What to eat in Beijing, China
Sanlitun has Beijing‘s widest selection of great restaurants, offering a second to none culinary tour of the world’s finest cuisine, plus delectable dishes from nearly every province.
Beijing’s best loved specialities. You can sample almost anything on Ghost Street, from Sichuan Schuizhuyu and malatang to the rich taste of grilled seafood chuan’er, Peking duck and even Chicken Kiev.
New York has its Fifth Avenue, London has Oxford Street and Shanghai has Nanjing Road. Best of them all, Beijing has Wangfujing Street. Just north of the Night Market, a second Food Street opens at night along Dong’anmen Avenue, with a more traditional range of Chinese street foods. Standard restaurants will open at the top levels of each of the Shopping Centers.
Wudaokou in Haidian District
Wudaokou is the heart of Beijing’s university district. Cafés, bars, clubs and restaurants in the area cater to a growing Western and South Korean student population offering simple cuisine like Salads, Sandwiches, pizza and all-day American Breakfast. Prices are more student friendly compared to the embassy districts or Sanlitun.
Peking Roast Duck is a famous Beijing specialty served at many restaurants, but there are quite a few restaurants dedicated to the art of roasting the perfect duck. Beijing duck is served with thin pancakes, plum sauce，and slivers of scallions and cucumbers. You spread the sauce on the pancake; put a few pieces of duck, cucumber, and scallions. The end result is a mouthwatering combination of the cool crunchiness of the cucumber, the sharpness of the scallions, and the rich flavors of the duck.
The best way to eat well and on the cheap is to enter one of the ubiquitous restaurants where the locals are eating and pick a few different dishes from the menu. Truth be told, visitors can find Beijing a very inexpensive city for food, especially considering that tipping is not practiced in China (instead along with taxes, built into the menu price). Some of this is due to low wages for restaurant workers and farmers, use of genetically modified or engineered ingredients, or flavor enhancers or preservatives to help speed flavors along or quicken the cooking process. A combination of small eateries and street vendors are popular in areas such as Wangfujing, Huguosi Street, Gui Jie, and Gulou areas.
Some of the cheapest and most delicious meals can be found on the streets:
Savory pancakes) are one of the most popular street snacks, eaten from morning till night with most carts operating during the morning commute and then opening again at night for the after-club crowds and night-owls. This is a North China specialty. This delicious pancake is cooked with an egg on a griddle, a fried dough crisp is added, and the whole thing is drizzled in scallions and a savory sauce. Hot sauce is optional. Not all street vendors are licensed and more than a fair share use recycled oil. For travelers unused to such and spending a few weeks in town may do well to avoid street vendors all together, or risk upset stomachs or worse. Diehard fans often go on a quest for the best cart in the city. There are many styles, such as the egg is fried flat on top of the pancake and the toppings wrapped inside, or folded like a taco.
Lamb kebabs and other kebabs are grilled on makeshift stands all around Beijing, from the late afternoon to late at night. Wangfujing has a “snack street” selling such mundane fare like lamb, chicken, and beef as well as multiple styles of noodle dishes, such as Sichuan style rice noodles, but the brave can also sample silkworm, scorpion, and various organs all skewered on a stick and grilled to order. Huguosi Street (Line 4 or 6 Ping’anli Station) is also another popular area for goodies such as Shanxi noodles, stuffed buns (or filled, such as xiǎobǐng jiāròu), mutton soup and sweets of all kinds.
A winter specialty, candied haw berries are dipped in molten sugar which is left to harden in the cold and sold on a stick. You can also find variations with oranges, grapes, strawberries, and bananas, or dipped in crumbled peanuts as well as sugar. This sweet snack can also sometimes be found in the spring and the summer, but the haw berries are often from last season’s crop.
The most famous street for dinner food in Beijing is probably Guijie.
