Chinese Cuisine

China is proud of its culinary art. People from various countries and regions can now enjoy famous foods from Guangdong, Sichuan, Hunan, Anhui, Shandong, Huaiyang, Fujian and Beijing without leaving the capital.

During the Qing Dynasty, restaurants were classed by names. Those ending with "Tang" were of the first grade; "Lou" and "Ju," serving feudal nobles and high Manchu and Han officials, were of the second. Third grade restaurants were known as "Erhunpu" and fourth as "Fanpu." Restaurants with these grade classifications still the streets of Beijing.

After the Revolution of 1911 many southern Chinese opened eating establishments in the capital. The Manchus, as their wealth declined, opened restaurants imitating foods from the imperial kitchen.

The Beijing People's Government has, since 1949, encouraged the development of restaurants. Now you can taste everything from Korean cold noodles and Islamic food to Mongolian hot pot and Mexican tacos.

Night markets line the sidewalks in busy shopping and hotel areas serving a range of snacks. You can find, among other things, Guangdong touming xiajiao (transparent shrimp dumplings), Xinjiang lamb kabob, Italian spaghetti, Japanese noodles, Beijing roast duck, almond tea, baked corn, and American hamburgers.

Below are a few of the cuisines and restaurants, which have developed their own trademark in Beijing, the gourmet capital of China.

Fangshan Palace Recipe

Fangshan Restaurant in Beihai Park prepares dishes in the style of the imperial kitchen of the Qing court. After the Revolution of 1911, cooks in the imperial kitchen were no longer needed, and in 1925 a group of them gathered to open the Beihai establishment. Among their better-known dishes are: chicken breast saute, Luohan prawn, stewed venison, stuffed mandarin fish, "phoenix in its nest," frog and abalone and "Buddha's hand rolls." In recent years the "complete Manchu-Han banquet" of the Qing court has been revived. It consists of 234 hot dishes and 48 cold dishes, cakes and fruit.

Tan Family Dishes

The Tan Family opened their Cantonese cuisine restaurant at eh end of the Qing Dynasty.

Tan Zongjun and his son, both members of Qing court officialdom, were fond of gourmet food. The family developed a large collection of recipes to suit their tastes. Their food was famous for its fine ingredients cooked carefully to retain the flavor and light, fresh seasonings.

In 1988 the Tan family restaurant was moved to Beijing Hotel and Tan family food is now one of the four famous hotel cuisines.

Roast Mutton and Beef

Roast meat has a history of several hundred years in Beijing. In the book History of the Ming Court: Favorite Food, there is a line: "At snowfall, plum flowers are viewed; roast mutton is eaten in warm rooms."

Roast meat was known as "tent food" or "field food" for centuries among the nomads of northern China. Later when utensils and cooking methods were improved, it developed its own unique flavor. There are two famous restaurants in Beijing that serve roast meat: Kaorouji, known for its roast mutton, located on the north shore of Shichahai; and Kaorouwan, famous for roast beef, located on Xuanwumennei Street.

Hot Pot Mutton

Mutton has always played an important part in the northern diet; hot pot is one of the preferred means of preparation. Donglaishun, once a small porridge stall in the Dong' an Bazaar, is known for its mutton from Inner Mongolia sliced very thin and heated at the table in such a chafing dish.

Sauce fir dipping the meat is prepared from a combination of seven seasonings: sesame paste, fermented bean curd, salty chive flowers, Shaoxing wine, Soya, pepper oil and bitter shrimp oil. Cloves of sweet garlic and small flat bread complement the meat.

Smaller restaurants also serve hot pot. The season generally lasts from October to April.

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