Eat your way through China

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Superstore offers vast array of Sino snacks

 Superstore offers vast array of Sino snacks

"This one's not like our other project," promised Hou Jia, president of the Old Beijing Traditional Snack Association and the Beijing Wan Feng Snack Company. "This one's different." He's talking about their newly opened 10,000-square-meter China Wan Feng Xiaochi (the latter means "snacks"), which - unlike his Jiu Men Xiaochi three-story snack shop that only offers old Beijing brands to the public - will sell a China-wide selection of 3,000 bites from 34 regions of the country.

"Without our traditional foods being promoted, coffee and burgers could be what Chinese end up eating all day long," Hou warned. He has 106 stalls cooking "character-istic" snacks for customers, about 30 of which are completely new to the city. These include the Ji Xiang Zhi Yuan stall, selling fresh buttered Tibetan zanba, cooked from barley flour mixed with beans and barley wine by native Tibetan chefs; Tan-Tsai noodles and oyster omelets sold by famous Taiwanese brand Du Xiaoyue; Xinjiang samosas; Changsha stinky tofu and Yunnan ham white flour pancakes.

Things were busy on our morning visit, with children jostling for lamb kebabs, couples recommending their native snacks to each other and customers crowding around some freshly cooked mutton, choosing cuts with the Mongolian chef. Li Xinghe, 50, and his wife paid 60 yuan for Taiwanese green bean pancakes with seafood and two Tibetan yogurts. "We heard about it on TV," he explained between mouthfuls, nodding at the various stalls. "There's so much here, we might have more later."

Indeed, it's a fun and touristy way to spend a few hours, with handicraft stalls selling things like time-honored Wang Mazi scissors, Mongolian knives, or coconut shell artworks and jewelry from Hainan, while some more unusual preparation techniques draw an audience, such as Kong Liansheng, a sixth-generation sugar-blower specializing in customers' birth animals. "I just taught a girl to blow a cock and we both enjoyed it," he told us.

You may now eat the bride

Such traditional skills and crafts will be promoted with a range of activities, Hou told us. He even has a seminar room furnished in old-fashioned Chinese style, where culture training courses will be taught. These include a traditional table manners course next month, and cooking courses in Wan Feng techniques for foreigners. "They'll be free, at least initially," Hou said. "We care more about developing the brand than making money."

There'll even be the almost-obligatory museum, devoted to historical snacks and old cooking tools from around China.

Best of all, if you're a food-loving couple, will be the future opportunity to get hitched here. Two courtyards are under construction for that very purpose, and Hou is planning on keeping it very real indeed: "The first event I want to have is a 100 percent Chinese wedding. Every step of it, the couples' vows, kowtowing to the parents and serving tea. Guests' car would be not allowed to park, even if you're driving a Benz 900." Hou also vowed, "This ceremony would be on the house."

In fact, Hou told us that should any of our readers wish to marry in a three-story Chinese building with 25 separate rooms and an opera platform, they should get in touch with him. The venue's not completed yet and he's looking ideally for a "half-Chinese, half-Caucasian" couple for the free nuptials, which would best express the "cultural diversity offered by Chinese traditions." If you think you're the one, give him a call below.

Add: No. 306, Wan Feng Road, Fengtai district

Tel: 6488-6868

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