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Canyon Calling


She Eats Great Chinese Food In China
notes from an American expat ...

How lucky we are to have Dr. Jane Liedtke as part of the Journeywoman Network! Jane is a professor from Illinois State University on assignment in China as Director of The Training Center, a corporate management training facility. She has traveled to China 14 times since 1987, she lived in Beijing in 1992 and returned in 1998. We asked Jane to tell us about some of her favorite Beijing restaurants. She writes...

Beijing has as big an array of restaurants as any major world capital -- everything from China’s minority cuisines to Beijing's own rather bland fare to the world's finest in German, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Italian food. Those desiring an "American" break can always find the golden arches of MacDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut or Kenny Rogers as they are everywhere in the city.

However, if you’d like to be a little more adventurous here are some of my suggestions....

Dumplings, stir fried greens beans, etc...

Chinese architectureNear the Yabalu Russian Market at the Southwest of Ritan Park (Embassy area of the city) is the Ritan Park Restaurant. It has indoor dining and outdoor cafe tables set along a Chinese garden in traditional-style Chinese architecture. Don't be confused by the small restaurant along the sidewalk - go back further into the building and find a nice place to relax and eat. The menu is in English and it lists many wonderful dishes to try (as well as some pretty strange items and very unusual English translations of animal parts). Cost is very reasonable - a recent lunch for two adults and one child (a visitor to Beijing) was just $6.00. We had jiaozi (dumplings), fried rice, pork and scallions, and stir fried green beans (a signature dish). Enough food for all of us!

Peking Duck is a must...

Peking DuckDuck - - everyone coming to Beijing must have some Peking Duck. Most restaurants have duck (yazi) available so it is really not necessary to go to one of the tourist restaurants. As with anything touristy, you are bound to pay far more than you need to for a multiple course meal with every possible part of the duck served. Near the end of the feast, around course five, you will finally receive the worth-waiting-for duck, pancakes, plum sauce, and scallions. This is actually Beijing’s version of a burrito.

The reality is that most visitors to Beijing prefer this course of the duck meat and pancakes best. Therefore, I recommend skipping the rest and selecting a restaurant where your duck meat will cost between 58 and 80 RMB ($7-10.00). Then you can order vegetables and other dishes to accompany it. Allow 40 - 45 minutes for your duck to be cooked as they will not cook it until you order it.

Where to go? If you can travel to the west city near the CCTV Tower (China's tallest building) you will find JiuHuaShan to be the best choice in the city. It is located in a hotel complex on Baiwanzhuang Road heading west before it reaches the Third Ring Road. However, if you are on the East side of the city, the best option is: Beijing Duck Chuan Lu Feng Wei on Xinyuanxili Road (east) across from the YuYang Hotel. Ask your hotel concierge to show you on the map these two top locations (non-tourist places where all the expats like to go). The above mentioned Ritan Park Restaurant is also a good place for a duck for lunch or dinner - 58 RMB.

Mongolian Hot Pot...

Mongolian Hot PotThe next category of food that is a "must try" in Beijing is Mongolian Hot Pot. Hot Pots are a copper or brass pot with coals inside to keep broth boiling. Brought to the table are shaved meats, sliced greens, and noodles (also seafood is available but that is not the traditional hot pot). Mutton is the meat of choice although pork, chicken, and beef available. At your place you will have a bowl of dipping sauce that is a sesame paste and tastes more like peanut butter than anything else. To that a hot chili pepper oil is added to taste - mild to ultimately spicy. The meat is dipped into the pot like fondue and then fished out (with your chopsticks) and into the bowl of sauce. It is a fun way to enjoy a meal by yourself or with friends. Hot Pot restaurants abound so it's often best to ask for one near your hotel. The most famous one is in the Feng Shan Hutong near Fuchenmenwai. Take Xidan north from ChangAn Blvd (the main east-west street in central Beijing) to the XiSi intersection at Fuchenmenwai. Turn left (west) and go to the next traffic light. Turn left again (heading south) the restaurant will be on the right (west side of the street).

Noodles, dumplings and pizza...

The other typical Beijing food is noodles (mein) and dumplings (jiaozi) which can be had Spaghettieverywhere in the city. If in doubt just order the mein tang (noodle soup) or ju rou jiaozi (pork dumplings). You can't go wrong with either!

Western Food - if you love pizza try any of the Adria Beijing locations (there are three). All have woodfired ovens with wonderful pizza. For a nice dinner of pasta with a bountiful array of sauce choices head for Metro Cafe.

Read all about it...

Beijing SceneThe good news is that there are three tabloid-size newspapers in English which come out on Fridays. Look for them at your hotel desk. All of them list the best restaurants, have restaurant reviews, names/addresses like a directory (because there is no English section of the Beijing phone book to look up places to dine). Ask for Metro, City Edition, and Beijing Scene at your hotel. All will be useful to you not only for eating out but for other events going on in the city at the time.

She's a savvy Beijing diner...

  • Chinese foodIf you do not want more tea, leave some in your cup.

  • It is considered rude to tap your chopsticks on the table.

  • Sauces are for dipping. Do not pour them into your rice bowl

  • Dropping your chopsticks is considered bad luck.

  • Do not place your chopstick parallel on the top of your bowl. This, too, is considered bad luck.

(Source: Raise Your Cultural IQ, Louisa Nedkov, ISBN0-9684413-0-0)

Ed. note: Heading off to Asia?

Click here to read the Journeywoman mini "Know-Before-You-Go Noodle Guide." You might want to print and pack this helpful bit of info.

To read "The Chinese English Teacher," click here.

Want more China travel tips? You can find them here.





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