Peppery Pleasantries – Beijing’s Best Sichuan Restaurants

Are you looking for a way to challenge and entertain your tastebuds? Look no further than this list of Beijing’s best Sichuan restaurants, which specialize in making your tongue tingle! If you need something sweet to cool yourself down afterward, check out Glutton Guide Beijing for suggestions!

Sichuan’s cuisine is becoming famous all over the world and rightly so. It can be spelled in many ways (Szechuan, anyone?), but comes down to two types of heats “ma” and “la”, or Sichuan peppercorn and chili pepper, respectively. These two ingredients are used to masterful effect, creating dishes that reverberate as a lip-tingling delight. There’s also a sense of adventure, like gnawing on spicy rabbit heads, and an eye for the dramatic, such as the ‘three big cannonshots’ (san da pao) – a traditional Chengdu street snack involving flinging three balls of sweet, sticky rice against a metal tray dusted with ground peanut and toasted soy. Sichuan cuisine: you have to see it to believe it.

Chuanjingban Canting 川京办餐厅

 

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This eatery run by Sichuan Provincial Government Of ce, known to all as Chuanban, is always busy and for good reason. Firstly, the location is one of the most accessible for locals and tourists alike of such provincial of ces in the city. Secondly, Sichuan food with its numbing spice have become one of the nation’s best culinary exports – no matter how it is spelled – and this restaurant serves some of the most authentic (read: spicy) dishes in the capital.

Haidilao 海底捞

 

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Open 24-hours a day, Sichuan-bred chain Haidilao is the ultimate contemporary Chinese dining experience. Waits can be long during peak times, but free manicures, shoe shines and snacks while you wait are almost as much of the attraction as the spicy hotpot. Bonus points for the massive DIY dipping sauce bars and the option of half portions for smaller parties of two or three.

Sanyangcai 三样菜

 

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Sichuan cuisine that people from Sichuan don’t complain about is a rare thing outside of the province, but San Yang Cai keeps everyone quiet. Satisfactorily spicy, the diverse menu touches on every aspect of the cuisine and you get free beer to wash it all down if you spend over RMB 100. 

Chuanren Xiang 川仁巷

For a whirlwind tour of Chengdu’s noodles, this is your stop. Though Sichuanese restaurants and Chengdu snack shops abound in Beijing, Chuanren Xiang is one of the few spots to try harder-to-find specialties like tianshui mian (“sweet water noodles” – thick noodles coated in a sweet- spicy sauce) or yibin ranmian (“burning noodles” – tossed with chili oil, toasted peanuts and pickled vegetables). Sampling a few of the 17 noodle varieties Chuanren Xiang offers is a must, but the other regional specialty dishes are equally stunning and shouldn’t be missed

Zhang Mama 张妈妈

The original location of this hole-in-the-wall Sichuan joint often has waits of over an hour spilling out into the hutong. It’s one of the cheapest, but best, meals you can get in the capital – if you’re into spice. Their no-frills attitude extends to service, and patrons are required to handwrite their order so keep the recommended ordering info on hand or ask a friendly dining neighbor.

Excited yet? Check out Glutton Guide Beijing for more delicious food! Let’s be honest: eating four or five meals a day while traveling is completely justified. 

Walking Through A Dream – Beijing’s Best Food Streets

Looking for a place to try Beijing’s most exciting street foods all at once and for low prices? Look no further than this list of Beijing’s best food streets for recommendations, and check out Glutton Guides Beijing for more sit-down restaurants, bars, desserts, and more!

Beijing may not boast picturesque lanes lined with vendors hawking snacks from their stalls in the open air, but still there are a couple culinary streets to cruise.

Huguosi Snack Street 国寺小吃街 

 

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From Changsha-style stinky tofu to Hangzhou soup dumplings, this pedestrian street in Beijing’s west offers a selection of regional snack foods. It is hands-down the best place to sample Beijing snacks, with the flagship outlet of Huguosi Xiaochidian (护国寺小吃店, 93 Huguosi Dajie) that serves up the whole range of ancient and contemporary treats.

