Friday, August 3, 2007

Beijing - All baozi all the time

So we have been having such an amazingly stupendously great time the past few days, we have fallen a bit behind on reporting about our core mission--food. To recap briefly the food highlights of this week (along with the assorted historical sites whose significance cannot be overstated, at least not according to the Chinese):

- Lunch of jaozi (dumplings with lamb and some with beef) and a delicious eggplant dish. Our first meal all four of us.
- Various wandering around through Jingshan and Beihei parks, lovely temples, Amy played badminton hackey sack with some old ladies.
- Trendy (and delicious) fruit and tea drinks at S'Silk, a hip spot on Lotus Lane.
- Walked to see the drum and bell towers, closed but nevertheless impressive. They had an amazing plaza in between the two where at about 7:00 when we were there, people came for badminton, soccer, and to walk their extremely cute dogs. We love Chinese pet dogs.
- Wandering around the corner, we found a packed neighborhood baozi (puffy dumplings) spot with delicious pork filled goodness. We also got the requisite soup as a side dish, but that looked like mucus and wasn't delicious, so we mostly gave that a pass. But the pork boazi really were a treat.
- Our bellies full of our first Beijing street food, we meandered through some hip streets and into some bustling hutongs where residents were out to see and be seen.
- Ready for yet another full meal, we headed to Da Dong Roast Duck (thanks Dan for the suggestion) for an absolutely delicious roast duck, beef and veggie feast. The duck (Peking duck for those of you back home, Beijing Roast Duck here) was carved up at our table and served with accompaning veggies, plum sauce, garlic sauce and even sugar to dip the skin in. Yum.

- En route to tour of CCTV building, some fried dough and sweet bean paste breakfast snacks from a small hutong vendor. Tasted kind of like funnel cake, which is very nice for breakfast. Also, Amy's first popsicle of the day.
- Post CCTV: lunch at a hopping spot for business types right across from the Arup offices. We had pork with eggplant, beef with some veggies in a wooden basket with rocks, beef with black bean sort of sauce and weird pancakes. It was extremely rejeuvenating after walking on ladders and cables at the top of a skyscraper in construction.
- Off to the Forbidden City, where after our hot (and also thorough) visit we each had a popsicle. The only interruption to our enjoyment of the delicious icey milk or melon or lord knows what flavored pops were the repeated requests of Chinese tourists to take photographs with us. Again, our celebrity follows us everywhere. - Post a stroll through and minor rest in Tianamen Square, we were off to a delicious and fancy dinner at the Courtyard, thanks to the fam as a birthday treat. We'll admit it was disconcerting to have such a tony meal as we were all in our dirty tourist clothes, but the food was delicious and our attire would not hold us back. Sharing everything, for appetizers we had an onion and cheese tart, tuna+salmon tartare, duck rolls and soft shell crab. For our mains, we had pork chop, cod, duck breast and beef short ribs. And then dessert (including birthday candle) was jasmine tea chocolate cake and ginger lemongrass creme brulee.
- After dinner, not that we could imagine eating any more food, but for the experience we had hoped to go to the night market not far away. Unfortunately the skies opened and the rain was torential. So opted for home instead.

- The morning began bright and early with a visit to the Temple of Heaven park to see people doing tai chi, dancing, playing badminton, fighting with swords and (our favorite) catching rings on their heads. Though the park was beautiful and the temples in it were some of our favorites--one constructed without nails or cement--there were limited breakfast options so we resorted to the old Beijing stand by of popsicles. Yet again, a wide range of delicious and bizarre flavors.
- After the park, we headed to Hongqiao market for some hard core negotiating for polo shirts, as well as assorted other items. We now (the four of us) are 9 polos richer, each purchased for something close to 3.5 dollars. But naturally, as assured by the vendors, each one is authentic and VERY high quality. To steel ourselves up for this afternoon of haggling, we stopped across the street for, you guessed it, our favorites of pork baozi and jaozi from a neighborhood spot. Not quite as good as those at the drum tower, but still a pretty unbeatable and cheap snack.
- With all our purchases in tow, we headed off to the Summer Palace to escape the heat of the City, just as Empress Dowager Cixi used to do in her time. Many lovely temples and an elaborate marble boat (built by Cixi in lieu of funding the navy) and a stop for popsicles. This time, Amy had papaya/pineapple somethink, Jon had bubble gum (yuck flavor), EB had orange/lemon and Josh had milk. Along with all the Chinese around us, we are really becoming popsicle connaisseurs.
- Post Palace, we went off to wander around some new hutongs for a couple of hours. Though very simple dwellings, we were impressed by the trendiness level of some of the people inside, including two hips girls who convinced us to stop for some typical uigher street food in the hutong--edamame, peanuts and star anise (surprisingly delicious) and spicy lamb skewers grilled right in front of us. Though we were having dinner in an hour and we had accidentally ordered 4 orders of skewers instead of 4 skewers, we scarfed them all down. They were a little spicy, a little fatty and very good.
- For dinner, we met up with 3 expats who are friends of friends and live in Beijing. They took us to their favorite local hot pot restaurant along a super fun stretch of restaurants on Dongzhimen Street. We had two giant hot pots for the 7 of us, each with a tomato broth and a massive fish plopped in the middle of each. We then cooked up lamb, veggies, tofu and other goodies in the broth and washed it down with beer and almond milk. Our new expat friends were great guides and fed us well. Another food style successfully conquered.


cmeg said...

I'm salivating! How will you ever eat at a Chinese restaurant again back here in the U.S. of A.?

Great Wall: My niece was there last spring (Semester at Sea....the ultimate college junior semester abroad experience)and has pictures camping out on it overnight. Sounded v. cool.

alice said...

Hutongs sound suspiciously like hotungs. Do they serve raw turkey with hairs in it and smell of virginal sweat?

alice said...

Also omg I know this is a "family blog" and I just realized that my previous comment is veering dangerously close to Dirty territory. Sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Koch/Herczeg/EB&Josh.

Gillion said...

Have you tried dumplings and roast ducks? They are the famous and traditional Beijing dieshes. And also bird's nest soup? Its a delicacy in China.

Enjoy your days~~~