Food was one of the points we were amply warned about regarding going on a tour in Beijing. NPY’s parents and sister said it was plain awful and skipping out for a KFC meal was the best one on the Beijing leg of the trip. My relatives who have done several China tours between them said the food was alright, which goes to show you how NPY and I come from different places. My mother, the true Cantonese food snob, doesn’t think much of any other region’s food; she would commonly point out how you end up with a plate of shredded onions and green peppers, a sign of lack of wealth compared to the richer, fertile southern Chinese region.
The funny thing is that NPY thought the food was “okay” but the grease and saltiness got to him; meanwhile, I got really picky and barely ate for some meals. At the end of 4 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 2 dinners, we had enough! Tourists are given such unjust representation of Beijing food! I was so tired of “Sichuan chicken” that was really spicy fried onions with a spot of chicken. And our sad Peking duck dinner for two was something to cry about: wimpy duck slices pre-carved with some stale tortillas.
Best tour meal: Tangdu San Jin Restaurant 唐都三晋大酒楼
Our tour guide shoved evaluations forms at us right before our last dinner and by that point, we could only rate the meals very average (to be generous) but then the dinner we had immediately after was really good!
The best part was the ja jiang mian that we constructed ourselves by pouring the eggy tomato sauce and oily meat sauce over the fresh handmade-looking al dente noodles. I had been dying for some variety in our meals and the noodles were it and they and the sauce were tasty to boot. I also really liked the soup–it was a tofu vegetable soup where the broth had a hint of smokiness to it. And after days on end of bok choy in “white sauce” we found a plate of cabbage in “white sauce” very refreshing!
Breakfast buffets at our hotel: Oriental Bay International Hotel
A most pleasant surprise at our crummy hotel with the crummy service was the breakfast buffet that was included for each day of our stay. Naive me, I thought it would be “Continental” but we were floored and pleased that there was food for all people: Continental breakfast pastries and cereal, cold Chinese salads, hot Western breakfast like eggs/bacon/sausage/toast, and all sorts of hot Chinese food from dim sum to congee to regular Chinese food.
Once I discovered the “thick beancurd soup”, I had some of it every morning. It was also a good way for me and NPY to get our vegetables and fruits to kick off the day of otherwise uncertain dining. NPY reliably picked up a fried egg (sunny-side up) to drain over some fried rice and a “it’s not as greasy here” sausage.
Other Beijing Food
We didn’t mean to but we stumbled on the freaky food market, first at 王府井 Wangfujing (NPY: “Times Square”) and then just outside Wangfujing, on Donghuamen, there were stalls upon stalls of more freaky critters on skewers: scorpions, silk larvae, long snake/eel-like fish, etc. Some raw skewers (to be fresh fried) had squirming scorpions!
NPY and I are junk food heads (trying to rehabilitate) and on the hunt for unique treats to bring home after his sister recently returned with boxes of matcha Kit Kats and mint M&M’s. The best thing I managed to find, and it would not have survived the flight, was cool Pringles flavours. We tried Hot & Sour Fish Soup Pringles and later saw a tin of cool cucumber Pringles. We didn’t know it would be harder to find treats in Hong Kong and passed up the Beijing treats. Darn!