First published on 15 Aug 2012. Updated on 23 Aug 2012.
If you haven’t eaten under 30RMB, you haven’t lived! With the hot weather turning pavements into meeting places, this is the perfect time to take a bite out of the city’s snack culture. We run down three great places for street food, each with highlights. Get out there and eat!
In the Qing Dynasty, a temple fair was held here on the eighth day of every lunar month. The fair is long gone, but its food is still served on Huguo Si Jie, west of Beihai and straight outside Line 4’s Pingan Li station. Huguosi Xiaochidian (护国寺小吃店) is the best known venue, with more than 80 varieties of snacks, but there are other treats here too…
Dalian Huoshao (褡裢火烧)
If you like pan-fried dumplings, you’ll love these. Dalian huoshao
(褡裢火烧) is a crispy-skinned ‘pie’ that dates back to 1876. You can’t go wrong with the tasty traditional filling of pork scallion (猪肉大葱, 10RMB), but the pork leek (猪肉韭菜, 10RMB), and pork fennel (猪肉茴香, 10RMB) are also good. One order of six chocolate-bar sized pies is 10RMB, but there’s a minimum purchase of two portions. The mostly male clientele pairs these pies with beer and cigarettes. They’re great with a cold beer, but the second-hand smoke is an acquired taste. 75 Huguo Si Jie, Xicheng district (130 2105 8366). Open 11am-2pm; 5pm-9pm 西城区护国寺大街75号
Hejian Lu Rou Huoshao (河间驴肉火烧)
Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it – donkey meat sandwiches are the bomb! If you’re a Philly cheesesteak fan, you might like this local dive. Crispy pan-fried bread is stuffed with tender, chopped donkey meat and green peppers for love at first bite. It isn’t as scary as it sounds – it tastes like deliciously tender corned beef – but friends from outside China may be impressed all the same. Order a lu rou huoshao
(驴肉火烧, 4RMB) to go as you continue to explore the area. 57 Huguosi Jie, Xicheng district (132 6316 3847). Open 9am-11.30pm. 西城区护国寺大街57号
Train your way to Line 1’s Xidan station near the south-west corner of the Second Ring Road and take Exit B. Walk north, then turn right on Dachenggou Hutong (大秤钩胡同). Follow this winding hutong past a handful of undesirable stalls and all the way to its conclusion, keeping left at the public bathroom, until you pop out onto Zhongsheng Hutong (钟声胡同), an alley teeming with treats.
Xidan Chi Ku (西单翅酷)
The name of this popular joint literally translates to ‘Xidan’s cool wings’. Lively with groups and couples, and the occasional shirtless drunk staggering outside for a smoke: he’s having a good time! Order fiery-hot chicken wings (金牌烤翅双面, 6RMB) coated with chilli flakes beyond recognition. Grill-toasted mantou
(烤馒头片, 1RMB) with furu
(red-fermented tofu, similar in flavour to Marmite) and a mountain of spicy, deep-fried shredded potato (双土豆丝, 12RMB) are scrumptious savouries cajoling you to join the beer-drinking lot. 15 Zhongsheng Hutong, Xidan Books Building east, Xicheng district (6603 2605). 9am-2pm, 4.30-9.30pm. 西城区西单图书大厦东侧钟声胡同15号
Tianxia Di Yi Fen (天下第一粉)
Just up from Xidan Chi Ku is a stall selling suan la fen(酸辣粉, 7RMB), a dish tangy with vinegar fumes that hit your nostrils and kick-start a fresh appetite. Scarlet with chilli-bean paste and aromatic with pickled vegetables, peanuts, and coriander, these slippery mung-bean noodles are a delicious slurp on the go. They’re found in a few other snack stalls within Xidan district, too, but don’t pay more than 8RMB. 26 Zhongsheng Hutong (opposite Xidan Chi Ku), Xicheng district (150 1100 3637). 10am-midnight. 西城区钟声胡同26号(西单翅酷对面)
Pull yourself away from Sanlitun and head to Baijiazhuang Lu, south-east of The Village. Cross the bridge over the Third Ring Road to Tuanjiejhu, where you’ll find food stalls and shops of a safer calibre than those on Sanlitun Houjie. Our two favourites are below.
Ping Wa Sanbao (平娃三宝)
This is one of the best places for fat, chewy Shaanxi noodles, or you po che mian
(油泼扯面, 15.5RMB). Late last year, the store reopened off Baijiazhuang Lu as a two-storey snack spot with an outside terrace and two large cold cases of meats, offal and veggies to grill. If 2RMB mutton bits elsewhere aren’t cutting it, try large brochettes of lamb (烤羊肉, 8RMB a stick) and wash them down with a bullet-shaped pitcher of Tsingtao (35RMB, 1.8 litres). A-10 Xiangjunzhuang Lu, Zhongfang Jie, Chaoyang district. (across the street and east of Haidilao Hotpot) (6503 1831). Open 24 hours daily. 中纺街向军庄路甲10 号(近白家庄路)
Chang Fu Xuan (畅福轩)
Offering hotpot in winter and roasts in summer, this is the largest restaurant on the block, and has outside dining. Black pepper chicken wings (黑椒鸡翅, 6RMB a skewer) are perfect for those who love chicken without the burn of chilli flakes. Grilled veggies are gratifying – order green beans (烤豆角, 8RMB) and butterflied eggplant (烤茄子, 8RMB) that is so soft you can drag your chopsticks through, extracting supple strands seasoned with chilli, cumin and salt. 8 Tuanjiehu Beilu, Chaoyang district. (6582 8276). Open 10.30pm-11pm. 朝阳区团结湖北口头条8号