Try traditional dishes like a millet and rice flour porridge topped with sesame paste (面茶 miàn chá) or even boiled tripe (爆肚 bàodǔ) – possibly an acquired taste but certainly a straight-up classic. Down the road, you’ll also find an outlet from donkey sandwich shop Wang Pangzi (113 Huguosi Dajie). The new Xintiandi mall (85 Huguosi Dajie) might be a bit of a blight on the traditional aesthetic of the street, but if you’ve had enough of Chinese food for the moment, head inside the mall to local pub Nbeer where you can try a massive variety of microbrews from around China. Also check out the decent Mexican restaurant Xalapa opened by an Argentinian expat.

Guijie 簋街 

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Known in English as ‘Ghost Street’ (pronounced guǐjiē), the ‘gui’ in the Chinese name for this two-block strip of street refers to an ancient bronze vessel for holding food. Apparently, in the Qing Dynasty, the deceased were transported out of town for burial via a nearby city gate (Dongzhimen); the street was lined with funeral shops and locals began referring to it colloquially as ‘Ghost Street’.

Only recently did the government change the name to characters with the same pronunciation but a different, more auspicious meaning. Now the street is jam-packed with Sichuan restaurants, which are open until the early morning or even 24 hours. The scene really gets going from around 8pm onwards, with crowds of young locals getting together for Chongqing-style roast fish (烤鱼 kǎo yú) and spicy crayfish (麻辣小龙虾 málà xiǎolóngxiā). Huda Restaurant (胡大饭店; 233 Dongzhimen Dajie) is a very popular choice for crayfish, but you can’t go wrong anywhere with a long line of customers waiting for a seat.

Touristy Food Streets

Wangfujing Snack Street 王府井小吃街

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This food street located east of the Forbidden City is one of the best-known food streets in Beijing. Here you’ll find yourself fighting crowds of selfie-stick wielding tourists for overpriced, tasteless and often downright questionable street foods. The main attraction is deep-fried skewers of scorpions, silkworm cocoons and even seahorses. If you’re into eating Fear Factor style, this busy, touristy market will provide some kicks. If you’re curious, use it as a reference for the huge variety of traditional snacks available in Beijing, but please, sample at other locations in the city provided in this guide. Prices are high, crowds are thick and the snack quality is very low, but it is a unique and curious scene. Donghuamen Night Market used to be nearby, another very popular snack street, however the government recently ordered it closed.

Nanluoguxiang 南锣鼓巷

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Nanluoguxiang is another well-known pedestrian street filled with souvenir shops and small snack stalls. It’s an adventure into modern China’s characteristic chaos and not for the faint of heart, as it tops domestic tourists’ lists. On weekends and temperate days, visitors regularly jam the narrow street and the occasional car pushes its way through. Snacks are more contemporary-style – churros, foot-and-a-half tall soft-serve swirls – but give an insight into mainstream Chinese youths’ tastes.

Can’t get enough of the delicious Beijing food you tried on the street? Why not take a look at Glutton Guide Beijing for more scrumptious suggestions? 

Steamy and Southern – Beijing’s Best Yunnan Restaurants

Looking to try the exciting flavors of Yunnan without leaving the east coast? Never fear — Glutton Guide’s list of Beijing’s best Yunnan restaurants will satisfy your tastebuds without the expensive plane ticket!

Yunnan can comfortably make a stake for being China’s most interesting region, and it has the cuisine to match. While you won’t get ferns as fresh as if they were picked from the mountainside, you will get to experience the most biodiverse food in China and mounds of mushrooms. Yunnan cuisine has a distinct Southeast Asian flavor thanks to its borders with Thailand, Burma and Vietnam.