Street food in Beijing Gui Street is located within Dongzhimen, East of the street from Second Ring Road of the Western part of the Dongzhimen overpass and West of the street from East Main Street eastern end crossing. Gui Street now showcases many excellent cuisines, the centre of a food paradise. Stretching over one kilometer, 90% of the commercial shops in the street house more than 150 eateries. You can definitely find most of the larger restaurants in the capital here. Therefore Gui Street is known for its street food in Beijing.
Quanjude is the most famous restaurant for Peking Duck and is a national chain. Unlike McDonald’s, the quality, as well as price, among different Quanjude restaurants differs greatly. For quality and authentic Peking Duck, only two Quanjude restaurants should be patronized: one in Qianmen and one in Hepingmen. Both of them are in central locations, providing the most authentic Peking duck dishes (and their prices are dearest too), but the former is right in the middle of tourist area and there is always a very long queue during lunch or dinner time. The latter is just one subway station away from former with a much bigger capacity, and you will be guided to your seats in no time when you walk in.
Guolin Home-style Restaurant. This well-kept secret among Chinese people has some of the tastiest and most inexpensive ducks in all of Beijing. And all its other delicious, innovative dishes keep customers coming back: be prepared for a bustling, noisy atmosphere, though the interior is often quite nice. Locations all over Beijing—look for a sign with two little pigs—including at Fangzhuang, Zhongguancun, Wudaokou, Xuanwu, and more. You can find one on Xisi Beijie between subway stations Ping’anli and Xinjieku. See also Dadong Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing/Dongcheng or Quanjude in Beijing/Chongwen
Beijing is also known for its mutton hotpot, which originally came from the Manchu people and emphasizes mutton over other meats. Like variations of hotpot from elsewhere in China and Japan, hotpot is a cook-it-yourself affair in a steaming pot in the center of the table. Unlike Sichuan hotpot, mutton hotpot features a savory, non-spicy broth. If that’s not exciting enough for you, you can also request a spicy broth (be aware that this is flaming red, filled with peppers, and not for the weak!). To play it safe and satisfy everyone, you can request a yuan-yang pot divided down the middle, with spicy broth on one side and regular broth on the other. Raw ingredients are purchased by the plate, including other types of meat and seafood, vegetables, mushrooms, noodles, and tofu, so it’s also perfectly possible to have vegetarian hotpot. A dipping sauce, usually sesame, is served as well; you can add chilis, garlic, cilantro, etc, to customize your own sauce. While “raw” sounds dangerous, boiling the meat yourself is the best way to ensure that more risky meats like pork are fully cooked and free of germs. Low-budget types may reuse the spices or cooking broth from previous guests, although it has been boiling for several hours.
Korean restaurants are also very common in Beijing, due in part by northern Chinese (males in particular) strong liking of meat. A frequent meal is the grill-it-yourself barbeque, including beef, mutton, chicken, and seafood items as well as some vegetables including greens and potatoes. Restaurants that serve abalone and sharkfin are considered the most expensive restaurants in the city.
Mongolian restaurant is a must-try! There are several in the student district among other minorities restaurants. Try mutton brains cold cuts, mashed potatoes with spinach, cold lamb with marinated garlic and of course Mongolian tea. You can buy Mongolian tea and candies in places where they sell nuts and dried beef.
You can also find some local specialties in a supermarket such as tofu candy with different tastes, or moon cakes with various fillings. Green tea ice cream is something very special too.
Take a Beijing Food Tour. Take a local food tour by tuktuk and explore hidden restaurants and bars in Beijing’s hutong neighborhood. They drive around the hutongs for about 10km while taking you to 5 off-the-beaten-path, family-run restaurants and 1 local brewery. Multiple tours are available daily
UnTour Food Tours. UnTour Beijing Food Tours gets off the eaten path, exploring the best hole-in-the-wall restaurants and hidden gems buried in Beijing’s famous hutongs. Their food experiences helps tourists and new residents of the Shanghai get comfortable with the city’s dynamic food scene fast. They offer two culinary tours of the city, including a street food breakfast and Old Beijing Dinner tours – both in the hutongs.