So, let’s go ahead and assume you need a snack. Not a meal, just a small snack. We’re also going to assume that you’re in Beijing, which we have previously (and rightly) called the best city ever.
You have a lot of choices; and not just because the city is home to 18 million other people and enough convenient stores to feed them all. If you venture a bit further out of your comfort zone, abandon your potato chips, and hit the streets, you’re bound to find a new favorite.
Sausage Time in the Big City
When all else fails, you’ve gotta get some sausage. Guan Chang (灌肠/guàn cháng) is particularly a good choice. Pork intestines, filled with flour or starch, spices, and sometimes minced pork, are cut into squares and then fried. And, honestly, the best way to improve a snack is to fry it. Guan chang is also eaten with bamboo sticks instead of chopsticks, which makes it perfect for on-the-go snacking.
Don’t worry; it’s cake. Sweet Ears (糖耳朵/ táng ěrduo) are fried sugar cakes that are served cold. Think fair-style fried dough—just flour and sugar, fried and served. They’re soft, sweet, and tasty; you’re going to have trouble finding another dessert that more suitably satisfies your sweet tooth.
Not Your Grandma’s Liver and Onions
But, it’s still liver…with some onion. Chao Gan (炒肝/ chǎo gān) is a soup, actually. A dark red soup, with the meat, garlic sauce, spring onion, and ginger stewing in a mushroom broth before being added to a mixture of mashed garlic and chicken broth. The meat is deliciously tender and the soup will certainly hit the spot.
It’s About That Time
You’ve seen the pictures, thought about it, maybe even passed a couple vendors in the street, but now it’s time. It’s time to eat some scorpions. They’re worth the try and that’s all there is to it.
Rolling donkeys (驴打滚儿 / lǘ dǎ gǔnr)
These are actually rolls of glutinous race and sweet bean paste. They taste sweet, are a bit sticky, and look kind of like a swiss roll. Overall, they’re a pretty pleasant dessert alternative if you aren’t feeling the aforementioned cake. Why the name? When dusted with soy flour, it’s said that the dish looks like a donkey kicking up dust.
This drink (茶汤/ chá tāng), sadly, cannot turn you into a giant, fire-breathing lizard. It’s also not made from anything even remotely resembling said lizard. It’s a tea soup named after the dragon on the spout of the used teapot. Millet flour or lotus root is doused with boiling water, brewed and then is complemented with brown sugar, raisins, peanuts, and sweet osmanthus sauce. One of the most famous places to taste Beijing tea soup is Juyuan House (聚元斋) in Qianmenwai (前门外).
If You Can’t Take The Heat… Get Out of Fu Niu Tang
If you can, try to eat the noodles they say are the spiciest in the entire world. Finish in 10 minutes or less and you get a free T-shirt and permanent discount. Worth the pain, if you ask us!
Quench Your Thirst
Mung bean milk (豆汁/dòu zhī). Think of it as soy milk’s less popular cousin. Some would add “with very good reason”. Let’s just say it’s an acquired taste. It smells a little like eggs and has a color somewhere between green and grey, but it’s very good for you. Make a habit of drinking it and you’ll boost your vitamin C and fiber intakes.