Dianke Dianlai 滇客滇来 

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Lying in the shadows of the space-age Galaxy Soho building, this unforgettable courtyard restaurant hides away behind a red door marked by a lone number 8. Choose from three price points (RMB 128, 198 and 298) and prepare yourself for a delicious onslaught in the intimate, sun-dappled dining room. The kitchen serves up whatever is freshest that day, but happily accommodates dietary restrictions.

Little Yunnan 小云南 

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Just north of the Forbidden City on a leafy road, Little Yunnan is dropping big flavors from the southwest. The atmosphere is intimate and the menu limited – but curated – so you can’t choose wrong. Go for floral, tropical tastes like tea and pineapple wherever possible – and don’t miss out on the house-made rice wine.

If your palette seeks further excitement, check out Glutton Guide Beijing for a comprehensive list of Beijing’s best places to eat just about everything. 

 

Beijing’s Best Food Books

Read your way through Glutton Guide Beijing, but still want more? Dig into Beijing’s best food books below. Don’t even think about reading them on an empty stomach!

Beijing Eats: A Food-Lover’s Companion to China’s Culinary Capital


Published in 2009, this 336-page guide to the capital’s Chinese cuisine gives an excellent and in-depth look at the regional cuisines available in Beijing. Eileen Wen Mooney introduces each culinary tradition, weaving in cultural and historical tidbits along the way. A handful of the recommended restaurants are out-of-date, however many remain relevant several years on. This is a must-read for anyone serious about their Chinese food education. More info.

Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking


Fuschia Dunlop made history as the first foreigner to matriculate at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine. (In the local dialect no less!) Every Grain of Rice follows up her two volumes on Hunan & Sichuan cuisine and features vegetable-heavy recipes for everyday cooking at home. More info.

Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure: 100 Recipes from Our Journey

Missing the flavors from your time in China? Or maybe you’re looking to expand your regional Chinese cuisine horizons. These recipes and introductions take you beyond the ingredients and into their deeper cultural roots and significance. It’s the culinary companion to the popular BBC series of the same name. More info.

On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta

Part love story, part epic travelogue, On The Noodle Road is one woman’s adventure across Asia and Europe. She’s on a quest to understand the humble noodle’s place throughout history. It is food travel writing at its core, but it digs even deeper as Len-Liu finds herself immersed in local women’s lives everywhere she travels, looking for regional specialties. It’s Lin-Liu’s follow up to her previous hit, Serve The People, a look at Beijing’s culinary scene and China’s full cast of characters as the country experienced lightning-fast change. More info.

Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China

It’s not every day you pack up your life, move to Chengdu and then decide to stay and train at the local culinary institute. But not many people are as impressive as Fuschia Dunlop. The Brit chronicled her time eating and cooking her away around the spice-filled region on a never-ending quest for more recipes and local insights. It’s an immensely enjoyable intro to Chinese food, and a rare glimpse into the Chinese culinary arts. More info.

The Last Chinese Chef

Sure, the romantic subplot can be a bit cheesy at times, but this is really a love letter to China’s cuisine. And it’s downright dreamy one at that. Based on historical events, with a little fictional flair, this novel is not for reading on an empty stomach. It’s an excellent read for understanding the historical and cultural significance of eating and cooking in China. More info.

Download your copy of Glutton Guide Beijing, and start eating like a local today!

Meet the Author: Cat Nelson, Glutton Guide Beijing

After first visiting China in 1994, Cat Nelson has been in Beijing since 2010 and spent most of that time living in the city’s farther reaches. As a food and drink editor – first for the Beijinger, then for Time Out – she delved into the capital’s finer side, from meeting Michelin-starred chefs and sampling molecular gastronomy to exploring the growing local organic scene. But Cat has always remained the first to try the latest greasy hole-in-the-wall. Here’s a little but more about one half of the Glutton Guide Beijing writing team.

Where are you from? Santa Cruz, California, USA

How long have you lived in Beijing? I lived in Beijing for the better part of a decade. Recently I moved down to Shanghai (Chinese food here pales in comparison, by the way), but still keep up with everything that’s on in the capital, my first love.

