你好 (nǐ hǎo)， Hello there, Shah Farid here! Before going to China, I was a little worried about finding halal food. What if I can't find any halal food? Do I need to cook by myself every day? From what I heard, the halal street is far away from the campus. Am I going to lose weight like this? Haha!
But in reality, it is all about discovering! I'm a foodie, and I love trying new dishes, regardless of where I am in the world. So when I moved to Beijing to further my studies, I was excited to try out the local cuisines. And I was not disappointed! In fact, it was easy to find halal food in China, thanks to the large Muslim population. After living there for five years, I am already an expert when it comes to famous and mouth-watering local dishes.
There are two types of food in China: hot and cold dishes. And while the hot dishes are specific to each season, they are all still available all year round. So no matter what time of year you visit Beijing, you'll be able to enjoy a delicious halal dish!
In this blog post, I’ve rounded up the top 5 must-taste hot dishes unique to Beijing with pictures and descriptions for you to refer to if you’re planning to travel there, or you’re simply craving for some good Chinese food. You might be guessing what they taste like, but don't judge them too quickly - I once thought that these names sounded weird too, but now I can’t get enough of them!
(Disclaimer: Today, I’m just going to introduce you to my five personal favourite Chinese hot dishes, but I’ll share several places where you can find them sometime soon!)
1) 酸辣粉 (suān là fěn) – Hot and Sour Glass Noodle Soup
If you're looking for some good street food in Beijing, you've gotta check out suān là fěn. It's a hot and sour glass noodle soup that's really popular with the locals. It's usually served with beans and I personally pair it up with sausages. The noodles aren't just spicy, but rich in sourness from the black vinegar. Wait, vinegar in a soup? Well, I know what you are thinking, but to be honest, it is now a must-have ingredient in my kitchen! It's a really quick and easy meal to grab on the go, and it's usually pretty cheap too. So if you're looking for something that'll really pack a punch, suān là fěn is definitely the dish for you.
2) 辣子鸡 (là zi jī) and 盖饭 (gài fàn) – Sichuan Spicy Chicken and topped rice
Another dish on my personal favorite list is là zi jī (辣子鸡), or chicken with Sichuan pepper. It's a spicy dish that's made up of capsicum, Sichuan pepper, and dried chillies. It's not street food, but it's a main dish among the locals. Meanwhile, the gài fàn refers to hot rice served with a dish of your choice - be it fish, chicken, meat or vegetables - as a topping. So là zi jī, combined with gài fàn, makes a complete meal that I recommend everyone to have at least once a week, seriously! I usually buy it during breaks in between classes because it's easy to prepare and cheap. Plus, it's available at almost every shop in Beijing. So if you're ever in the city, be sure to give it a try!
3) 煎饼 (jiān bǐng) – Chinese crepes
You probably haven't heard of jiān bǐng before as it is not available in Malaysia, but it's one of the most popular halal dishes in Beijing! It's this amazing crepe-like creation that's filled with egg, vegetables and your choice of protein (chicken or duck slices), and it's all wrapped up in a delicious chili sauce. Aww, I've been craving this for so many years! It might not sound like the most exotic dish on the planet, but trust me, it's delicious. In fact, I'd say it's one of my all-time favourites. And the best part is that you can find it pretty much anywhere in Beijing. Just look for a hawker on a motorcycle selling them in the morning, and you're good to go! I still remember eating this every single day when I was a student in Beijing - be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner; I won't say no to jiān bǐng! It's so good, especially in the winter, when it warms your hands as you hold it in plastic wrap instead of paper. Jiān bǐng was my loyal companion as I walked to class, traveled to my part-time jobs, and everywhere else while I put my earphone on with a random hit Chinese song!
4) 北京烤鸭 (Běijīng kǎo yā) – Peking duck
If you're a fan of duck, then you need to try Běijīng kǎo yā (北京烤鸭) – Peking duck. It's one of the most popular dishes in Beijing, and for good reason – it's delicious! The duck is grilled, and then only the fatty parts are cut off and served. It's usually eaten with a wrap, which is filled with slices of duck, cucumbers, spring onions, and other-toppings. I know many of you won't think this is your thing - I've heard that a thousand times. But trust me, all of my no-duck friends fell in love with this dish after the first bite. After all, how can one resist the duck juice sliding down your throat and bursting the rich flavor straight to your heart? LOL!
Of course, the dish comes with a bit of a price tag, but I think it's worth the money. If you're looking for an authentic Beijing culinary experience, then Běijīng kǎo yā is a must-try! There are a few places that serve Peking Ducks in Malaysia, but not all of them serve the best version I had in Beijing. Aren’t you curious about these places? 🤫
5) 西红柿炒鸡蛋 (fān qié chǎo dàn) – Stir-fried eggs and tomato