Beijing has always been a city of foods, and despite the absurd stereotypes of scorpions on sticks or dog meat being the delicacies of the city, there are so many more foods out there on which newcomers often miss out. See below for what a native Beijinger would consider the must-try foods in Beijing.
Spring Rolls 春卷
When you actually try real spring rolls in Beijing, you'll find your tummy turning into rolls while craving more of the crispy yet non-greasy thin fried tofu or dough-wrapped rolls, with fillings from mixed veggie bean sprout or leak egg and grass noodles, to pork mushroom and carrot.
Rolling Donkey: Glutinous Rice Rolls with Sweet Bean Flour 驴打滚
Although the name may throw you off at first, this dessert was once served in the imperial courts of China. In reality, the snack isn’t really made out of "rolling donkeys," but consists of cooked glutinous rice rolled in sweet bean flour and red bean filling.
Sugared Hawthorn Kebob 糖葫芦
Nothing like good old hawthorns on a stick. With the combination of sour hawthorn and a thick, well-sugared coat on the outside, these two simultaneously rich flavors not only remind you of your childhood but also of the holidays and the new year just around the corner. Listing this as one of the must-try foods in Beijing is a no brainer.
The Pancake 煎饼
This crispy, savory snack is a bit different from the normal breakfast pancakes you see in iHop. It consists of a thin layer of corn crepe, a layer of fried chip, an egg, and some sesame and spring onion for topping. This would be the number one option for Beijingers to grab on their way to work.
Fried Cream Cake 奶油炸糕
A near-equivalent to the donut (but much softer and lighter), the fried cream cake is considered (surprisingly) one of the healthier street food options. Full of protein, this creamy fried pastry made of beaten eggs and dipped in sugar is an all-time favorite.
Wuyutai Matcha Ice Cream 吴裕泰冰淇淋
Not much can be said about this phenomenal matcha ice cream sold from Wuyutai, the oldest and best-known tea shop in China. Along with the two tea-flavored ice creams–green tea and jasmine tea–Wuyutai also offers a selection of matcha snacks from cakes to cookies.
Hawthorn Pudding Cake 山楂糕
Another sour and sugary sweet made with hawthorns, but this time in the form or a gelatin pudding mixed with sweet osmanthus flower. You can call it either jello or cake but it will melt in your mouth just after one bite, leaving behind a sweet and sour taste.
Sweet Stuffed Soup Dumplings 汤圆
Although this glutinous snack did not originate in Beijing, it is still a common item found in almost all restaurants and shops. Made from chewy glutinous flour and a sweet filling (commonly peanut or black sesame), the sweet soup dumpling is the ultimate dessert during any festivity that would make even non-dessert-eaters crave it.
Baked Biscuit 烧饼
If you're a fan of the British scone or thick crusted pizzas, then the baked biscuit will be your next favorite breakfast pastry. Although the baked biscuit is one of the simplest pastries (consisting of only salt and dough), it is the rough texture and plainness that make the baked biscuit a perfect alternative to sugary pastries.
Noodles in Soybean Paste 炸酱面
Even though zha jiang noodles may seem overly simple or even crude, it is the homemade warm soybean paste that brings them to life. To a local Beijinger, mixing soybean paste with a bowl of fresh hand-made noodles and some shredded beets, spring onions, and edamame makes the most delicious bowl of noodles in the world.