So you’ve booked your flights to Beijing and you’re busy planning your itinerary, and okay, I know you’re excited about getting to visit the typical tourist spots. It’s no wonder when the Forbidden Palace, the Great Wall, Lama Temple and the National Art Museum are such breathtakingly beautiful spots with real cultural and historical significance.
However, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you miss out on the amazing cuisine and food culture in Beijing. You might “think” that you know Chinese food from your local restaurants, but the world of delicious and authentic Chinese cuisine is very different from the typical watery Chop Suey or boring fried rice dish.
1. Garden At Lama Temple
First stop, since you’ll most probably be visiting Lama Temple, you really must sample the dumplings, a staple of Northern Chinese cuisine.
What makes this place unique is the fact that you can also take cooking classes. They’re fun, delicious and you get to go home with an extra skill under your belt.
2. BeiJing Haidilao Hot Pot (Wangfujing)
If you’ve never tried a Chinese Hot Pot before, then you’re in for a real treat. It’s basically something like a Chinese fondue; a simmering pot of stock at the centre of the dining table. While the hot pot is kept bubbling away, fresh ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. Then, it’s a bit of a free-for-all.
It’s a warming, communal dining experience, so make sure you bring some friends (you could do it solo, but it’s not as fun).
If you ask nicely, their waiters will even put on a show of pulling noodles right at your table. Now that’s fresh!
3. TRB Bites
If your dining style is less slurping down noodles and finer dining with fine wines, Beijing can still cater to your desires.
TRB Bites at The Courtyard is a newly opened spot with Belgian restauranteur Ignace Lecleir at the helm. It is the highly anticipated, more relaxed, more chic and less formal little brother to Temple Restaurant Beijing (TRB), Lecleir’s first outlet.
If you’re visiting the Forbidden Temple towards the end of the day, you should definitely make a point of eating at TRB Bites. It’s close enough that dining in this restaurant affords you a stunning view of the palace walls.
4. Little Yunnan
This place is at the complete opposite end of the scale, but their food is no less delicious. The authentic unpretentious, hearty food is served in brightly coloured, informal and somewhat kitsch surroundings, so you can eat to your heart’s content and not worry too much about decorum.
I’d suggest a morning at the National Art Museum, lunch at Little Yunnan followed by a visit to the Forbidden Palace as this little restaurant is handily situated right between the two attractions. Watch out for their home-made rice wine!
5. Jing Yaa Tang
We’ve reached the end of our culinary tour around Beijing, but I’ve saved the best for last. How could one come to Beijing without at least sampling some “Peking Duck”? And Jing Yaa Tang’s duck is probably the most sublime example of its kind, served amongst exquisitely opulent décor and tableware. One can observe the masters at work, roasting the duck over open flames, and this translates into skin that has been crisped to perfection with a subtle smoky flavour.
In China, food is more than just sustenance; it is nourishment for the soul; it can have restorative and healing properties; it is an essential expression of one’s taste and identity. When food plays such an important role in Chinese culture, your experience would not be complete without fully immersing yourself in the food culture.
So, as soon as you book your flights to Beijing make sure you check out at least one of these restaurants, as I am confident that your belly will thank you for it!
Featured Image by whatleydude under creative common license