Greetings from the capital of the most populated country in the world! I’m here on an impulsive adventure with my sister; we booked a one-way plane ticket (although we have a return train ticket now), are staying in a youth hostel, and living the days as they come. Needless to say, we’re having a total blast.
So far we’ve visited Tiananmen Square 天安门广场 (which had far more security than expected, but then again Mao’s Mausoleum is also there), the Forbidden City 故宫, Shichahai Lake 什刹海 and the adjoining Lotus Market 荷花市场 (named not for its lotus population, but because the market used to only be open during the lotus season). We just came back from Wangfujing 王府井, a street food and shopping area, and we’re totally beat.
Let’s talk about food. One of the most traditional Beijing dishes is zhajiangmian 炸酱面 (literally translates to “fried sauce noodles”). These are noodles served with fermented soybean paste; it’s salty, nutty, and has umami flavor that is out of this world. The traditional mix-ins are cucumber spears and ground pork, but the restaurant that we went to served an “elevated” version.
We thought this was tea – it’s actually the water that the noodles were boiled in (面汤). Strange, I know, but when served hot and with that slight all-purpose flour taste it’s actually very warming for the soul.
I done goofed. You’re actually supposed to mix the noodles with the sauce before you add the toppings, since the sauce contains oil and prevents the noodles from sticking (it’s all very scientific, you see). It turned out fine though, hey hey hey. Anyways, if you ever find yourself in Beijing, get a bowl of zhajiangmian. It is one of the bucket list things to do.
More traditional foods. A traditional breakfast (sorry the photos don’t look that great but I promise you it tasted awesome and came in to be around $2) —
Some traditional snacks —
And of course, if you don’t get roast duck, did you really go to Beijing?
Stay tuned for part 2!