Chinese Cuisine Part II: Explore the Tastes of Chinese Ethnic Food in Beijing

Chinese Cuisine Part II: Explore the Tastes of Chinese Ethnic Food in Beijing
By Talbot Leiter ,

The eight traditional cuisines of China reside mainly in the Han-majority regions, including Hunan and Jiangsu, but what of the rest of the country? After all, China contains many (some disputed) territories within its national identity that do not necessarily share the Han culinary traditions of Sichuan spice or Mao's pork belly, and the minority groups that live within them do make some fantastic grub. In this Chinese cuisine part II article we will explore the tastes of Chinese ethnic food, and show you where you can try them in Beijing.

Taiwanese food, stinky tofu
Taiwanese stinky tofu.
Source:  Carrie Kellenberger

1) Dongbei
Previously known as Manchuria, Dongbei is the Northeastern corner of China. Winters are long and thus locally grown goods are scarce. As a result, cuisine here relies mainly on preserving, pickling, salting and usually accompanied by wheat based noodles and steamed buns. Pickled cabbage (suancai), cornmeal porridge, and sweet red bean buns are part of the everyday diet. Fish is extremely popular along the lakes and coastlines, where villages brave the cold to catch the trout and sturgeon beneath the ice. Raw fish and vegetables are also served along the coastlines, a characteristic unique compared to the other regions of China.

Try: The braised venison, fish-head soup or salty duck.

Nanjia Xiaoguan (那家小馆) )View In Map

Add: 10 Yonganli, Jianguomen Waidajie, Chaoyang District, Beijing (South of Xinhua Insurance Building)
地址:建国门外大街永安里10号(双子座大厦南侧, 119中学西侧
Tel: 6567 3663, 6568 6553
Opening hours: 11:30- 22:00
Getting there: Take Metro Line 1 to Yonganli

2) Taiwan
Despite the ongoing dispute, no one can deny the intimate ties Taiwanese food shares with mainland Chinese cuisine; not to mention language, history, and identity. As an island, Taiwan has developed its own take on Chinese cuisine, while simultaneously marrying the aboriginal and Japanese influences with other ingredients. Because of the subtropical climate and volcano-formed mountain ranges, fresh fruits, seafood and teas not found on the mainland can be found here. Taiwanese snacks, like tapas, are famous the world over and include Taiwanese sausage wrapped in salty, sticky rice, eggs stewed in soy sauce, and oyster omelet with tapioca and chrysanthemum. 

Try: Taiwanese stinky tofu, deep fried egg tofu, octopus and fish flakes

Before and After Restaurant (饭前饭后)View In Map
Add: A13 NanxinCang Gucangqun, Dongsishitiao, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Tel: 6405 6978
Opening hours: 11:00-22:00
Getting there: Take Metro Line 2 to Dongsishitiao

3) Yunnan
One of the most popular regional cuisines with expatriates, Yunnan Province in the southwest part of China contains the greatest diversity of Chinese ethnic food as it has 26 of China’s 52 ethnic groups living within its borders. The resulting cuisine varies from the Northern region bordering Tibet and the Southern region near Laos and Myanmar. Using what is often considered subtropical ingredients like green chili, coriander, mint, and flowers, Yunnan food represents a lighter, spicier fair with a palatable finish.

Try: Spicy mint salad, Rubing (fried goat's cheese) and Mixian (rice noodles).

Dali Renjia (大理人家) View In Map

Add: 80 Baochao Hutong, Dongcheng District, Beijing (100m north of Gulou Dongdajie)
Tel: 8402 2479
Opening Hours: 10:30-23:00
Getting there: Take Metro Line 2 to Gulou Dajie

Here is a list of other options for finding Yunnan food in the Capital.

4) Xinjiang
China's only majority Muslim region, Xinjiang has been a mysterious yet coveted area (for its natural resources). Although covering one sixth of the country, it contains only a small fraction of the population. First conquered because of its thru-route to the Silk Road, Xinjiang's population has now traveled all over China, opening up restaurants and sharing their unique spices and breads. Famous for their lamb leg, tomato sauces and cumin-spiced barbequed naan bread, the Xinjiang people bring the ingredients from bordering countries like Kazakstan, Turkmenistan and combine them with influences from other border regions like Gansu Province, Russia, and Mongolia.

Try: Fried noodles in tomato-based sauce, tomatoes with sugar, barbequed lamb and vegetables.

Cresent Moon (弯弯的月亮)View In Map

Add: 16 Dongsi Liutiao, Dongsi Beidajie, Dongchang District, Beijing
Tel: 6400 5281
Opening hours: 11:00-23:00
Getting there: Take Metro Line 5 to Zhangzizhonglu

5) Tibet
Tibetans live all over China now and there is a Han majority in the Tibet Autonomous Region; but this does not change the fact that the Tibetan cuisine remains unique amongst regions in China. No doubt a reflection of its climate and mountainous terrain, barley, meats, broth, and noodles are the staple foods in Tibetan cuisine. Also unique is the consumption of dairy products coming from the working yak; including butter, cheese and yogurt. Heavy, hearty and best in cold weather, Tibetan food maintains a quality and taste found nowhere else in China.

Try: Shab Tra (meat stir-fried with celery) and de-thuk (yak broth soup with noodles and dried beef)

Makye Ame (玛吉阿米)View In Map

Add: 11A Xiushui Nanjie, Jianguomenwai, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Tel: 6506 9616
Opening hours: 10:00-24:00
Getting there: Take Metro Line 6 to Hujialou

6) Gansu
Bordering Tibet is Gansu Province, home to the majority of the Hui population of China; who migrated from Central Asia along the Silk Road hundreds years ago. Due to a sizable Muslim population, the main meats eaten are lamb and goat, as well as starches include potatoes, beans and barley. You will not find many pork dishes in Gansu cuisine but a must-have are the pulled noodles - famous all over China for their unique preparation method and flavor.

Try: The lily stuffed with bean paste, assorted cold meat dishes and beef noodles.

Fetian Dasha (飞天大厦 )View In Map
Add: Gansu Provincial Government Office, 5 Guangqumen Wainanjie, Chongwen District, Beijing
Tel: 6777 8000
Getting there: Take Metro Line 5 to Ciqikou
(Currently this place only has private rooms, so best to book ahead to avoid disappointment)

7) Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia, like Tibet, remains an autonomous region in China but still maintains a significant Mongol minority. The region also has one of the highest GDPs in the country with its many natural resources. With many dialects and vast grasslands, the cuisine of Inner Mongolia mixes Han Chinese and Mongolian influences to make a cuisine familiar to many western nations due to its wide use of dairy, large portions of meat and potatoes, and the occasional Russian-style salad or slaw on the side.

Try: Hot-pot and bbq, lamb leg and Mongolian-style ice cream.

Mandehai Mongolian Restaurant (满德海蒙古食府)View In Map
Add: 10 Weigongcun Jie, Haidian District, Beijing
Tel: 010 8842 0854
Opening hours: 10:00-14:00, 17:00-22:00
Getting there: Take Metro Line 4 to National Library

Here is a list of other options for Mongolian food in the capital.

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Keywords: Chinese ethnic food Chinese cuisine; minority groups; regional dishes


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Really interesting! Long list of Beijing special bites to be experienced...

Aug 04, 2019 19:09 Report Abuse


Amazing taste buds and flavour. I love coming to Beijing just for the food and unusual dishes. In Melbourne we have many wonderful Beijing restaurants. I am looking forward to my next visit in September, October and November.

Mar 13, 2014 12:32 Report Abuse