Mmmmm, Chinese food. Anybody who knows anything about Chinese knows that the international brand of Chinese that has infiltrated every country on Earth is not the same as the Chinese you'll be having when you actually cross the Chinese borders.
Our editor has informed us that we've already reached our quota for the use of the word “Chinese” in this text, which means we're really going to have to get creative to avoid this word in the following paragraphs. Despite the grief these arbitrary limitations have caused, we purveyors of all things Beijing cuisine feel up to the challenge.
The food you'll actually be having in Beijing will differ plenty from the MSG-laden and delicious garbage available elsewhere (a.k.a. that place in the strip mall off of Main Street that gave you food poisoning), depending on what you're looking to eat. One popular way to eat while in Beijing is from the ubiquitous street vendor. This is your cheapest alternative and provides a number of different quick-eating options. Street foods famous in Beijing include pancakes (savory though, with onions and variety of sauces), lamb kebobs (around every corner, it seems), Bāozi (a bun stuffed with meat), and Malatang (skewered vegetables and meat cooked in a spicy broth). You'll also find more obscure snacks like scorpion on a stick in some of the local markets if you're willing to look. Also, the most well-known street for this type of food is Guijie, located in the Dongcheng district.
Then again, a sit-down meal has its own appeal, and there are numerous restaurants across this huge city that cater to Beijing's staples. Roast duck is a Beijing specialty, and while some claim to be the first or the best or the greasiest, the good news is that there are many places that serve it. Establishments like Da Dong and chain restaurants like Quan Ji De and Guolin are viable options, although there are many others. There is also the unique trend of hot pot dining, a phenomenon where the customer purchases from a range of vegetables or meats to cook in a boiling broth at their table. Among the legions of hot pot restaurants, Ding Ding Xiang, Haidilao (both of which are everywhere), and the lesser known Er Gui Suan Tang Yu stand out.
If you really have a hankering for food other than Chi... (ah ha, we promised not to say it!) local cuisine, then the Western hotels that many travelers choose to stay at have restaurants that serve foods more familiar to the Western palate. Feeling ready to dive head-first into Beijing culture via it's food? Then by all means, check out our listings and take the step from dreaming about Beijing's cuisine to eating it.