It’s not beef, it’s not pork and it’s certainly not chicken, but donkey might be one of Chinese cuisine’s best-kept secrets.
Donkey has a similarly gamey flavour to horse, but being smaller in size and considerably less powerful, its meat is significantly cheaper and more readily available. Although donkey is not considered a particularly choice meat in most Western cuisines, it’s a popular, attainable delicacy among northern and central Chinese cuisines.
According to some accounts, donkey eating was first popularised during the lengthy military conquests of the early Qin Dynasty, when prolonged sieges and food shortages led soldiers to eat their horses and then donkeys. Today, donkey is so popular in Hebei province that it’s often said that ‘in heaven they have dragon meat, while on earth we have donkey’ (天上龙肉, 地上驴肉). While we can’t comment on dragon meat, we can say that donkey is positively delicious.
How to eat it
Lürou zatang, 驴肉杂汤
A common side dish served with donkey burgers or other dishes of donkey meat, this soup made from the odds and ends that didn’t makeit in to the burger or the dumpling is a warm, savoury way to round off a meal of donkey. According to Chinese culinary tradition, a soup made from the leftover dishes will aid in harmonious digestion.
Donkey pot stickers
Lürou guotie, 驴肉锅贴
Like any fried dumpling, these benefit from a crispy chewy shell of golden dough that’s soaked up all the molten fat from the the pan-frying. Among the more accessible ways to eat donkey, the gamey and often grassy meat is cut with spring onions and leeks, the perfect match for some strong, aged vinegar and a cold beer.
Lürou huoshao, 驴肉火烧
These sandwich-style numbers are similar to the Shaanxi pork roujiamo. Unlike the round version, the braised donkey meat is usually served cold in a freshly toasted rectangle that’s flakier than its Shaanxi cousin. For something a bit more adventurous, try the donkey penis (bianrou huoshao, 鞭肉火烧) version. It’s worth it just for the anecdote.
Where to get it
Donkey is popular enough to be eaten all over the city. These restaurants are our top picks for all three of the above-mentioned donkey delights.
Wangpangzi Lürou Huoshao (王胖子驴肉火烧)
92 Dongsi Bei Dajie,Chaoyangdistrict (131 2156 5643). Open 9am-10pm daily. Meal for two 40RMB.
Lürou Huoshao (驴肉火烧)
Hepingli Zhongjie (next to Wushan Roast Fish), Dongcheng district. Open 9am-10pm daily. Meal for two 25RMB. 东城区和平里中街(近巫山 烤全鱼)
Delaiju Lürou ( 德来聚驴肉)
13 Zhongsheng Hutong, Dongcheng district (6601 3638).Open 10am-9.30pm daily.Meal for two 50RMB. 西城区西单钟声胡同13号