Favorite food: Dandan noodles? Kouign-amann? All kinds of soup? Too hard to pick one favorite.

Favorite restaurant in Beijing: Any Xinjiang restaurant at 4am after a night out.

Favorite chef in Beijing: *lips sealed*

Street cred: Been writing about food and drink in China professionally for four plus years, and been eating with semi-pro attitude for much longer.

What’s the one dish visitors cannot miss if they come to your city? Jianbing – humble and crazy delicious.

What’s your favorite piece of food writing? Ruth Reichl’s Comfort Me with Apples and the ‘Tables for Two’ column in The New Yorker.

Guilty pleasure/embarrassing food obsession: Don’t believe in guilt associated with food.

What’s your favorite destination for eating? The kitchen.

What should you always make from scratch? Cake.

To read more of Cat Nelson’s writing, download your copy of Glutton Guide Beijing: The Hungry Traveler’s Guidebook.

Beijing’s Best Food Videos

Missing the flavors of Beijing? Discover Beijing’s dining scene with some of the most mouthwatering food documentaries. (Or download Glutton Guide Beijing for more info.) Check out the best Beijing food videos below: 

Beijing's Best Food VideosA Bite of China

This Chinese-made documentary was the sleeper hit of 2012. It had more than 100 million viewers tuning in to see what the show was serving up next. Over the course of seven episodes follow matsutake mushroom foragers through the dense forests of southwest China, explain the necessity of the country’s staple grain rice and explore the perfect five flavor blend. Unfortunately, the highly anticipated second season aired in China in February 2014, but didn’t receive as high ratings. View on CCTV English. View on YouTube.

Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure

On a quest to reveal the culinary secrets of China, two pre-eminent foodies travel across the country. They showcase regional difference in a beautifully shot BBC documentary. As a result, it covers the eight main cuisines found in China, which vary greatly in flavor profile, ingredients, and cooking styles. This docu offers an indispensable look at today’s China, as well as a glimpse into the age-old culinary traditions still found in rural areas. View on BBC.

Done with Beijing’s best food videos, but hungry for more mouthwatering images of the best food in China? Download your copy of Glutton Guide Beijing, so you can start eating like a local today!

Beijing’s Best Hotpot Restaurants

Looking for Beijing’s best hotpot restaurants? Hotpot runs the gamut from the traditional, mild Beijing lamb (涮羊肉shuàn yángròu) to the sweat-inducing spice of Sichuan’s roiling cauldrons, with something for everyone in between. Hotpot’s biggest selling point is its interactivity. Everyone is involved in putting in to and taking out from the boiling communal cauldron, whatever the soup base. Most often enjoyed late at night, this is one decision you won’t regret in the morning. Download your copy of Glutton Guide Beijing to find out more about Beijing’s best hotpot restaurants and the capital’s other great eats.

Haidilao 海底捞glutton guide beijing

Open 24-hours a day, Sichuan-bred chain Haidilao is the ultimate contemporary Chinese dining experience. Waits can be long during peak times, but free manicures, shoe shines and snacks while you wait are almost as much of the attraction as the spicy hotpot. Bonus points for the massive DIY dipping sauce bars and the option of half portions for smaller parties of two or three.

Order: ‘Mandarin duck’ half-spicy and half-mild hotpot (鸳鸯锅底 yuānyāng guōdǐ). Duck’s blood (鸭血 yāxuè). Hand-cut lamb (手切羊肉 shǒuqiè yángròu). Hand-pulled noodles (捞面 lāo miàn).

Many locations, including:

SLT-GT location: 2A Baijiazhuang, Chaoyang district. 朝阳区白家庄2. Subway: Line 10 – Tuanjiehu. Tel: +86 10 6595 2982.

XC location: 7F, Xidan New Wedding Mall, 109 Xidan Bei Dajie, Xicheng district. 西城区西单北大街109号西单婚庆大楼7层. Subway: Lines 1 & 4 – Xidan. Tel: +86 10 6617 4043.

