Beijing Street Food – Genuine Local Favorites

Beijing Street Food - Genuine Local Favorites

Beijing street food is renowned for its diverse array of dishes, ranging from traditional favorites like douzhi (mung bean milk) and lu zhu (braised offal) to innovative creations like chao gan (stir-fried liver), yang xiezi (lamb scorpions), and guanchang (sausage). Each snack reflects the unique taste preferences of Beijing locals and showcases meticulous ingredient selection. These street foods embody a blend of traditional home-cooked flavors and inventive taste combinations, offering a culinary experience that delights the senses.

1. Douzhi (Mung Bean Milk):

Douzhi, a unique Beijing street food, is characterized by its distinctive flavor and historical significance. Despite being dubbed “dark cuisine,” it holds a special place and charm in the locals’ hearts. Douzhi has a slightly sour aroma, which is its defining characteristic. While some may compare it to wastewater with its sour and pungent notes, this unique taste attracts many enthusiasts. A visit to Beijing wouldn’t be complete without sipping a bowl of douzhi, marking one as a true adventurer.

2. Chao Gan (Stir-Fried Liver):

Chao gan, a classic among breakfast options, is a snack that leaves a lasting impression. Its key features include a shiny, reddish-brown broth, fragrant liver, and flavorful but not greasy taste. Evolving from the folk dish “ao gan” during the Song Dynasty, chao gan primarily uses pig liver and intestines, complemented by garlic and starch for a thickened consistency. The preparation involves boiling cured sausage in broth, adding garlic sauce, green onions, ginger, and shiitake mushroom soup. Raw liver strips are then cooked in the pot and thickened with starch. Finally, a layer of crushed garlic is sprinkled on top, completing the dish.

3. Lu Zhu Huo Shao (Braised Offal with Baked Buns):

During the Guangxu era, Su-made meat became expensive, leading ingenious locals to use pig head meat and offal as substitutes. This gave rise to the unique dish known as lu zhu huo shao. This dish combines various delicacies such as pig intestines, huo shao (fire-baked buns), pig lungs, fried tofu, and pork belly, all simmered and chopped before serving. The key to its flavor lies in the preparation of the braising sauce, a mix of garlic juice, soybean paste, cilantro, and chives, resulting in a savory broth that enhances the overall taste.

4. Da Lian Huo Shao (Large Fire-Baked Bun):

Da lian huo shao, a common traditional pastry, is a pan-fried dough snack with a golden crust, crispy exterior, and delicious filling. Its elongated shape, sometimes folded, resembles the ancient bags carried on the shoulders, hence the name “da lian huo shao” (large fire-baked bun). The crucial element in its preparation is the outer layer, which must be double-layered and thinly rolled to achieve a crunchy exterior and tender interior. Combined with flavorful meat fillings such as pork with fennel or pork with green onions, or for vegetarians, a filling of leeks and eggs, da lian huo shao is best enjoyed hot.

5. Zha Jiang Mian (Fried Sauce Noodles):

Old Beijing zha jiang mian is one of China’s traditional noodle dishes, hailed as one of the “Top Ten Noodles in China.” In Beijing, noodles are a beloved food, and zha jiang mian, known affectionately as “Old Beijing zha jiang mian,” represents a national culinary treasure with historical value. The key to zha jiang mian lies in the combination of ingredients. It consists of fried sauce (a dry yellow sauce) and noodles, with a variety of vegetables such as green beans, bean sprouts, celery, cucumber strips, radish julienne, and chopped green onions as toppings. These vegetables not only add texture but also enhance the flavor and nutritional value of the dish.

6. Tong Guo Shuan Rou (Copper Pot Shabu-Shabu):

Copper pot shabu-shabu, with a history spanning over a century, relies on the essential role of the copper pot in the cooking process. The pot is usually filled with clear broth or water, ginger slices, and green onions. Sometimes, additional ingredients like dried shiitake mushrooms or enoki mushrooms are added for extra flavor. The key to shabu-shabu is selecting high-quality meat. In Beijing, lamb shabu-shabu is the most popular choice, often featuring Inner Mongolian lamb, particularly cuts like “shang nao”, “xiao san cha” , and “huanggua tiao”. The authentic method involves using a copper pot and charcoal fire, imparting a unique texture and flavor to the meat, making the shabu-shabu even more delicious. Besides meat and the pot base, dipping sauces are an indispensable element of copper pot shabu-shabu. Dipping the just-cooked meat into the sauce results in a succulent and flavorful experience.

7. Men Ding Rou Bing (Door Nail Meat Pancake):

Men ding rou bing is a food item named for its unique shape. Made using beef (usually beef brain or beef shank) as the filling, the pancake is slowly baked and moistened. The inside of the meat pancake is tender and juicy, offering a rich taste of fats with every bite. When enjoying men ding rou bing, a few considerations are important. Due to the use of beef fat, the pancake contains a significant amount of fat, and since beef fat solidifies easily, it is best enjoyed while still hot for optimal texture. Additionally, men ding rou bing is typically paired with vinegar to reduce the greasy feeling, enhancing the overall freshness.

8. Bao Du (Tripe Hot Pot):

Bao du, a unique Beijing snack, involves cutting beef or lamb stomach into small pieces, cooking them, and seasoning them to create a delightful dish. Typically, bao du includes ingredients such as beef omasum, beef tripe, lamb tripe, and lamb omasum. In the preparation process, fresh beef omasum (beef tripe and lamb tripe) undergoes cleaning and cutting before boiling. After boiling, the pieces are dipped in oil, sesame paste, vinegar, chili oil, fermented tofu soup, coriander, and chopped green onions. The texture of bao du is tender and crispy, offering a unique and delicious flavor.

9. Lu Da Gun (Donkey Rolling):

Lu da gun is a traditional Beijing snack consisting of yellow cornmeal wrapped around red bean paste (sometimes replaced with red sugar) and coated with a layer of soybean flour. The shape resembles a little donkey rolling on yellow earth, hence the name lu da gun. The defining characteristics of lu da gun include the sweet bean filling, soft texture, and unique flavor. The bean filling melts in the mouth, emitting a sweet aroma, while the yellow cornmeal can be savored without chewing, allowing for a gradual appreciation of the snack. This treat is suitable for all ages and is well-loved by many.

10. Wan Dou Huang (Pea Flour Cake):

Old Beijing’s wan dou huang is renowned for its unique texture and traditional production methods. Among the city’s traditional pastries, wan dou huang is considered a classic snack. Old Beijing’s wan dou huang is typically yellow and made from finely ground pea flour. The production process is relatively simple, involving boiling pea flour in water, adding an appropriate amount of sugar or honey to make a paste, pouring the paste into molds, and allowing it to cool and solidify before cutting it into small pieces for consumption.

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