Beijing's 25 best dishes

Don't leave Beijing without sampling these moreish delights

We make it our job (literally) to know the best of Beijing so we can tell you what’s good. Here’s our guide to the very tastiest things to eat. Get started with glittery threesomes, slurping up what we call ‘crack noodles’ and sinking your teeth into some delicious sweets.

Meat

Peking duck

Peking duck

We'd be mad if we didn't include Peking duck on our list of the best dishes in Beijing. It's Beijing's premier culinary export, after all. Being such a traditional staple, it's hard to choose just one place to get your fix of crispy meat, unctuous hoisin sauce and sharp shreds of vegetable, all wrapped up in delicate, translucent pancakes. We're getting a bit overwhelmed just thinking about it. Jing Yaa Tang does a particularly fine kaoya at The Opposite House, but for more (and cheaper) options, check our our guide to Beijing's best Peking duck restaurants.


Price From 128RMB

Red miso braised tendon

Red miso braised tendon

It’s hard to order poorly at Vin Vie, so you’ll always have that on your side. But with this one, the kitchen’s really pulled out all the stops. Achingly soft tendon (still with a bit of chew) has been braised in red miso until submission, then – blammo! – a soft boiled egg. Get baguette slices for dipping and you’re set. This is such a perfect winter dish that you’ll even want it in summer.

Price 45RMB
Where Vin Vie

Chicken with sweet sour sauce

Chicken with sweet sour sauce

A little bit spicy, a little bit sweet and a little bit sour, this is pretty much perfection in a pot. It’s the ultimate balancing act that Chinese cuisines excel at. Don’t like chicken? You will now. It’s impossible to resist snapping up strips of this succulent wangfu paojiao ji (王府泡椒鸡).

Price 32RMB

Steak tartare

Steak tartare

Seasoned, oil-slicked raw beef, runny egg yolk and only the finest of Spanish anchovies – this is steak tartare, but not as you know it. This primal dish is a chilling, juicy delight.

Price 140RMB
Where Bistrot B

Roujiamo

Roujiamo

Roujiamo is possibly the perfect comfort food, and Qin Tang Fu is possibly the perfect place to snaffle them in Beijing. The bread is chewy and the pork inside is meltingly tender (and for 2RMB more you can double your portion). The sandwiches here eschew the street-style spicy peppers to focus on the flavour, done as fatty or lean as you like.

Price
8RMB

Braised pork belly with abalone

Braised pork belly with abalone

Luscious, fatty cubes of pork belly are ‘red-braised’, or hongshao, in light and dark soy sauce and aromatics – a common enough treatment, sure, but this version’s been turned up to 11 with slabs of abalone and generous shavings of black truffle. Oh hell yeah.

Price 358RMB (plus 10 percent service and 6 percent VAT)

Donkey burger

Donkey burger

If we had to pick sammie to be king of the Middle Kingdom, it’d be the donkey ‘burger’ (lürou huoshao, 驴肉火烧). Lean, protein-rich meat packed into an impossibly flaky bun – you’ll fall in love with this donkey quicker than Eeyore.

Price 10RMB

Beef carpaccio

Beef carpaccio

Can one bite be a dish? At the hands of chef Andrew Ahn, it is. Beef carpaccio is great any way you cut it, but Ahn has upped the game in a serious way. A paper-thin slice of beef is wrapped around a sesame-soy-sauce ‘sphere’ and a raw quail egg, then topped with black truffle, pear, pine nuts, and chive. It packs the punch of a full meal in only a bite. We’re all in.

Price 18RMB per piece
Where One Pot

Twice-cooked pork

Twice-cooked pork

Sure, sometimes you want inventive, but other times you just want a blow-your-socks-off rendition of a classic. And this is exactly what Zhang Mama serves up. Packing blistering chilli heat, yet still surprisingly complex, this is a huiguo rou (回锅肉) you won’t forget.

Price 28RMB
Where Zhang Mama

Fried chicken sub

Fried chicken sub

Healthy? No. But our love of fried chicken knows no bounds. We’ll take it any which way – Korean, Taiwanese or deep South. Crackling crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, this fried chicken’s stuck in an Italian sub and topped with peppery rocket. Sheer brilliance.

Price 50RMB

Calzone al Salame

Calzone al Salame

This half-moon of cheesy delight is stuffed with ricotta and spicy salami, topped with lashings of mozzarella and olive oil. A serious contender for one of the best things we've eaten in Beijing.


Price 88RMB
Where Bottega

Vegetables

Shakshuka

Shakshuka

The Shaksuka (a traditional Middle Eastern breakfast bowl) at The Orchid combines two poached eggs on a seasoned tomato base with a side of zhug – a mixture of coriander and chilli paste, and some toasted bings to help shovel it all down. 

