Beijing culinary centennial icons are revered “Laozihao” (老字号) establishments. Known as gastronomic exceptional restaurants showcasing almost every region of Chinese cuisine in the capital city. The title translates as ‘old brand’names¹. Each in its own uniqueness representing a high level of culinary art by remaining true to its origin.
Stumbled upon an older article mentioning the city’s eponymous duck and the city’s oldest surviving restaurant. “Bianyifang Kaoyadian” established in 1416, the premise originally began as a takeaway. The first characters of the Chinese name ‘Bianyifang’ roughly translates as “convenient to everyone” roast duck shop.
As the name of the shop indicates it features a special bird, the duck, with an illustrious history. The roast duck dates back with an acknowledgement as early as the Yuan dynasty (1202-1368). Here it became listed among the Imperial dishes in ‘The Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages’³. For connoisseurs and curious foodies who like to read more about the history of roast duck click on the link. A different poultry topic here for the goose link. Source: A Taste of Old Peking: The Capital’s Culinary Culture Lives on in its Laozihao Restaurants | the Beijinger
The Flavour of the Capital
After reading the article, my own memories unfurled of an earliest family home trip in 1981. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I visited a few of these iconic Beijing culinary centennials establishments. One of them is the now well over 200 years old Yueshengzhai Restaurant. The most famous and oldest Muslim establishment in the capital city. Doors opened in 1775, by a former servant at the Qing Imperial court named Ma Qingrui. Six generations have continued and followed the traditions after its founder.
“In 2007 Yueshengzhai’s received recognition for processing techniques for braised mutton with soy sauce. Most noteworthy citing the high standards of guarding the quality of meals. An integral part of Beijing’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.” Source: btmbeijing.com.
For more in-depth information featuring “The flavour of the capital” (Jingwei’r) click here on the China Heritage Newsletter link. The link includes an appendix with halal related snacks and dishes in Beijing. The food keeps drawing local devotees and visitors to the same place. With each visit renewing one’s palate is a feast of confirmation and merit reminiscent to old Peking.
One of the featured dishes is “Baodu” made from intestines and what I ate at my second visit to Beijing. The thin slices were meltingly tender and aromatic. Tripe if not cooked and seasoned correctly is unpalatable and rubbery. What surprised me was the hot-vinegary tart sauce and use of cumin. A spice which is not common in the south-eastern cuisine (my family originates from Zhejiang province). Cumin founds its way by caravan trade into China north-western regions Xinjiang, Mongolia and Hunan cuisine.
“BAODU 爆肚 (lamb tripe in sauce)
This seared and thinly sliced delicate tripe is made from the washed stomach lining of the sheep. Prepared with a special sesame based sauce with flavour ingredients including cumin, pepper, chilli, vinegar. The dish is often accompanied with shaobing, a baked unleavened layered flat bread. Baodu originates from China’s north-west, it has come to find its home into the capital.”
1,000-year-old Copper Firepots
Among culinary centennial discovery was seeing and enjoying the copper chimney firepot “Huo Guo”. This cooking pot dates over 1,000 years with the origin being from Mongolia. Fuelled by charcoal heating the broth to a slow simmer with the smoke escaping through the chimney. China Northern cuisine is represented by the mutton hotpot by using sheep (lamb) bone stock as broth. Most of the copper chimneys have disappeared, replaced by digital electrical cooking pots.
The cooking pots with steaming hot broth have a variety of choices of basic Chinese meat, fish or seafood stock. Varying seasoning of MaLa (lip numbing hot!) or herbal infused and more. Will mention my favourite book choices in a separate post with recipes to prepare your own tasty & healthy hotpot dinner(s). Other cultural influences by neighbouring cuisines as Thai, Korean based stocks appear on the menu. A new cooking vessel is known as the YinYang or Double duck to serve a spicy and non-spicy version. This new design serves double broths, is a big hit as a home cooking utensil and restaurants serve ware.
For our international readers the above serve ware can be ordered online, but for Dutch readers and foodies, both items are on sale at Chinese Supermarkets e.g. Dun Yong Amsterdam, Wah Nam Hong The Hague and Amazing Oriental in Rotterdam.
This post contains affiliate links by purchasing through these links Asianfoodtrail earns a small commission to support and maintain the website. However, you pay the same price for the item (it does not increase). Please note promoted links to products are purchased, used, tried and tested unless stated otherwise. For more information, read my disclaimer.
- “Time honoured shops” is the official translation of 老字号. A government distinction awarded to certain brand names and shops that have proven histories. Source: Book Unequal Englishes: The Politics of Englishes Today by R. Tupas
- China’s time-honored brands struggle to survive | www.english.cctv.com
The History of Chinese Imperial Food
- Beijing Halal | www.chinaheritagequarterly.org
- A Taste of Old Peking: The Capital’s Culinary Culture Lives on in its Laozihao Restaurants | www.thebeijinger.com
- Mutton like no other | www.btmbeijing.com