50 things to do in Beijing: food & drink

Don't leave Beijing without trying out these culinary experiences

D-vision

The best things to eat and drink in Beijing, from duck and dumplings to donkey burgers.

Eat Peking duck

Eat Peking duck

This is the ultimate 'must-have' dish of the capital – and for good reason. Traditionally roasted over Chinese red date wood,the crispy skin and ultra rich meat of Beijing kaoya are surefire crowd-pleasers. Options abound in the capital.

More expensive versions can be relied on for a top-notch duck, though you don’t necessarily have to break the bank. Made in China at The Grand Hyatt is an excellent option if you have your eye on the prize and go there for duck only. For an upscale hutong atmosphere, Duck de Chine can’t be beat. The Opposite House’s Jing Yaa Tang is a solid choice in Sanlitun,especially for broader pan-China cuisine to accompany your roast duck.

To bring it way back, try the old-school Li Qun,tucked into the winding hutongs of Qianmen. Read our full guide to Beijing's best Peking duck restaurants here.

Try a donkey burger

Try a donkey burger

Sea cucumber, abalone, bird’s nest, scorpion – it’s old news, right? Even if your local business associates haven’t strong-armed you into these Chinese 'specialities' yet, we’re guessing your palate isn’t quite refined enough to fully appreciate their worth (ours aren’t either).

Donkey burgers on the other hand? Let’s take a moment to savour those bad boys. Lürou huoshao (驴肉火烧) are Beijing’s most unsung street food heros. Tender, flavourful meat, chopped and tossed with green pepper and fresh coriander is jammed in a warm, flaky bun – all for under 10RMB a pop. Any hole-in-the-wall will do, but we particularly like the 24-hour Wang Pangzi chain.

Treat yourself to Temple Restaurant Beijing

Treat yourself to Temple Restaurant Beijing

Housed in the digs of a former television factory, which was at one time a temple, TRB hits all the right notes – fine contemporary European cuisine located in the hutongs north of the Forbidden City. Spend a lazy weekend brunch sipping on champers like a modern-day emperor.

Make a jianbing

Make a jianbing

Ah, the noble jianbing. Translations fail to capture its true beauty. 'Chinese crepe'? 'Egg pancake'? Yes, but it’s so much more. A grain-based batter poured onto a hot griddle with two eggs,a crispy wafer and some sauce sounds easy enough, but our Bucket List kitchen goal is making one ourselves. While there aren’t regular classes available in town, Sue Zhou Does Food offers personalised classes on request. Or you could always just be an apprentice to your local street food vendor. Read more about cooking in Beijing.

School yourself on local spirits

School yourself on local spirits

Admittedly, there’s not much to know about Beijing spirit Erguotou that can’t be learnt in one regrettable blur of a night. Still, an evening at your local hole-in-the-wall throwing back the fiery stuff is an experience worth having at least once. The guys behind Capital Spirits argue that baijiu is another story. Stop by and try a flight to see if you agree. We haven’t even started on the milder rice wines of south western provinces like Yunnan – there’s a lot to learn.

Eat a bowl of zhajiang mian

Eat a bowl of zhajiang mian

We don’t mean the low-brow kind made with instant noodles, pre-packaged sauce and little in the way of anything green – that’s just sad. Head to Beijing Noodle King for this old Beijing classic. Zhajiang mian (炸酱面, literally ‘fried sauce noodle’) is a heady combination of thick wheat noodles topped with a fermented, salty yellow soybean and minced pork paste. Toppings like sliced watermelon radish, cucumber, scallion, white onion and fresh soybeans come in small dishes to be mixed in at the last minute.

Eat your way through China without leaving Beijing

Eat your way through China without leaving Beijing

Picture credit: Nanjing Impressions

Who said you needed to leave Beijing to experience the eclectic tastes of China's regional cuisines? Don’t know your Jiangsu from your Zhejiang? Bone up with our handy guide and discover the best restaurants in Beijing to try these tasty dishes.

Eat at a North Korean Restaurant

Eat at a North Korean Restaurant

You don't need to breach the borders to get a taste of North Korea. China is one of the few countries to have notionally friendly relations with the Hermit Kingdom which means there are several restaurants staffed by North Korean citizens with decidedly North Korean ideas about dinner entertainment (think accordion playing in glittery dresses and synchronised dancing).

Try a pollution-themed dessert

Try a pollution-themed dessert

For a dish named after Beijing’s biggest Debbie Downer, chef Nello Turco’s creation is remarkably restrained in its attempt to hasten the demise of our health. ‘Chocolate’ cookies made from reduced coconut and crystal sheets of dried pineapple jut violently from a quenelle of pineapple sorbet and dulce de leche crumble. A cloud of rosewood smoke lingers over the hectic pile of shards and spikes, but somehow its complex, dynamic flavours all make sense together – much like our fair city itself. Try is for 138RMB (plus 10 percent service and 6 percent VAT) at Mio at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Eat at the old royal icehouse

Eat at the old royal icehouse

The Royal Icehouse was used to store ice for the imperial family during the Qing dynasty and, more recently, was also used by the China's governmental elite to store seafood. In 2008 it was renovated into a beautiful fine dining restaurant. Needless to say, this restaurant is best appreciated in summer. No air conditioning needed.

Take the the view with a cocktail at Capital M

Take the the view with a cocktail at Capital M

If you're after a 'noon with a view', then look no further than Capital M. When the air is clear and the weather is warm, sit back and relax away from the hustle and bustle and take in the sights that this beautiful city has to offer.

Go to Huguosi snack street for old Beijing treats

Go to Huguosi snack street for old Beijing treats

If you're in the mood for some traditional Chinese munch that's kind to your wallet, Huguosi snack street is definitely worth a visit.

Try a Chinese superfood

Try a Chinese superfood

Natural health tonics were popular with the Chinese Imperial crowd centuries before SoCal urbanites started touting the benefits of kale and quinoa. But while ginseng and cordyceps can cost more than their weight in gold, you don't have to burn a hole in your pocket to eat healthily in China. Check out our guide to Chinese superfoods commonly found at the local vegetable market.

Picnic in Beihai Park

Picnic in Beihai Park

Hidden behind high walls, it’s easy to forget about sprawling Beihai Park despite its central location northwest of the Forbidden City.

Formerly an imperial garden, Beihai is perfect for breezy spring afternoons. Pack some sandwiches, baozi and a few beers and you’ll be sorted for a lazy afternoon on the water – we've even prepared our own handy guide for packing up a picnic in Beijing. Live large and go for the duck paddle boats, we say.

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