The Local Cuisine of Beijing
Beijing's local cuisine is famous for its diversity and style. Beijing is unique in China because foods from all parts of China can be found there, as well as a huge variety of Western foods. No other place in China has the diversity of cuisine that Beijing has. Besides food from other areas, Beijing has also been developing its own style of cuisine for almost 5,000 years and come up with some amazing foods including the world famous Peking Roast Duck.
Peking (Beijing) Roast Duck:
Beijing Roast Duck is the most famous of all of Beijing's culinary dishes. With its tempting color, crispy skin, tender meat and the gorgeous appearance, Beijing Roast Duck is known as one of the best dishes in the world. A visit to Beijing is not complete without trying this delicious dish. Beijing's two most famous Roast Duck Restaurants, Quanjude and Bianyifang, each have their own method for making Beijing Roast Duck. Quanjude roasts its ducks in an open oven. The duck is marinated in their special marinade, and hung in the oven over a wood fire, so the smoke from the fire can help flavor the meat. Date, or Pear wood is used, and it takes approximately 40 minutes for the duck to be fully roasted. Bianyifang roasts its ducks in a closed oven which uses a straw fire. Before being put into the oven, the duck is filled with soup, so that the duck is roasted on the outside, and boiled on the inside, which adds a unique flavor to the duck.
Manhan Quanxi (Manchurian Han Imperial Feast):
One of the most formal and beautiful of all Beijing's cuisine is the Manchurian, Han Imperial Feast. It is a very large banquet that came from the Qing Dynasty Imperial kitchens. Because it was originally intended for the Emperor, the food was not only wonderfully delicious, but exquisite in appearance. Many people who are fortunate to partake of this fantastic feast have difficulty eating the food because it is like destroying a beautiful work of art. The feast consists of 320 different dishes from the Manchurian and Han cultures. The meal is held for three whole days and encompasses six banquets. According to historical records from the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1735-1796), the meal consisted of "Thirty-two Delicacies", which were the more exotic dishes in the feast. It consisted partly of the Eight Mountain Delicacies, the Eight Land Delicacies, and Eight Sea Delicacies. The Eight Mountain Delicacies consisted of camel's humps, bear's paws, living monkey's brains, ape's lips, leopard fetuses, rhinoceros tails, and deer tendons. The Eight Land Delicacies consisted of goat brains, chicken brain, duck brains, and rare birds and mushrooms. The Eight Sea Delicacies consisted of sea cucumbers, shark's fins, and bird's nests. These are but a few of the rare ingredients used in the dishes. Now many of these items come from endangered animals and are no longer allowed to be used as food. The endangered ingredients In the Manhan Quanxi Imperial Feast has been substituted with similar ingredients. The most famous restaurant for eating the Manhan Quanxi Imperial Feast is the Fangshan Restaurant located in Beijing's Beihai Park. The restaurant was founded by former imperial chefs after The Qing Dynasty fell. They took the dishes formerly only eaten by emperors and offered them to the public.
Peking (Beijing) Hot Pot (Beijing Huoguo):
Another very popular dish is Peking Hot Pot. Originating in Mongolia, the dish came to Beijing when the Mongolians ruled China and made Beijing their capital during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Hot Pot is similar to fondue. A specially made brass pot is used. Charcoal is burned in a chimney and a brass bowl is mounted around the chimney. A broth is put in the bowl and the charcoal heats the broth. Meats, vegeuls, and snacks are then put into the broth and cooked. Mutton is traditionally used. The mutton is cut so thin that light can be seen through it. It cooks almost instantly and is then dipped into a sauce. Diners cook the food themselves and never fail to have a wonderful time.
Spring Rolls (Chun Juan):
Very popular in Western Chinese restaurants, Spring Rolls in the west are sad imitations of the amazing ones that are available in Beijing. The ingredients used in Beijing's Spring Rolls are almost limitless and each restaurant has its own specialty.
Beijing has many snack streets that offer delicious snacks for visitors. In China snacks are called "Small Eats", which is exactly what these dishes are small dishes that are made to be conveniently eaten and carried. A very popular way to eat dinner in Beijing is for families to head out in the evening to enjoy the cool night air and take a stroll. As they stroll down the snack streets they stop at venders that catch their eye and purchase something. They continue strolling while eating their food and when it is gone, they purchase something else. This continues until everyone is full. It is a wonderful way to spend the evening, chatting with friends, walking along and eating. There are many snack streets in Beijing, such as Longfu Temple Snack Street, Xidan Snack Street, and Dong Hua Gate Snack Street.
As the capital city for many dynasties, Beijing cuisine has been developing for centuries. Each dynasty would introduce its own foods and the untold millions of people who have migrated to Beijing have brought their own local foods. Because of this the cuisine of Beijing is an amazing conglomeration of different styles of food. Dishes from all over China and around the world can be found in Beijing guaranteeing that every visitor will find exactly what they are looking for and also a few wonderful surprises they did not expect.