By Priya Shourie (Instagram @bites.in.beijing)
See her trip “First Timers to Beijing” on the Community Tab, which available to all Nomad users to download!
Hello from Beijing! I moved from London to Beijing earlier this year to learn Chinese just after finishing university. The more time I spend in this wonderful city, the more I love it! I created a public trip called “First Timers to Beijing” on Nomad to share all my recommendations in Beijing, including the eateries below. Click on the “Community” tab on Nomad Featured Trips on your phone and search for the trip or my name and it will pop up for you to download.
Beijing is a fascinating place, where every day is providing a surprise taking me on an interesting adventure. I found that not only learning the language, but enjoying the local cuisine has helped me to understand the Chinese culture and how people communicate in their daily life in this metropolis. In my first articIe for Nomad, I wanted to share a few of my favorite places to eat so that you also can experience the quintessential Beijing food scene!
The Capital of Cool
Beijing of today is thriving as the capital of cool, with ultra-modern skyscrapers and stylish coffee shops in contrasted to its temples, imperial palaces and traditional hutongs (or narrow alleys, a symbol of traditional Beijing culture) now converted into fun bars for us to enjoy. Beijing is rich in both heritage and modernity so you can never get bored.
Eating your way through this city is the best way to understand its history, people and culture. The city is a paradise for foodies: it offers the culinary curious of every provincial cuisine in China, as well as other world cuisine – Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese, and, yes, Mexico! You will never go hungry as Beijing has it all anytime of the day. Here is a small selection of what I recommend as Beijing’s best “bites”, proving that the city’s cuisine is more than just Kǎoyā (Peking Duck), although it has that too!
Most weekends start with Taco Bar (well mostly mine do) and that means Mexican food which is done very well in Beijing! This is a popular haunt for foreigners and locals, because the Happy Hour (5-7pm) deal: buy a cocktail and get a taco free for 50 RMB is a killer, meaning that reservations are highly suggested for dinner. Atmosphere is fun, buzzy and good for going with friends. If you are craving some Western food whilst in Beijing, be sure to grab a drink and a taco before a night out in Sanlitun!
A favourite Sichuan restaurant in Beijing, which will delivering an authentic Chinese dining experience. There are a few joints located in the city, but they are always busy which means long waits. Food is worth it though, if you think of dishes such as Kung Pao chicken, spicy pork dumplings, garlic broccoli and Dandan noodles with mince pork, chilli oil and peanuts – all for seriously cheap prices. It can be one of the best valued noodles to find in Beijing. Menu is in Chinese with no pictures or English available, so bring your translator app and be ready for excellent food and a lot of spice! A must goes to for real Sichuan cuisine- if travels don’t make it as far South to Sichuan province.
Street food. Don’t be scared, it is perfectly safe to try (unless you’re feeling extra adventurous) and this Beijing funky street stall is a Beijing must try for first timers. Jianbing (or I like to describe as a Chinese crepe) is a traditional street food and hailed as one of China’s “most popular street breakfasts”. It can be topped with different fillings and sauces creating the perfect mix of flavours: spicy and savoury. Avocado Drum offers tacos, burritos and a jianbing fusion with guacamole and salsa at cheap prices starting a 13 RMB.
A Lijiang-themed restaurant is popular with locals and foreigners in Liangmaqiao. Staff wear traditional Yunnanese costumes, the place has beautiful decor and a cosy, relaxing atmosphere. The menu has traditional dishes such as pineapple rice, dried yak meat with lotus root and spicy beef rolls wrapped in mint, as well as beer from a local brewery. The food never disappoints and neither do the prices- definitely a place to go in Beijing for those wanting to try Yunnan cuisine.
Did someone say dumplings?
Jin Ding Xuan- a Beijing institution, three levels and open 24-hours (for all those post night out food cravings). The dishes are delicious and good for those on a budget. The cuisine is Cantonese-style, so think small, steamed baskets of dim sum that are good for sharing as well as a selection of other dishes.
Look to Mr Shi’s for a place not too fancy but with good food. One branch down in Baochao Hutong has something for everyone. The jiaozi are freshly made to order, and you can have them fried, boiled and steamed with a selection of fillings (pork, shrimp, vegetarian to name a few). The selection is vast, including sweet and chocolate dumplings with a portion of 15 dumplings for about 20 RMB. Other dishes to try are fried eggplant and green beans and staples such as fried rice and stir-fried vegetables. The décor is a testament to the restaurant’s popularity with foreigners, as the walls are covered in writing and comments from Mr Shi’s customers from around the world. It is worth the trip for a relaxed evening for an inexpensive real Chinese experience.
First Timers to Beijing – Available on the Community Tab