Cheap eats: Sanlitun and Liangmaqiao

Beijing's top chefs and restaurateurs share their favourite cheap eats

Dumplings at Baoyuan
Beijing's top chefs and restaurateurs share their favourite cheap eats in Sanlitun and Liangmaqiao.

Sanlitun

Pingwa Sanbao (平娃三宝)

Critics' pick

Max Levy, head chef and owner at Okra, says: 'The owner opened the place because he wanted to have a trustworthy place that served Beijing snack foods, at an affordable price, late at night for all the kids coming from bars. He saw too many people getting sick from street food and thought he could offer a better quality at the same price.'

Order this ‘All the food here is “Beijing-anized” Shaanxi cuisine. There are some seafood things out front on a table for frying, but stick to the menu items – that is what they do best. Cold dishes can run on the extremely garlicky side. My favourite thing to order is the roujiamo (肉夹馍; 12RMB). I always add pickled cucumbers to help cut through the fat.’

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10A Xiangjunzhuang Lu (near Zhongfang Jie intersection) (Sanlitun, Chaoyang)

Xiu Jiang Yuan (绣江源)

Critics' pick

Daniel Urdaneta, executive chef and co-owner of Mosto, says: ‘This place is not particularly amazing (or even that clean), but in the midst of all the amazing restaurants in Sanlitun, what we lack is decent jiachangcai [homestyle cooking]. This Chinese hole-in-the-wall offers just that.'

Order this 'What I crave most are the dry-fried potatoes (ganguo tudoupian, 干锅土豆片; 26RMB) and the sautéed cauliflower with ginger (qingchao xilanhua, 清炒西兰花; 26RMB).'

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14 Sanlitun Donger Jie (near Middle 8th restaurant)

Nanfang Jiaoziguan (南方饺子馆)

Amy Feng, manager at Agua says: 'The venue is very homely. They serve about 30 types of dumplings, the prices are reasonable and the food is clean. Plus, the jiaozi tang (dumpling broth) is free!

Order this 'My favourite meat filling is the pork and mushroom (zhurou xianggu, 猪肉香菇; five dumplings 3.5RMB). As for the meatless fillings, the egg and courgette (jidan xihulu, 鸡蛋西葫芦; five dumplings 3RMB) are great. To go with your dumplings, there’s a table of various cold dishes where you can mix and match for yourself.'

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Tuanjiehu Beisantiao

Mian (三里屯面馆)

Alameda's head chef, Vilmar Costa Silva, says: 'It’s a small restaurant (sometimes known as ‘Noodle Bar’) with a very communal feel to it. You often have to share tables. The food is cleaner than your average neighbourhood joint. Mostly, the food comes fairly spicy, but not too much so. The meat is good quality and the vegetables are fresh.'

Order this 'It’s a noodle bar, so they serve mostly, well, noodles! I like the diced eggplant and pork noodles with egg (qiezi rouding banmian, 茄子肉丁拌面; 36RMB). They also do a few non-noodle dishes. Both the peppermint stir-fried with beef (boheye chaoniurou, 薄荷叶炒牛肉; 58RMB) and the stir-fried baby cucumber (qingchao huangguamiao, 清炒黄瓜苗; 35RMB) are excellent.'

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Sanlitun Bei Lu (Sanlitun, Chaoyang)

Morning

Morning's menu is short and focused, with wheat and rice noodles on offer. The signature bowl is the reganmian (25RMB) which puts minced pork and beef to work with crushed peanuts, spicy pickled radish, sesame paste and chilli oil. The hot, dry noodles are topped and lightly tossed before being served.

Order this Reganmain, of course, but the sides are worth ordering, too. Xiaomianwo (小面窝, 10RMB), a sort of Chinese doughnut, are light and crunchy from the oil, with a hint of toasted sesame and a subtle sweetness that makes us beg for more of the golden-brown dough rings.

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10 Taiping Zhuang (Chaoyang, Chaoyang)

Ling Er Jiu (零贰玖)

Critics' pick

The impressive demand and ceaseless turning of tables ensure that nothing at Ling Er Jiu ever sits in the kitchen for long – even well into the small hours the roujiamo are fresh and delicious. For cheap, fresh and late, Ling Er Jiu is hard to beat.

Order this No one can hold a candle to Ling Er Jiu’s youpo noodles (youpomian 油泼面, 25RMB) and roujiamo (肉夹馍, 12RMB). 

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Xingfucun Zhong Lu (Chaoyang, Chaoyang)

Bayi Laoye (Baron Rosi, 巴依老爷)

Critics' pick

Bayi Laoye feels like the Gongti mega-club of eateries. Decked out in floor-to-ceiling marble, with Corinthian-style needless ornamentation at every corner and enough polished brass and hanging chandeliers to please Donald Trump, the citywide chain that specialises in the cuisine of China’s westernmost frontier is anything but understated. It's also perennially full to the rafters, and it’s no mystery as to why: cheap, fast and damn good.

Order this Bayi does chuan’r better than anyone, with chunks of lamb paired in equal measure with cubes of charred fat coated in a blend of coriander seed, cumin, pepper, turmeric and fennel seeds. The choice skewers (16RMB) use rosewood branches to impart an extra woody aroma, but the classic (4RMB) is just as good, a fraction of the price and only a touch smaller. Dapanji (52RMB), stewed chicken with root veggies, chopped noodles and grilled nang flat bread (6RMB) is a platter fit for a king. If you can get hold of one (they sell out with blistering speed) try the kaobaozi (4RMB), buns stuffed with lamb and roasted in the charcoal oven. 

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Gongti Bei Lu

Liangmaqiao

Baoyuan Jiaozi Wu (宝源饺子屋)

Andy Choi, executive souschef at Maison FLO, says: 'The dumplings here are amazing. Not only do they come in a variety of flavours but also in different colours. Though it’s a pretty local place, there are also lots of tourists and foreigners. You’ll find that tables are always full, but turnover is high, so you don’t have to wait for a table.'

Order this 'Shrimp dumplings with cucumber (yuanbao jinjiao 元宝金饺; 20RMB) are a signature dish and one of my favourites. The lemon shrimp (xiqinningxiangxia, 西芹柠香虾; 60RMB) is also very popular – a bit sweet and a bit sour, just like kung pao chicken but not so spicy or oily.'

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6 Maizidian Jie (Chaoyang, Chaoyang)

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Area guide: Sanlitun

The expat hot spot is home to some of the city's most exciting places to eat, drink and party

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