Monday, 30 January 2012

Beijing Eats: Street Food

Beijing Street Food

Although there are so many amazing dishes and restaurants to choose from in Beijing, there is nothing I love more when travelling than street food. Not only is it practical to pick up something warm and cheap whilst on the hoof, I learnt a long time ago that you often get some of the most authentic and beautiful food that a country has to offer when it's cooked in a dustbin out on the pavement. China is absolutely no exception, and some of my fondest food memories were born on its streets.

Street food in China can be amazingly diverse- not just in the range of food available; from the classic dumpling stalls to the Muslim influenced grills of Northern China- but also in it's ability to both delight and horrify.
The vast wok of steaming animal entrails, above, was a teaming mass of undefined animal product- tripe, intestines, brain... nothing is wasted in China, and every part of every animal is common on every menu.
This particular concoction smelt about as good as it looks- I didn't try it.

A street food favourite! There are a few variations of Jiān Bĭng (煎饼- pan fried pancake) , but this one was one of the best. Huge pancakes are cooked and topped with egg, which almost melts into the batter. The vast pancake is then topped with a thick sauce (similar to that of Peking duck), spring onion, lettuce (probably the only lettuce you'll be finding in Chinese cooking!) and a sheet of batter, which adds a crunchy texture to the pancake wrap.
This dish costs about 5 kwai, the equivalent to about 50p. However, as a wài guó rén (foreigner) expect to ripped off- this crafty little fellow cut our wrap in half and attempted to claim the cost was in fact 5 kwai per half. This did not fly.

Food on sticks in very popular- sausages, scorpions, quail's eggs... But the most common is kebabs, a Northern Chinese food that is found all over Beijing.

Talking of food on sticks... Natalie could not resist the sausage in sweet waffle batter, sold around the lakes during Spring Festival. Sweet and savoury is a not uncommon combination- The Chinese like their baked goods to be saccharine in the extreme, and it's almost impossible to find baked goods that aren't laden with sugar. Even their bread loaves is topped with a sugar glaze or sprinkled with icing sugar, and their sausage buns are made with super sweet brioche- like bread.

No, really. The Chinese love their sugar. Keep an eye out for the caramelised fruit on sticks- often a colourful array of strawberries, kiwi and satsuma- or even a stick of five or six ful sized sugar coated apples. But be on your guard for the little red skewers. When it comes to sweet and savoury, these guys love to mess with your heads. They aren't cherries and they aren't little apples- they're sugar coated tomatoes.

A slightly healthier street side snack- It's easy to find men selling hot sweet potatoes, cooked in situ in large dustbins. You can pick the size of potato that you like and take it away with you- the ultimate healthy and comforting fast food and a real relief in the bitter minus temperatures of Beijing in January.

Beijing treats- a popular dessert during times of Festivity; Moon cakes!

Beijing Drinks...

Oh Bubble tea, I miss you already... A bit of an addiction of mine, even when I'm in London- though a lot cheaper! My first experience of hot bubble tea, it made a great on-the-go replacement for coffee in the morning, when heading out early to explore the city.

From ice cream to rice cakes, I've tried all sorts of matcha (green tea powder) flavoured products. Though I loved the squidgy glutinous rice balls, coated in icing sugar and with a peanut butter centre (honestly, they taste better than 'glutinous rice ball' suggests...) I really enjoyed the green tea latte. Sweet, frothy and an adorable shade of pea green!


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