We begin this Beijing series of posts at the famous Qianmen Dajie, which extends from the southern gate of Beijing's historic wall surrounding the Forbidden City. While historically significant, massive renovations have virtually transformed this site of "old Beijing" into a modern shopping district, with well-known brands like Swatch and Uniqlo setting up shop along the well-paved street.
Of course, valiant efforts were made to reflect the traditional Chinese architecture of the early 1900s (the architects apparently used photographs from this period as a form of reference), so you have a bit of the new and a bit of the old. The restoration was quite well-done actually, and I myself was taken in by the bright colours and nicely decorated rooftops.
In the same spirit of "restoration", at least twelve Beijing "time-honored brands", with histories stretching back several centuries, have continued to keep their doors open to the public at the revamped Qianmen Dajie. Yi Tiao Long, established in 1785, is just one of them, and is a popular Muslim restaurant known for its hot pot and mutton dishes. If you're here in winter, as I was, I am sure you would agree with me that having ma la hot pot in such cold weather is just simply delightful.
Zha Jiang Mian
Zha Jiang Mian, literally meaning "fried sauce noodles", hails from Northern China and features thick wheat noodles mixed with minced meat and salty fermented soybean paste. The noodles were served with the meat and paste on the side, just so you can decide on how much you want to mix them in. There's a reason to this of course.
Not everyone can take to the saltiness, and if not for my can of Coke this would have been a little more difficult to go through. I must admit however that I found this tastier and tastier with each forkful, so much so that I cleared most of it when I was supposed to share. Not that Shuo, my friend on attachment at the Singapore Embassy in Beijing (and who joined me from time to time for meals), minded much, because she seemed to be enjoying her hot pot a lot more compared to this. Beef chunks were very tender by the way, something a beef lover would readily approve.
Ma La Hot Pot
The Ma La Hot Pot was evidently very good, it fitted the weather very well as I mentioned, and also because it was deliciously spicy without being too numbing or overwhelming. I admit that I have not eaten enough hot pots to be able to tell if this was average, good or great, but I liked it enough to say it's worth a try.
The highlights were definitely the lean and tender meat slices as well as the assorted meatballs, though I came to like the chewy beef stomach slices (pictured in grey near the middle) after a while as well. Spicy soup and salty noodles, somehow they clicked and I got myself a satisfying lunch :)
Another mainstay, and great attraction, along Qianmen Dajie is the famous Qianjude Roast Duck Restaurant. Look out for a post on this next week when I go through some of the best Peking Ducks in Beijing!
Very good. Menu is in English.
12RMB for the Zha Jiang Mian
49RMB for the Ma La Hot Pot
No. 27 Qianmen Dajie,
Chongwen District, Beijing.
Pictures taken with the Canon EOS 500D.