Sunday, 18 October 2009

Beijing & Shanghai – A Quick Guide

What to eat and where to eat it

There's a lot of stuff on my blog about eating out in Beijing and Shanghai so I thought it'd be useful if I put together a quick guide to eating out in these two cities. There are also links to the original posts if you require further details.

The Must Eats
It's pretty obvious that you must try Peking duck when in Beijing. My favourite place is Ya Wang – a whole duck is brought to the table and skilfully carved into slices of meat and crispy skin.

This is served with the usual accompaniments although I recommend trying sesame buns as an alternative to pancakes. Most parts of the duck are also served as starters if you fancy duck tongues and that kind of thing.

In Shanghai, you've got to try xiao long bao (XLB) - the famous dumplings with a soupy filling. These are available in a number of varieties from the basic pork XLB and my fave, pork & crab XLB.

For a cheap and cheerful place go to Jia Jia Tang Bao but if you want to treat yourself then Din Tai Fung arguably serve the best XLB in Shanghai. Din Tai Fung also has branches in Beijing but the word is that the original branch in Taipei is the best.

The Easy Options
Eating out in China can be daunting but there are places that serve up authentic food in comfortable surroundings with the clincher of bilingual menus. For Shanghainese cuisine, I can recommend Xiao Nan Guo/Shanghai Spring which has branches in Beijing and Shanghai. One of their signature dishes is the 'lion's head' meatball with crab meat pictured below.

If you're a fan of Sichuan food then you could do a lot worse than South Beauty which also has branches in both cities. My favourite chilli fried chicken (la zi ji) is pictured. Don't be put off by the fact that these are chains, some of the best restaurants in China have multiple branches.

The Cheap Eats
Cantonese food is very popular in Shanghai and if you fancy some congee, noodles or Cantonese BBQ on rice then the café inside the Cathay Theatre is a good bet. I've already extolled the virtues of xiao long bao but many Shanghainese reckon the crispy pan fried sheng jian bao are superior – try these at Yang’s Fry Dumplings.

In Beijing, the dumplings are simpler and you can pick up boiled jiaozi dumplings or pan-fried jianjiao dumplings at Shun Yi Fu. This is a much better alternative to the street food available in what passes for night markets in the capital.

The Last Word
If you're visiting China, be spontaneous and just try loads of different foods. I also like Hunan, Taiwanese and Yunnan cuisines whilst others swear by hot pot, Mongolian or Xinjiang food. If you've visited China, I'd love to hear from you especially if you have some top tips to share.

1 comment:

  1. I love visiting the restaurants in the Xinjiang area (though I can't remember where in Beijing anymore as it was over a decade ago), and also love shuanyangrou - Mongolian hot pot. Looking forward to more China trips in the near future...!