Beijing is still one of those cities where the taste sensation of the week can be less expensive than the flag drop of a cab ride. Better yet, cheap Chinese food doesn't have that concocted-in-a-laboratory quality of Kentucky fried, Western fast food.
In fact, if you know where to go and what to order, the city serves up a surprising variety of cheap cuisine for no more than a blue 10 kuai
note. You might not be full to bursting, but your wallet will be. Below, check out some of our favourite places to go for a taste of the city’s cheap eats.
Yunnan mian (noodles)
This spicy, boiling hot bowl of flavor is filled with thick noodles, sprouts, boiled eggs, a choice of meat and allows adjustments to your taste. In Chedian hutong (辇店胡同) just off Andingmen Nei, you will find some of the best Yunnan noodles in town, served in a humble restaurant of no more than ten square meters.
The owner chats happily with his customers and knows most frequent visitors by name. Foreigners are relatively new to his restaurant, so he likes to conclude visits by taking a picture of his new friends. Order the 10 kuai bowl, explain your preferences and enjoy the meal! But be warned, your clothes will smell overwhelmingly like noodles for the next few days.
Shandong jianbing (pancake)
Many Bejijngers are familiar with the jianbing (煎饼; pancake) stands that appear on street corners all over the city. A lesser known version of this food is the Shandong jianbing. This is a crispier and more exciting version of the to-go dish.
You can find it at the Peking University campus hidden at the top of the staircase of the Wumei supermarket close to the southwest gate. The owner takes pride in telling anyone who asks that the dish is completely vegetarian, filled with simple ingredients like salad, coriander and lajiao (辣椒; hot pepper).
It is then made perfect through the addition of a mysterious sauce and the unbelievable crispiness of the pancake. Enjoy its perfection for a mere 4.5RMB.
Jiroujuan (chicken wraps)
Jiroujuan (鸡肉卷; chicken wrap) can be found at many lunch stalls around the city. The meal is exquisitely Chinese in efficiency and perfect for anyone trying to dodge the lunch rush.
Avoid the glaring lights and long ques of the fast food chains and get a chicken wrap for 6RMB from the local lunch joint. It is cheaper, faster and almost always better tasting. Chose the fried chicken filling, watch them make it and be on your way within a matter of minutes. A perfect fast lunch to keep you going.
Liangpi (cold noodles)
A summer favorite that will make your taste buds burn! These spicey noodles are sold all around the city during the warmer months, but are inexplicably taken off the street food menu in the winter.
But don't fret, they can still be found in the fast food section of the BHG supermarkets for those whose love for it goes beyond its convenient cooling effect in the summer. Liangpi (凉皮; cold noodles) is cold and fresh and filled with cucumber, peanuts and of course lajiao (辣椒; hot pepper).
We have all enjoyed eating our way through plates of jiaozi (饺子; dumplings) at various restaurants around town. What fewer of us have tried however, is the delight of having dumplings "street style" - in a plastic bag.
The best area for this is naturally the university area in Haidian (海淀), where everything is made to work with a student economy. Order the dumplings available (there is usually only one kind), add some vinegar and spice to your bag of food and use your chopsticks to eat straight out of the bag. If you are really lucky, you will spend no more than 2.5RMB. At most it will put a 6RMB dent in your wallet.