to try. Among some that i did not have the time to mention is eating Jian Bing to the background of the Mutianyu Great Wall, having some of the best spinach cake in a food court at Ya Show (crazy bargaining place), and finding that Salad Flavored Pretz is only 24 pesos there. It is of course, every foodie's dream to come across that one little secret spot of heaven completely by accident. While I must admit I haven't found that yet in Beijing, I hope that these three posts so far serves as a loose guide to what to eat when you don't want to take the chance on "that shady little restaurant". But food poisoning aside, there is no harm in trying! What I've learned from all of this is to just follow the locals, they know what's good.


  1. LOL at the picture taking thing. Sometimes, I fear for my cellphone when I take pictures of food XD I'm afraid that someone's going to tell me that it's not allowed or something :D

  2. Nice photos, Hannah! I esp. love the last three and the one of the duck. V. good! ♥

    And as for taking photos of the food, they're not going to stop you hahahh :P They want you to do it. And they'd want you to take really nice ones because they nicer it is, the more appetizing, and the more people would be enticed to dine wherever it was the served that yummy looking dish :9

    So chances of them stopping you is low ♥ Take food photos without fear, bebs :9

  3. jakedharrison@gmail.comMay 29, 2008 at 4:47 PM

    Thank you for your food guide to Beijing, Hannah! It was a very interesting read!


  4. Hannah and Raein
    well you're paying for what you'll be I guess you can do whatever you want with it, a little photo shoot included? :))

    Nice post Hannah! We can see you really enjoyed it there!

  5. Wow! Yummy entry! More reasons to go now on top of the Olympics!


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