Hours: 24 hours. Web: haidilao.com. Menu: Chinese & English (on request).

Jubaoyuan 聚宝源

Though Sichuan’s mouth-numbing, spicy hotpot might be the best known throughout the world, Beijing’s own culinary traditions include shuanyangrou (涮羊肉) or mutton hotpot. Located in the old Muslim quarter, Niu Jie (Ox Street), Jubaoyuan serves its hotpot in classic Old Beijing bronze pots. This is a don’t-miss for its old school vibe, top-tier meat and the best shaobing (flat sesame buns) in the capital.

Order: hand-sliced lamb (手切羊肉 shǒuqiè yángròu). Lamb ‘shangnao’ (羊上脑yáng shàngnǎo). Sesame bun (一品烧饼 yīpǐn shāobǐng). Sugar rolled fruit (糖卷果 táng juǎnguǒ). ‘Hawthorn in crystal’ (水晶山楂 shuǐjīng shānzhā)

XC location: 5-2 Niu Jie, Xicheng district. 西城牛街5-2. Subway: Line 7 – Guang’anmennei. Tel: +86 10 8354 5602.

Second XC location: 17 You’anmennei Dajie, Xicheng district. 西城右安门大街17. Subway: Line 7 – Guang’anmennei. Tel: +86 10 8354 5600.

Hours: 11am-10pm. Menu: Chinese only.

Yunnan Vanilla Hot Pot 香草香草云南原生态火锅

Home to countless varieties, Yunnan province is all about mushrooms. The best broths at Yunnan Vanilla are rich, aromatic brews, which get their flavor profile from a mix of mushrooms. As you might expect, the fungus section of the menu is expansive, offering up types you have likely never seen before, including rarities that cost a pretty penny.

Order: Jun Wang Qixiang hotpot (菌王奇锅底 jūnwángqí guōdǐ), tofu platter (豆制品小四拼 dòuzhìpǐn xiǎosìpīn), mushroom platter (香草蘑菇组合 xiāngcǎo mógū zǔhé)

Many locations, including:

HD location: 2F, Mingshang Dasha, 55 Suzhou Jie, Haidian district. 海淀区苏州街55号名商大厦2. Subway: Line 10 – Suzhoujie. Tel: +86 10 8262 1976. Hours: 11am-9:30pm.

SLT-GT: 2F, Fosun Building, 237 Chaoyang Bei Lu, Chaoyang district. 朝阳北路237号复星国际中心2. Subway: Line 6 – Dongdaqiao. Tel: +86 10 6585 1976. Hours: 11am-10pm.

Menu: Chinese & English.

Download your copy of Glutton Guide Beijing to find out more about Beijing’s best hotpot restaurants and the capital’s other great eats.

Beijing’s Best Street Foods

From dawn till dusk till dawn again, there’s always something on the streets of Beijing to make you feel the pangs of hunger. The incredible range of fresh street food in Beijing is often made right in front of your eyes, and it is the best way to get to know traditional Beijing (bonus: it won’t break the bank). All of these snacks can be found quite literally on the street – whether from carts peddled by vendors or small takeaway windows – although some of our recommendations include hole-in-the-wall restaurants that are just a step up from the alleyways. To find out more about where to get Beijing’s best street food, download your copy of Glutton Guide Beijing.

Jiānbing (煎饼)jianbing beijing's best street food

This is the Beijing street food. No matter its origins, the capital has woven this eggy crepe deep into the fabric of Beijingers’ everyday lives. Breakfast, lunch or late night snack – it is never a bad time for a jianbing. It is hard to go wrong by grabbing one from any of the roaming, street carts; they’re often better than the brick-and-mortar shops.

