With the exception of Beijing’s best-known culinary export, Peking duck, most of the city’s most famous dishes have been adopted from surrounding areas. Regardless of their origin, all of the following dishes are now fully ingrained in Beijing life and can be sampled at restaurants throughout the city. Enjoy!
Beijing Roast Duck
Beijing roast duck, or Peking Duck, is the epitome of Beijing cuisine and the dish you must try when visiting Beijing. The dish is mostly esteemed for the thin, crispy skin, with authentic versions of the dish serving mostly skin and little meat.
While sauces and accompaniments will vary between restaurants (the most common being scallion and cucumber) it is difficult to go wrong with roast duck in Beijing. If you eat at one of Beijing’s more famous duck restaurants it will also be accompanied by a short demonstration on the correct way to assemble a Peking Duck wrap using chopsticks.
Jiaozi — Chinese Dumplings
Jiaozi is another dish that can be found anywhere across Beijing and while there are a number of better-known dumpling restaurants and chains, some of the tastiest dumplings (and most interesting experiences) can be found in smaller, less conspicuous family eateries where dumplings are the only thing on the menu. At these restaurants you can often sit and watch the next batch of dumplings being rolled and filled as you eat. A plate of Jiaozi with a soy sauce, vinegar and chili dip is synonymous with Northern Chinese cuisine.
Jing Jiang Rousi — Shredded Pork in Beijing Sauce
Jingjiang rousi is another dish incredibly popular with local ‘Beijingers’ and and unlike many of the cities other popular dishes, it originated in the capital. It’s popularity may stem from its simplicity; sliced pork cooked in a sweet bean sauce served with soy bean wraps. Jingjiang rousi is a necessary component of any authentic Beijing dining experience.
Noodles with Soybean Paste — Zhajiang mian
Zhajiang mian is very popular when it comes to traditional Beijing cuisine, and is sometimes referred to as simply Beijing noodles.
It has three main ingredients: wide hand-pulled noodles, vegetable pieces, and pork. Vegetables vary seasonally, but there are never less than seven kinds. It is an ideal lunch time snack for visitors short on time as it is usually ready seconds after you order. As an added bonus it is very inexpensive.
Mongolian hotpot, a dish that’s history dates back over 1,000 years, is as much about the enjoyment of the cooking as it is the taste.
Traditional hotpot restaurants will involve sitting around a large pot of boiling soup, in which you cook your own food. Although Mongolian hotpot usually involves a large amount of lamb, any number of meats, vegetables and breads are available. These are sliced thin to ensure they cook quickly and evenly.
This northern-Chinese style of hotpot uses a soup which is less spicy and generally less flavored than its southern counterparts; with more emphasis being placed on the ingredients that are cooked rather than what they are cooked in.
Originating in the city of Baoding in northern Hebei province, Beijing has adopted the donkey burger as its own. Restaurants offering this dish serve a number of different donkey meals, however the one to try is the donkey burger. Shredded donkey meat is served in a piping-hot, crunchy bun with a green pepper relish.
The contrast between the succulent meat, crunchy bun and sweet relish make it incredibly tasty and you are unlikely to stop at one. Look out for a big 驴肉 (donkey meat) sign clearly visible on the front of all restaurants offering this meat.
Dry Wok Potato Wedges
The literal translation of this dish ‘dry wok potato wedges’ offers diners a fairly accurate idea of what to expect.
Slices of potato, crispy pork and chilies simmer in an iron pot sat atop an open flame. As you are working your way through the meat and potatoes, the bed of sliced onions that is hidden underneath slowly caramelizes in oil, leaving you with a delicious snack to finish your meal on.
It is a dish best enjoyed during the colder months but is popular with locals all year round.
Tudou Si — Shredded Potato
This dish is another great option for potato lovers. Thinly shredded potatoes are stir-fried with green peppers and seasoning, and can be served hot or cold. Don’t be fooled by the plain look of the potatoes as they are coated in a sweet gloss which give the dish its flavor.
Unlike the donkey sandwich, this dish doesn’t actually contain meat of any kind, let alone donkey. Rolling Donkey refers to a kind of traditional Beijing snack, also known in southern China as Rolling Horse (马打滚 mǎ dǎgǔn), with a soft skin made of glutinous rice flour and a red bean stuffing.
Tuckahoe pie is a traditional paper-thin snack in the shape of a full moon, popular in Beijing. It consists of a basic pancake wrapped in sugar, honey and an assortment of nuts.
According to a legend, tuckahoe pie originated in the South Song Dynasty (1127–1279), and the preparation method and the required equipment are well documented. The herb tuckahoe has many medical effects, and therefore it is popular with Chinese people, especially women and the elderly.