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  • Last Updated: 25th July 2013

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Beijing - Food and Drink

Don’t be afraid of the street food - in Beijing it’s amongst the best in the world and you’d be missing out on a crucial part of the city’s cultural life if you chose to eat exclusively in the (many) top class restaurants. Savoury pancakes, served from the city’s street carts, are the food Beijing’s commuters go to work on: a doughy pancake, with fried egg and crispy onions, and totally delicious.

Food is served fast, prepared freshly, and widely considered to be, ironically, even safer in these night markets where steaming stalls appear, as if by magic, when the sun sets. Hongshu (sweet potatoes baked in their skins) are a filling, quick snack, perhaps served with diced lamb or chilli. Try the Donghaumen Night Market, or any of the vendors along Wangfujing Street, Beijing’s throbbing nocturnal heart.

Traditional Beijing cuisine such as roast duck, imperial cuisine and hotpot are still the main items on the menu for most locals. However, as more and more people arrived from the provinces to settle in the capital, other genres of cuisine such as Canton, Sichuan have become a part of what is on offer from Beijing's many caterers. So, now it is possible to find the widest possible range of excellent food ranging from simple dishes to quite exotic ones. In addition, there are many excellent restaurants that serve foreign cuisine. All in all, Beijing is a gourmet's paradise and there are establishments to suit all tastes and all pockets.

Beijing’s chief contribution to the world of gastronomy is its delicious, and incredibly moreish Beijing Duck - with the Quanjude and Bianyifang dishes among the most popular variations, each using a different method of preparation, spices and saucing, but both producing wonderful results.For a good introduction to this delicacy, try any of the Quan Ju De Restaurants, at Qianmen, Hepingmen or Wangfujing. After being marinaded in a mysterious deep-red sauce, Ducks are roasted directly over flames stoked by fruit-tree wood until crisp, then sliced thinly and served in pancake.

You’ll find ‘Westernised’ Chinese food in the main touristy areas, at a fraction of the price you’d pay at home, too - with dim sum, especially, delicious.

Beijing loves its tea. You can experience a tea ceremony and tea tastings at tea houses especially in the Qianmen area south of Tiananmen Square. Expect to pay for it though! Try to go to a tea house frequented by Chinese, not tourists, for the real deal. You can get a free tea demonstration at most Tenrenfu tea houses which are located throughout the city. An authentic tea in a highly respected tea house should cost ¥100-200.