Thin slices of mutton are dipped in sauces before they are grilled. [Photo:sina.com.cn]
Mutton dominates the tables of many Beijing families in winter usually in the form of hot pot. But there is another way to enjoy the succulent red meat.
While barbecued mutton in Beijing does not take a back seat to hot pot, it is not quite as popular. Yet, some Beijingers clearly prefer barbecued mutton to hotpot. Houweiju is among the small number of old family restaurants in the capital that specialize in barbecued mutton.
Tucked away in a hutong near the Second Ring Road, the restaurant does not offer diners fancy decorations or a spacious eating area, but has a somewhat homey appeal. It is always fully packed during lunch hour. Its customers are usually regular patrons, judging from their familiarity with the menu and easy manner with the grill.
The owner of the restaurant often sits by a table facing the door, sipping a cup of tea and overseeing the business. He introduces first-time customers to different parts of the meat as well as preparation techniques. You can choose to barbecue the meat yourself or have it done by the waiters. Don't under estimate the patience and skill required for the job as the tenderness and taste of the mutton depend on many small steps such as when to place it on the grill.
The sliced mutton is thoroughly soaked in sauces before it is grilled to increase its flavor. Fresh vegetables such as eggplant and mushrooms can be barbecued along with the meat.
The second most popular dish here is handmade noodles served on an iron plate with mixed with vegetables and pieces of mutton dipped in vinegar.
To counter the taste of the grease from the mutton, the restaurant offers several cold dishes such as pickled radishes and cucumbers.
A satisfactory meal for two usually costs about 100 yuan—quite reasonable compared with meals at similar eateries. But if you plan to come during peak serving hours, you will likely have to wait for a table.
Address: No. 1 Xijing Road, Xicheng District