Monday, December 01, 2008

Beijing Dining

Dishes are served as appetizer while staples such as noodles are considered the ending of a meal. To show respect, make sure your cup/bottle is lower than the others when toasting . It is interesting to learn the dining/toasting custom in Beijing. I wonder when a bowl of tasteless steamed rice is served as the staple for a meal would the locals order more dishes to go with the rice? Would the locals ever lie on the ground in order to fight for a lower position in a toast?

Peking duck is one of the must eat delicacies in Beijing and the name "Quanjude" has become synonymous with peking roast duck. Founded by Yang Quanren in 1864, the quanjude restaurant (Hepingmen branch, subway line 2, Hepingmen station) developed the hung oven to roast ducks and has become the biggest franchise that serves peking ducks in China. We paid a fortune, 784RMB for a set meal for 4 which included a whole roasted duck and a few duck related dishes, to eat the number 115,747,001 duck served in Quanjude since 1864 and got a certificate (the photos). Frankly, Taiwan roast duck tastes as good as the authentic peking duck, even better, in a much cheaper price (50~70RMB for a whole duck). More info regarding the peking duck on Wikipedia.

The lamb hotpot is another must eat delicacy in Beijing. Donglaishun (the 5th floor of Shidongan market. 138 Wangfujing Daijie, Dongcheng District, subway line 1, Wangfujing station), founded in 1903 by a Muslim, has more than 130 branches all over China. The restaurant specialized in Muslim dining, the lamb hotpot served in a charcoal heated bronze pot is the recommended specialty of the restaurant. We ordered a combo lamb hotpot for 3 (400RMB) that included a bracket of vegetables, 3 BBQ lamb sticks, one dish of fish filet, a dish of sliced beef and 2 dishes of sliced lamb that contained different fat percentage giving the dishes different textures. There was no odor in the meat but small spiky bones in fish filets made the feast less enjoyable.

Wangfujing (23 Dong An Men Dajie, Dongcheng District, subway line 1, Wangfujing station) and Longfusi (1 Lingfusi Qianjie, Dongcheng District, sybway line 5, Dongsi station) are the two famous snack streets in Beijing. Flour pancakes cooked with egg, coriander, chilli and black onion seeds, pancakes stuffed with pork, eggs and vegetables, kabab, fruits coated with maltose, and the exotic fried scorpions, cicadas and sea horses etc.; a trip to the snack streets is definitely a feast and mind blowing. I had a little setback when ordering BBQ lamb in a Longfusi snack restaurant though. I ordered a BBQ lamb stick from a girl and she told me to come back later since the meat was not cooked. I went to a stall nearby to buy a pancake about 2 minutes later the BBQ girl announced that the BBQ was ready. I turned back for my order but she told me that I couldn't buy it because somebody had already paid for the sticks. I finished my pancake and the craving for BBQ lamb pushed me back to the BBQ girl: "one BBQ lamb stick please" I said. "The meat is not cooked yet, come back in 15 minutes" said the girl. Right there my appetite was lost.

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