This is part 2 of the China Series detailing my recent trip to Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai. Other posts in this series include part 1: Wander the Streets of Beijing and some other preview posts: China: Lost in Translation, and Happy Birthday Bryan: an Ode to Noodles and Ducks.
Even though Peking duck might be the first thing you think of when considering Beijing food, you can't ignore the humble little dumpling. In fact, in many ways, the dumpling is more of a traditional common man's food than the Peking duck, which was really imperial food until just the last century or so. Because rice was only for the wealthy, most Beijingers subsisted on wheat-based foods, like mantou, shaobing, and our humble little dumpling (jiaozi).
Nowaways, Beijing has plenty of rice to go around, though dumplings are still extremely popular and very prevalent all over the city. We scoured reviews and narrowed ourselves down to two dumplings places we knew we had to try when we came to Beijing.
"Xian'r Lao Man" (roughly translated, full of stuffing) is true to its name, and the dumplings have a wonderfully high filling to skin ratio. Prices are dirt cheap too, compared to US standards. A plate of dumplings (10 plump ones) costs about $1.50 US. Our entire meal of 20 dumplings, tea, and a variety of snacks was under $5 US.
It's hard to enjoy a ton of variety if there's only two of you because the minimum per order is two " of each flavor. They make all dumplings to order, and thus they will only make a whole steamer's worth at once (10 dumplings total).
The menu is vast and seems to have an endless variety of dumpling choices. Unfortunately, since we had to order 10 of each type, we were limited in how many different ones we could order. This was compounded by the fact that I couldn't really read the all-Chinese menu. In defeat, we just asked them for their recommendations. The server recommended pork & corn and pork, leek, & shrimp.
We both liked the pork, leek, & shrimp one better (how can you go wrong with this classic combination of flavors?), although both dumplings were excellent. The skin was obviously handmade, and the fillings were juicy and flavorful.
The server also recommended that we get a few "snacks." Unfortunately my Chinese was not good enough to really know exactly what these snacks were (I really have a hard time understanding the Beijing accent!). They turned out to be different varieties of mochi and red bean sweets. Although I love mochi and red bean, Bryan is not a huge fan, and he ended up not eating any at all!
My favorite was the rolled up mochi, red bean, soybean powder covered roll shown above.
We did have a hard time finding this place. OK, our taxi driver had a hard time finding it, so I'm not sure if the hotel concierge just gave us the wrong address or what. Most taxi drivers in Beijing don't really speak English, so you either have to tell them your destination (in Chinese), or hand them a slip with the location clearly written out in Chinese. Usually, we would just ask the hotel concierge to print us out a map and address. I'm not sure why it failed this time.
Anyway . . we thankfully found our way to this excellent dumpling shop (the taxi driver was really nice and even got out of the car to look around for it). I definitely would return again (hopefully with a bigger crowd and someone who reads Chinese!) to try many more of their dishes. Overall, tthe ambiance is pleasant, the service is fast, and the food is delicious and cheap. For more information, this post has an excellent review and suggestions for what to order.
Xian'r Lao Man (or Xian Lao Man)
No. 252 Andingmen nei street,
Tel: 010-6404 6944
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