For those who get the Santana reference in the title, you’re welcome. To the rest of y’all, get ready for some more funky food that Beijing has to offer along with a couple normal plates for those who are a bit averse to the adventurous eating route I normally take. First, there are the somewhat odd platters I sampled for a late lunch after returning from North Korea. I was feeling full of life after a near brush with the North Korean authorities, so I felt like going for the gusto with my food and beverage choices. First, I noticed that other people were drinking large carafes of a steaming white liquid, so I got one of those on the side to then accompany my black chicken and stuffed lotus root with sweet rice. The random drink came out first along with a plate of sugar.
I first sampled the libation without the sugar, and it turned out to be very fresh soy milk with no sweetener. Good think they gave me the sugar because there was no way I was going to drink all of it without a little some-something to boost the old flavor profile. After a couple lumps, the milk tasted like a soy milk that is commercially sold in the USA with a bit more of a grassy taste to it. Eventually, my black chicken and lotus root came out.
The biggest surprise for me that came with both of these dishes was the fact that they were both served cold. Now, I don’t know if that’s how they’re traditionally served or if it was going in line with the Chinese medicinal concept that can be likened to the Western 4 humors concept in early medicine. It is the same in Korea where many people believe that in order to keep your personal energy in line with the weather, you have to eat hot food when it hot outside and cold food for colder climes. Doesn’t make sense to Western logic where one would imagine to eat warm food while it’s cold and cold food to cool off in the heat, but I’m not here to discuss medicine. Food time. So, first there was the black chicken. When I say black chicken, I don’t mean it’s just blackened from a seasoning or charring. The entire chicken, from its skin to its bones, is completely black compliments of selective breeding back in Ancient China.
They’re called Silkies, and Marco Polo even mentions the very same “furry chickens” in his travelogues. Therefore, it was going back in a culinary time machine where I consumed a piece of the past, and it tasted like a heap of coriander with a hint of Sichuan pepper that numbed my tongue ever so slightly. The downside of the preparation, as with many places in Asia, it was filled with tiny bones which took away from me actually enjoying what little meat there was on the beast. However, I did enjoy it a lot more than my lotus root dish which also was served at room temperature. Now, I love my fried lotus root, but this raw version did not sit well with me because of the limp texture and the odd, sweet ketchup-esque sauce.
It wasn’t a highlight on my visit to Beijing. However, the following day was great in so many ways. First, there was my visit to the breathtaking Great Wall of China at the Mutianyu section that was occasionally blighted by hawkers trying to sell you food, drinks, and terrible souvenirs. This wasn’t even at the most touristy part of the wall! After hiking for about three hours up and down some knee-crackingly high stairs, I zoomed down the mountain on a self-regulated toboggan which was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done in my life. The lunch we had at the foot of the mountain really wasn’t anything of note, but the dinner I had after going to the national circus was noteworthy with how cheap and flavorful it was. While I was trying to find a place open in my neighborhood by my hostel on a Sunday night, which was proving a bit harder to do than I thought, I stumbled on this 24 hour eatery (or at least that’s what I figured from the 24 on the sign).
I walked in much to the surprise of the staff, but I was quickly seated and supplied with a huge menu. I’ve noticed all the menus in China have 10 billion things on them which is refreshing compared to Korea, yet so intimidating at the same time. All I have to say is thank God for picture menus. I ended up getting the pork stuffed green scallion pancakes along with the cumin seared beef. For the equivalent of 10 bucks, I got a huge skilled of quality cuts of beef rubbed with a great chili and cumin rub all topped off with a huge mountain of cilantro.
The side of fried pancake was wonderful as well.
It was a bit greasy but not too much, and the minced pork mixed with the tangy green onions and pliable, golden brown dough was a combo made in heaven.
So those are some more notable eats I have sampled during my trip to Beijing, and I will be wrapping it up in the next post with my final day in the Chinese capital. Until then, readers and eaters!