Price 70RMB

Tempura

Tempura

So, it's not exactly a single dish, but the tempura – pretty much all of it – at Xi Yi Lang is unbeatable. How can you choose just one ingredient? We've picked a whole menu. Go for the 300RMB set which will load you up with more ethereally light, fried goodness than you can imagine.

Price 300RMB
Where Xi Yi Lang 

Dry pot cauliflower

Dry pot cauliflower

Ganguo huacai (干锅花菜) is a common enough dish on the standard Chinese menu, but Nice Rice hits it spot-on. Like all of this Hunan eatery's dishes, the ingredients in its dry-pot cauliflower are inarguably fresh. Tossed with chillies and touch of Chinese bacon to kick up the flavour, this dish is A+.

Price 36RMB
Where Nice Rice

Seafood

Sole meunière

Sole meunière

Douse anything in brown butter and it's hard not to love. But Bistrot B's version of the French classic is exceptional – you won't just fall in love, you'll be obssessing. Tender sole lightly battered, pan-fried and anointed with a browned butter, parsley and lemon sauce studded with capers. Count our hearts conquered.

Price 280RMB (plus 10 percent service and 6 percent VAT)
Where Bistrot B

Cream and curry flavoured dough stick

Cream and curry flavoured dough stick

If you’ve ever thought a youtiao is the poorman’s doughnut (we get it, no sugar), Madam Zhu will change your mind. Tinged with yellow curry and stuffed with shrimp, fried dough has never felt so wrong but been so right. They won’t keep so eat them all. Permission granted.

Price 58RMB

Sea scallops

Sea scallops

At their worst, scallops are rubbery, albino knobs of a thing. At their best? You’ll find them at Mosto. Seared, then set on a bed of sautéed shitake mushrooms and a dollop of parley mojo, capped with onion compote, these babies have something serious going on. Seasonal availability.

Price 125RMB
Where Mosto

Three cup cod fish

Three cup cod fish

We’re fans of pretty much everything at The Opposite House’s paean to regional Chinese and Peking duck, but the 'three- cup' cod fish is bonkers. At once both sweet and savoury, this claypot dish offers up tender chunks of cod fish tossed with basil and cloves of roasted garlic. A simple classic, yet totally seductive.

Price 238RMB plus 10 percent service and 6 percent VAT.

Calamares fritos

Calamares fritos

It feels wrong saying that the best thing on the menu isn’t a taco (though man, those shrimp ones? Daaayum!) but we might just have to. Tossed in a light batter, deep-fried and served up with pickled vegetables and a spicy aioli, a dish of this crispy calamari can’t survive five minutes on our table. Order one per head, and you’ll still have at least one too few.

Price 45RMB
Where Taco Bar

Noodles

Dandan mian

Dandan mian

Complex, mesmerising, and with a squeeze of lime, this is dandan mian like you’ve never had it. When you can get a bowl for 6RMB, why would you ever pay more than five times that? Cause it’s elegant, inventive and there’s nothing else in the world like it.

Price 35RMB
Where Transit

You'po mian

You'po mian

We call these ‘crack noodles’. Spicy from the chilli, tangy from the vinegar and with the perfect amount of chew, you’ll be addicted in no time. Unlike any other you’po chemian (油泼扯面)… there must be something extra in the He family’s ‘secret sauce’.

Price 25RMB

The sweet stuff

Pistachio trio

Pistachio trio

If you turn down a threesome covered in gold flakes any time, you’re a fool. But it’s especially true at Opera, where pistachio in three ways – ice cream, custard and whole nuts – form a sultry, unforgettable trio. It’s not on the menu anymore, but order and thou shalt receive.

Price 128RMB

Ricotta pancakes

Ricotta pancakes

Sorry Aunt Jemima – this, friends, is a pancake. Farm-to-table is gospel here, and the humble pancake gets a major upgrade because of it. Stuffed until nearly bursting, the fresh ricotta is made in-house with milk from cows on the restaurant’s farm. You can almost taste their life of idyll in these pillow-soft flapjacks. Breakfast here is a dream – drizzled in syrup, of course.

Price 45RMB

Dessert platter

Dessert platter

The house-made pappardelle with rabbit ragu wasn’t enough? Brace yourself for the creamiest panna cotta in the city, an ultra-rich, espresso-packed tirasmisu and an Italian rice pudding cake. It’s unreal.

Price 58RMB
Where Mercante

Passion fruit tart

Passion fruit tart

Sometimes we miss the extravagance of a true French pastry. Then we remember Jiang Mai Tang. The almond-chocolate croissants are to die for, but the passion fruit tart is that and then some. Sinfully velvety and the perfect size to eat yourself. We won’t tell.

Price 30RMB

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