- Beijing’s Best Sights
- Beijing’s Best Restaurants
- Beijing’s Best Nightlife
- Beijing’s Best Arts and Leisure
- Beijing’s Best Shops
- Beijing’s Best Hotels
- Best of the Great Wall
- Shanghai’s Best Sights
- Shanghai’s Best Restaurants
- Shanghai’s Best Nightlife
- Shanghai’s Best Arts and Leisure
- Shanghai’s Best Shops
- Shanghai’s Best Hotels
- Shanghai’s Best Excursions
Thanks to its status as a capital city, Beijing is blessed with a vibrant, varied dining scene that has something for every palate and budget. Whether you’re happier nibbling lamb kebabs on a street corner, stirring hot pot with a group of friends, or enjoying haute cuisine overlooking a palace, there’s something for you in Beijing.
The native cuisine of northern China is different from most outside views of Chinese food. Far from the sticky tropical flavors of Guangdong and the fiery chili dishes of Hunan and Sichuan, dongbei (literally “east north”) food features potatoes, stodgy dumplings, lamb, and pickled cabbage.
There are plenty of dongbei restaurants in Beijing, but the city’s signature dish is definitely the roast duck. Famous the world over, and served in Chinese restaurants from San Francisco to Sydney, Beijing duck, with its accompanying pancakes, sliced scallions, and plum sauce, is a true classic. Some of the best places to try it in its hometown are Quan Ju De, Li Qun, and Fat Duck.
Beijing has a flourishing street food industry, with vendors setting up shop for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Egg pancakes and meat-filled buns are popular breakfast dishes, and Xinjiang chuan’r (kebabs) make a tasty snack. Head to the Donghuamen night market on Wangfujing Avenue in Tian’anmen for some of the most unusual and varied snack food in the city, including scorpions and parts of animals you wouldn’t ordinarily consider eating.
As Beijing leapt into the 21st century, it started to style itself as a modern, cosmopolitan city. This is reflected in both the range of international restaurants and the increase in higher-end establishments. Restaurants like Capital M and Maison Boulud in Qianmen wouldn’t seem out of place in New York, Paris, or London.
Beijing’s expat population has contributed to the rise of mid-range, Western-friendly eateries, and there are, of course, the ubiquitous McDonalds, KFCs, and Pizza Huts.
What’s great about Beijing’s dining scene is its versatility. Whether you feel like a quick, cheap street snack or a four-course dinner prepared by a Michelin-starred chef, you’ll find it somewhere in the city.
© Susie Gordon from Moon Beijing & Shanghai, 2nd Edition