Wednesday, 13 April 2011

beijing: street snacks and beyond

Hello everyone! After a 3-week-long trip in China spanning Beijing, Guilin and Shanghai, Simon and I have returned to Melbourne safe and sound. I took over 1500 photos whilst on holiday, and whittling them down for this blog was quite a task - there is so much I want to share with all of you.

Now without much further ado, I present our first stop: Beijing.

I wish I had the time to try all the delicious-looking food I saw in Beijing. Sigh.

I loved the dazzling array of street food in Beijing. Stalls and vendors are dotted liberally across the city, and every so often we would stumble upon a market or a food street.

One of the most popular snacks sold in Beijing is tanghulu - candied fruits on a stick, not unlike toffee apples. Chinese hawthorn is the traditional fruit used in this candy, but I also saw plenty made with strawberries, pineapple and kiwi.

bing tanghulu.

Not as ubiquitous is the dying art of candy blowing and dough shaping, but I did come across two or three artists doing their thing. And yes, I couldn't resist. I bought myself a candy dog.

a candy blowing artist and his wares.

There was a place with great takeaway options a short walk away from our hotel and for the first several days this was our spot for breakfast on the go. We loved their mini vegetable buns.

mini vegetable buns.

On our first day out, Simon saw some people munching on these pizza-like pancake snacks (diaozhabing) in the Xidan area and decided he had to try one. Fresh from the oven, lightly swiped with a sweet, savoury sauce and sprinkled with spring onions and sesame seeds, these simple Chinese pizzas were light, crispy and utterly delicious.

tujia brand diaozhabing.

Wangfujing and its famous snack street was on our list of places to check out, and during our week in Beijing, we went there twice. At night, this was a bustling hub of activity, packed with both locals and foreigners.

wangfujing snack street.

Here, you might opt for spiders, scorpions, starfish, seahorses and other strange creepy crawlies. Were they gimmicks or true delicacies? I never saw anyone munching on one of those, so call me unadventurous, but I gave it a miss.

are you up for some creepy crawlies?

Instead, we went with some beautifully seasoned lamb skewers. Now this was a good choice!

grilled lamb skewers.

We also liked these thin, crispy meat-filled pancake-dumpling things.

fried thin dumplings.

When in Beijing, having Peking duck is a must. I knew I probably wouldn't get around to trying all the best restaurants serving this dish, so I decided early on that the Dadong chain would be my top pick. I can say I was very, very satisfied with my choice - the Peking duck served here is the most refined I've ever had. One could not say the same about my assembling skills, however...

peking duck from dadong.

Lamb tripe (baodu) is also big in Beijing so I had to try it. This plate came with a bowl of thick dipping sauce. I couldn't quite identify the flavours, but it matched quite well with the chewy tripe. Having said that, I didn't particularly like nor dislike this. I would say the one I had wasn't really my thing, but I'd seen lamb tripe prepared in other ways and I would be happy to give it another go should I visit Beijing again.

lamb tripe (baodu).

Being the huge city it is, you can quite easily find a wide selection of Chinese food from various regions in Beijing. Sichuan food seemed to be quite popular here. Quite a few shops and roadside stalls would sell squid, tofu and vegetables sizzled in an oily and exhilaratingly spicy chilli concoction.

sizzling hot!

We also had a really scrumptious Sichuan-style hot and sour fish soup with preserved vegetables in a restaurant.

we drank this soup by the spoonful.

We got somewhat lost one day and wandered into a rather drab superstore where locals do their shopping. There would be a floor with stalls devoted to socks and underwear, a floor just for toys, and so on. This didn't really interest us, but we did walk around a little and stumbled upon a food court with very cheap food. At this point we still haven't had a taste of the dumplings (jiaozi) in Beijing, so here we jumped at the opportunity. Simply dipped in a bit of vinegar and chilli, these were absolutely moreish.

some classic steamed dumplings (jiaozi) in a bamboo basket.

On one cold night, we got this warm and toasty adzuki bean mousse from a hip little dessert bar, sprinkled with peanuts and strewn with grass jelly and tapioca pearls.

a thick, comforting dessert - just the thing for a cold night in beijing.

During our last two or three days in Beijing, we adopted another place near our hotel as our takeaway breakfast spot. Duck burger to go? Yes please.

this duck burger was a little soggy from being reheated in the microwave, but it was still rather scrumptious.

And - that's it for now, but there's more to come. Stay tuned!


  1. love your adventures. catch you soon. (choquito)

  2. Thanks choqs!! Maybe I'll catch you in class sometime this week. :D

  3. Everything looks so delicious, the candy blowing is pretty unique to me :) I'd love to have the jiao zi and Sichuan food!

  4. Michelle, I miss the street food already!

    Min, the candy blowing was something I knew I wanted to see even before I got to China - so glad I got the chance! I have more pictures and Simon took a video, so I might have a post just on candy blowing some point in the future.

  5. OMG, plenty to taste, I will for sure choose the Peking duck, wonderful taste.

  6. Good choice Nava, that Peking duck was excellent!

  7. Maybe I need to ask you for "good eats" suggestions in Shanghai as I might be there next week! The candy blowing artist is amazing - the "prawn" candy is beautiful!

  8. Oh, enjoy your trip tigerfish! While I was in Shanghai, I had xiaolongbao at Din Tai Fung, fried dumplings at Yang's and also checked out a posh eatery or two at the Sinan Mansions. :D

  9. Yay! The only thing better than travel posts is travel posts from places I haven't yet been. Keep 'em coming! :D

  10. OH MY.. DUCK BURGER! And the lamb? The peking duck of course.. OMG.. you may have just changed my opinion of China... NOM NOM NOM

  11. Hannah, there'll definitely be more coming up!

    msihua, it was great fun eating my way around China! Of course, when I'm travelling I do tend to keep a more open mind and be a little less picky - for example, I found many dishes to be greasier than what I would normally have, but at the end of the day if it's tasty, I'm satisfied. :D

  12. This is so fascinating and exotic! :-)

  13. AMAZING! tell us more pleaseeee!

  14. This is a beautiful post. Love reading posts about street food from around the globe. Keep that coming, please :)

  15. What a treat to get a glimpse of Bejing's street food - your photos are terrific. More, please.

  16. Thanks Maria, Anh, Ellie and SeattleDee, I'm glad you enjoyed this post! There will be more, for sure. :D

  17. Dammit, reading all your China posts is making me hungry! :)

    How does the candy blowing and dough shaping work? Are you meant to actually eat the creations?

  18. I think they're edible but they're more about the entertainment and the art. Plus, the creator's hands will have been all over it! I didn't get a chance to see the dough figure sculpting in action, unfortunately, but I did catch the candy blowing, and Simon took a video, so I might devote a whole post to that at some point. :D

  19. I miss home! Really can do with some tanghulu now - ok admit it's the wrong time of the year but still. Maybe I could try to make some myself...

  20. Thanks for visiting Mama Lan! You come from a great city - I loved Beijing! And the tanghulu is pretty nifty stuff. :D

  21. I've just seen this post, Leaf, love it! You've got me so hungry. Beijing has actually been on my list for ages. Maybe once my Australian long-stay visa is approved I can go for a little hop over... to eat all day obviously :)

  22. There is just so much food in Beijing, Yas! You'll love it. And cheap too. What's not to love? :D


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