There are so many things to eat on the streets of Beijing that it’s almost intimidating for a newbie. If you ask any ex-pat in Beijing about street food, you will get a similar answer: If you want to eat well for dirt cheap in this city, you must go to the streets.
Where do you start? What should you eat? And where can you find your favorite dish again? From Hotpot to Skewers, Dumplings, and everything in between, here’s our list of the best Beijing street food.
Hot Pot, or “huoguo” in Chinese, is a favorite amongst ex-pats and locals in Beijing. The dish, consisting of a pot of boiling water with a broth with a selection of ingredients (including meat, seafood, veggies, tofu, noodles, and rice), is eaten by dipping your choice of food into the Pot to cook. Hot Pot is as communal as it can get. Traditionally, people gather around a table and share food from a large Hot Pot placed in the middle.
Hot Pot is easiest found in winter as it’s the perfect comfort food for a cold day. The best part about Hot Pot is that you can make your own combination of ingredients. It’s also a great way to try different cuts of meat and cooking methods, as many Hot Pot places also offer a selection of proteins such as pork, beef, lamb, shrimp, squid, scallops, and fish balls. Some Hot Pot places also have a selection of soup bases, such as black pepper, soy sauce, and garlic, which are poured into the boiling water to add flavor. The Hot Pot experience is best when accompanied by a bottle of beer or a cup of warm tea.
Shouji, which translates to a “sauce shop,” is a Chinese restaurant specializing in Shoyu, the soy sauce dish. Shoyu is a dish where pieces of pork are slow-cooked in soy sauce, along with other spices and ingredients, to create a rich and hearty sauce. Best when paired with freshly steamed rice or noodles.
Shouji is the perfect street food for a chilly winter day because it will warm you up from within. It is a great place to go if you want a hearty meal at a very affordable price. Although Shouji is a humble place, don’t let that fool you. The site is packed with customers all year round. Be prepared to wait in a long line if you go during peak hours. You will be rewarded with a rich and satisfying taste.
Dumplings and Bao
Beijing has you covered if you’re looking to gorge on a selection of delicious dumplings. From classic pork and cabbage dumplings to the more adventurous lamb and chive dumplings, the city has a plethora of delicious dumpling options. You can find dumplings at almost every corner of the city, whether in food markets, streets,, or restaurants. You can eat them warm or cold and dunk them in a bowl of hot broth for a warm, comforting snack during winter.
Dumplings are the quintessential Beijing street food and one of the best ways to eat cheap and healthy in the city. Dumplings are cheap, healthy, and can be made in various ways. You can order them pan-fried, steamed, or in soup. On the other hand, Bao is a fluffy steamed bun filled with juicy and flavorful meat such as pork or chicken. They are usually served with a side of sweet chili sauce. You can find Bao at many of the same places that serve dumplings. Bao is an excellent option if you’re craving something savory or feeling hungry. Bao is best enjoyed warm.
If you’re craving a more flavorful dumpling, you must try the ever-popular Tang Bao. Tang Bao, a popular dish among locals and ex-pats, typically consists of steamed dumplings stuffed with a mix of minced pork, scallions, and a sweet sauce. You can find Tang Bao sold at food markets, streets, and restaurants around the city. They are best enjoyed with a side of chili sauce or vinegar. Be careful, though, the sauce is very addictive ,and you might end up finishing a whole bowl by yourself. The best part about Tang Bao is that you can customize their filling. Ask the vendor to put more or less of the three main ingredients or add some other ingredients such as crab meat or a touch of Sichuan peppercorn.
Maotai Shumai, or Maotai Steamed Dumplings as we know it, is one of the more pricey options on our list. It is not a traditional dish, but somebody created it in the 1990s as a dish to celebrate the opening of the Maotai Chinese restaurant. The restaurant has since become a famous eatery in Beijing. And earned the title of the best shumai place in the city, if not China. The restaurant’s shumai, made from pork and prawns and topped off with a selection of mushrooms and spices, is renowned. The shumai is then steamed to perfection and served in a bamboo basket. The price may be steep for street food, but the taste is worth every RMB.
Xiaochi and Jianbing
Xiaochi, or snacks, are usually a smaller version of a meal. In the case of Beijing street food, they are usually eaten as snacks, or eaten with rice for breakfast or brunch. You can find a variety of xiaochi, such as fish and other seafood, doughnuts, and even steamed buns. Like dumplings, xiaochi is popular among both locals and ex-pats. Jianbing is the king of xiaochi. The food is classic Chinese street food originating from Beijing. It is a crepe-like pancake mixing a batter of eggs, flour, and water. The batter is then poured into a hot pan with a sprinkle of scallions and sesame seeds. It’s usually topped off with a generous amount of spicy bean sauce.
But the best part about eating out on the streets of Beijing. Is that you never know what you will get. The best way to experience Beijing street food is to go with a group of friends. And try everything that catches your eye. With so many choices, the most challenging task would be to narrow down your choices. The best thing about eating street food is that you can mix it up. With all sorts of different flavors and cuisines. If you’re feeling adventurous, go all out and try a new dish every day. Alternatively, if you’re craving something familiar, you can always go for dumplings or shouji. Whatever your preference, you will not be disappointed with the wide selection of street food that Beijing offers.