The food scene in Beijing is as rich and varied as the vast country it has ruled for so long. The capital's cuisine boasts a wealth of dishes influenced by centuries of China's eight great culinary traditions. While Beijing Imperial Cuisine and Aristocrat Cuisine were developed for emperors and high officials by the best chefs from around the empire, common Beijingers created their own light snacks and hearty dishes, perfect fuel for a long day's work in either steamy summer heat or bitter winter cold. Unlike the south with its vast rice paddies, Beijing's staple is wheat, frequently made into flour used to make noodles and buns.
Of course, today's dining options extend far beyond China's boundaries, as foreign restaurants—from fast food to fine dining—open around the city at a rapid rate. From cheap and delicious street food to endless banquets of dishes once reserved for emperors to the latest in global fusion, Beijing offers the hungry visitor a wonderful range of choices.
Slow roasted and succulent, the famous dish Beijing Roast Duck (Běijīng Kǎoyā, 北京烤鸭) or "Peking Duck," is served with thin crepe-like "lotus leaf pancakes"(héyè bǐng, 荷叶饼) sweet noodle sauce or hoisin sauce (hǎixiān jiàng, 海鲜酱) and finely sliced green onions. Often an adept chef slices the freshly roast duck table-side before serving, separating the skin from the meat. Once served, the meat is wrapped in a pancake with all the fixings and quickly enjoyed. There is, of course, much debate about where to get Beijing's best roast duck, but Quanjude and Li Qun are always at the top of the list.
Carts, stalls and stands selling Beijing's delicious street food dot the city. For breakfast, try the sweet and healthy douzhi soy milk (dòu zhī, 豆汁) and a jian bing (jiān bing, 煎饼), which consists of a quick-fried crepe-like pancake topped with a scrambled egg and various condiments—typical options include sweet soy paste, chili sauce, pickled vegetables, chopped green onions and a crispy strip of fried dough (yóutiáo, 油条). Other snacks include a steamed wheat bun (mántou, 馒头) or a stuffed steam bun (bāozi, 包子) made with any number of fillings, the most typical being seasoned pork. Alongside bamboo steamers and flat jian bing frying pans, you'll often find immigrants from western China—often Uighurs from Xinjiang—grilling lamb skewers seasoned with cumin and other spices (yángròu chuàn, 羊肉串) or stalls selling the meat-filled pita pockets (ròu jiā mó, 肉夹馍) made of a sliced bun accommodating shredded pork or lamb along with lettuce and seasonings.
There are a number of areas in the city that are essentially devoted to food. Try Wangfujing Food Street for its large collection of stalls and locally owned restaurants while Longfusi Snack Street offers snacks specific to Beijing. If you're in the mood for a midnight treat, try Gui Jie or Donghuamen Snack Night Market on the north end of Wangfujing which, along with Longfusi, are both open all night long.
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