Part of any good trip is good food, and I can assure you that Chinese food is spot on.
I, like most people, have eaten Chinese food. Growing up, ordering a ‘China’ takeaway on Saturday nights was standard.
Every Saturday night for more years than I care to count we had short soup, spring rolls, beef and black bean, curried prawns and fried rice. As I got older and was trusted with the menu, I was allowed to change the order up a bit. Beef and black bean was the staple, but soon Mongolian lamb and chicken and vegetables were part of the standard Saturday order.
What’s that saying, too much of a good thing ? Well after over a decade of beef and black bean I swore off Chinese food. I’ll have it occasionally but now I seek out Japanese or Thai or Vietnamese.
Heading to China I wasn’t expecting anything amazing from the food; more crazy than tasty. I was expecting to see scorpions on skewers and odd body parts of animals at markets stalls. I assumed I wouldn’t starve–I can always find food, but I didn’t think I’d be licking my lips.
After a week in Beijing in December 2016, I can now say that true, authentic Chinese food is on point and one of my new favourites.
For anyone heading to Beijing, here is my What Rebecca Eats: Beijing Food Guide to help you keep a full belly. R x
What makes Chinese food so good
Chinese food is tasty. It’s rich and sweet and filling and carby. It’s all the good things!
Green beans, two types of dumplings and sweet and sour prawns. Are you following my insta stories for the BTS action live?
The green beans are fried. The sweet and sour has a coating of batter. The peking duck is served on a pancake with a heavy dipping sauce.
Chinese food is decadent. It’s not your light and fresh diet food. It is your guilty pleasure food.
Even the soup’s, while much healthier that batter, have a really rich broth. It’s not lemongrass and ginger, it’s like a hearty stock with soy and rice wine vinegar.
The best things on the menu
Dumplings – fried and boiled
It may surprise you, like it did me, but boiled dumplings are actually nicer.
Little pot stickers are usually filled with pork and spring onion and gosh are they amazing. New Years Day when I was too sad and sorry for myself to leave the flat, so we ordered takeaway and even cold, these bad boys were delicious.
Fried green beans
Something I never thought I would eat in China, let alone love. But the fried green beans are a must order off all of the menus. I’ve had them served both with and without bits of pork on top and both times they were incredible.
Side note: as a vegetarian, Chinese food is really limited. Every dish, even the vegetable dishes will have meat added to them depending in where you’re eating.
Sweat and sour everything
With a thick batter and sticky sweet and sour sauce, this is a sure winner. My favourite was the sweet and sour prawns from Mr Shi’s Dumplings.
You can’t go to Beijing and not have a peking duck. It’s part of the visa approval process.
Our peking duck was our fancy night out dinner at Duck de Chine, which is a French / Chinese fusion restaurant in Beijing. The peking duck didn’t miss a beat and neither did the service.
It’s not every day you have the waiter hit a gong to announce your dinner has arrived before carving up the entire duck for you table side.
The dipping sauce was prepared at the table, which in itself was a work of art. And I didn’t pour a glass all night.
Of course you can go cheap and cheerful for something that is so readily available, but I think for peking duck, go fancy. It’s a meal that allows for the extra special.
For our peking duck at Duck de Chine, the duck was moist and lean with a very sweet and crispy skin, which was quite thin. Unlike a chicken skin that’s quite thick, this was just a wafer of crispness on top of the meat. The dipping sauce had a swirl of peanut sauce in the hoisin sauce and the pancakes were light.
We also ordered kung pao chicken and fried green beans. Was it too much. Yes. Would I do it again. Yes. All of it was delicious and moreish.
I didn’t get my fill of crazy meats on sticks. The plan was to go on New Years Day, but thanks to one helluva NYE I was in no state to leave the flat. The day before though we had been wandering around Beijing when I came across a chicken stall.
Selling crumbed chicken drumsticks, chicken livers and unidentified parts of the chicken, I bagged myself—literally—the best chicken drumstick of my life. It was moist, cooked through, tasty and crumbed to perfection. Oh and it cost me £0.70.
I’m sorry London, but Beijing has bettered you in the coffee department.
Beijing has a thriving coffee scene and every cafe I went to resulted in a supremely delicious coffee. Even a flat white, which I don’t order in London for fear or burnt coffee, was on point in Beijing.
Eating in Beijing is incredibly cheap.
One of the first meals I had in Beijing was the Lonely Planet recommend Zuo Lin You She for dumplings. Lonely Planet recommended ordering two servings so it’s worth their time to make a batch—you know I would have been happy with one serving… I chose the pork and chive dumplings and there were perfection. Not what I was expecting being long finger dumplings rather than pot stickers, but the batter was perfection and the fulling really tasty. Oh and the price, £2.35 for the two servings.
On New Years Eve we went to Green Tea, which is quite a nice restaurant, and ordered seven dishes to share, rice and a beer each. It came to £17 between two.
The only costly meal was at Duck de Chine. For a whole peking duck with pancakes, kung pao chicken, green beans, rice and a bottle of red between two we handed over £40 each. Which by London standards, is still incredibly cheap for what we had.
Have you been to Beijing? What did you think of the food? And if you have a great London based Chinese restaurant to recommend, whack it in the comments! I’m craving sweet and sour after waiting this post.
And if you’re planning a trip to Beijing, read my travel guides: