Beijing's traditional snack foods are irresistible to visitors to the Chinese capital. Their names alone are enough to entice the curious diner, with local specialties including, ludagun (驴打滚donkey roll about), wandouhuang (豌豆黄pea yellow), aiwowo (艾窝窝), tang'erduo (糖耳朵sugar ear), and hama tumi (蛤蟆吐蜜toad spit honey).
Some of these snack foods have existed for 600 years. When foods pass the test of time, they become classics, with the history and stories behind them becoming part of the attraction. The coming Spring Festival is a good chance to get acquainted with some of these age-old foods, as Beijing's temple fairs will certainly feature these as part of their attractions.
Ludagun is a steamed millet cake with mashed red bean stuffing, rolled in ground soy bean powder. Wandouhuang is boiled pease jelly. And aiwowo is a small, snow-white, round glutinous rice cake with assorted sweet stuffing. Tang'erduo is brown sugar and flour cake soaked in maltose. Hama tumi is a cake with red bean stuffing and a crack on the surface.
Other traditional snacks are tanghulu (糖葫芦), candied hawthorn fruit on skewer, miancha (面茶), fried flour tea, doufunao (豆腐脑), tender bean curd jelly, jiangzhi paicha'er (姜汁排叉儿), ginger flavored crisp flour slices boiled in maltose, tangjuanguo (糖卷果), sweet Chinese yam and jujube cake, naiyou zhagao (奶油炸糕), deep-fried milk cream flour ball, tanghuoshao (糖火烧), roast cake with brown sugar and sesame paste.
Some snacks have fallen from favor, deemed too oily, or too sweet for modern palates. Others remain popular among the Chinese, but are usually not to foreign tastes. These include baodu (爆肚), boiled beef stomach slices served with sesame paste, and luzhu huoshao (卤煮火烧), boiled assorted beef giblets with cake.
These traditional snacks are available at xiaochi or snacks restaurants. Beijing Nine-Traditional Snack Restaurant (九门小吃Jiumen Xiaochi), located at Shichahai, has remade Menkuang Hutong, a famous snacks center at Qianmen before its demolition. Nanlaishun (南来顺) is a Muslim restaurant.
Story by Ye Jun and photo by Lu Zhongqiu
Beijing 9-Traditional Snack Restaurant. 九门小吃
10:30am-1:30pm, 5pm-9pm. 1 Xiaoyou Hutong, north side of Houhai, Xicheng District. 6402-5858. 西城区后海北沿孝友胡同1号
12 Nancaiyuan Jie, Xuanwu District, south to the west gate of Grand View Garden. 6353-4720. 宣武区南菜园街12号(大观园西门南侧)
Di'anmen Traditional Snacks Restaurant地安门小吃店
6am-8pm. 180 Di'anmenwai Dajie, Xicheng District. 6404-2946. 西城区地安门外大街180号
Huoguosi Traditional Snacks Restaurant 护国寺小吃店
6am-8pm. 93 Huguosi, Xicheng District. 6618-1705. 西城区护国寺93号
(China Daily February 2, 2008)