Lǘròu huǒshāo (驴肉火烧)

One of the most underrated meats, donkey might be foreign to your palate, but don’t overlook it in Beijing. It is most easily found in restaurants that specialize in donkey – a common sight on the streets of the capital. The best way to eat it is in a ‘donkey burger’, or lürou huoshao. The meat is lean but tender, the bun extra flaky, and you won’t be able to stop at just one.

Ròujiāmó (肉夹馍)

roujiamo beijing's best street food

Often translated as ‘Chinese burgers’, these small sandwiches are much closer to a pulled pork sandwich. First chefs stew soft, shredded pork for hours with a mixture of spices, then pack the meat into a flat, round bun. Simple and unadulterated, this meat-bread combo is one of China’s best kept secrets.

Chuànr (串儿)

The red LED light signs with the Chinese character for skewer (串 chuanr) are ubiquitous on Beijing’s streets. This Xinjiang specialty is (traditionally) lamb skewers dusted in cumin and spices. Vendors offer vegetable and other meat chuanr, like chicken wings, as well, but focus on the lamb (羊肉串儿 yángròu chuànr).

Málàtang (麻辣烫)

Malatang, or mouth-numbing spicy soup, originally hails from Sichuan, but Beijing has adopted it as its own. There are two main styles: the ultra-street version from roadside stalls where you pick skewers of ingredients out of a spicy broth that simmers for most of the day, or the more preferable small restaurants where you choose the fresh skewers from a refrigerator and the kitchen then cooks them to order. Ingredients err on the vegetarian side of things, with a few questionable meat options generally available. Keep your sauce game on point and slather your bowl in sesame paste.

Yóutiáo & Dòuzhī (油条和豆汁)

youtiao beijing's best street food

While the rest of the country has youtiao (deep-fried cruller) and doujiang (豆浆fresh soymilk, served warm) for breakfast, Beijing has youtiao and douzhi, a Beijing specialty similar to soymilk, but made from mung beans and turned up to 11. The involved process of making douzhi results in a fermented, ultra-funky morning beverage that will wake you up faster than your normal cup of coffee. It is decidedly not for everyone, but the brave should try it.

Bāozi (包子)

Baozi, or steamed buns, are the ultimate Beijing street food for the on-the-go eater. Jam one in each hand and two in your pockets and you’ve got more than a full meal. Typically eaten for breakfast, these yeasty, steamed buns have a range of fillings, though in Northern China, they are generally more savory than sweet.

Shuǐjiǎo ()

Best Street Food Beijing dumplings
Arguably not even street food as whole meals center around them (including Chinese New Year’s dinner), shuijiao (or boiled dumplings) merit mention for the very reason that if you pop into any hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Beijing, you can be sure of one thing: there will be shuijiao. Shuijiao pack wheat wrappers with any number of fillings. The boiled dumplings are accompanied by dark vinegar and soy sauce for dipping and, traditionally, raw garlic cloves to nibble on. Everywhere you turn, you can find them and it is rare you’ll be disappointed.

Shāobǐng (烧饼)

The white sandwich bread of China, the shaobing has many uses – stick an egg in it and it’s a jiajidan or fill it with shredded pork and you’ve got a roujiamo. Often these flat buns are bad, bland and tasteless, but when they are good, they are very, very good. And when they are that delicious, the best thing to do is eat them plain, like at Jubaoyuan (see Regional Chinese Restaurants) alongside hot pot, or simply as a snack.

Kǎo Yáng Tuǐ (烤羊腿

kao yang tui beijing best street food
Roast lamb leg might seem like a winter dish, but in Beijing, kaoyangtui is one of the iconic summertime street food dining experiences. Though offered year round, the warmer months bring the action outside onto the street, where diners on small stools crowd around tables outfitted with a small spit. The kitchen par-roasts juicy lamb legs, seasoned with aromatic herbs and heavy on the cumin. Then waiters present the leg tableside where you finish off the cooking yourself. Just take care to fully roast the meat.

To find out more about where to get the best street food in Beijing, download your copy of Glutton Guide Beijing.