Follow Me Foodie to Chinese Islamic Food in Beijing!
This was a random find on my first night in Follow Me Foodie to Beijing, China. I landed pretty late and my hotel was quite far from the main part of the city. The only thing open nearby was the Korean restaurant located inside my hotel and while it looked really nice I wasn’t in Beijing to explore Korean cuisine. So I asked for a recommendation and was advised to go around the corner where there was an alleyway with some late night eateries. Sure enough it existed, and yes I was a bit nervous. It was a super shady and dark alley and I couldn’t tell you where it was even if I wanted to.
When it comes to late night local eats I knew I had hit the jack pot, so although nervous I was equally excited. It certainly wasn’t a popular street being very far away from the centre of Beijing, but it was the real deal. While it wasn’t a hub for 5-star award winning restaurants, it definitely was not a tourist trap area. I wasn’t expecting anything amazing, but it offered that authentic off the beaten path experience that I couldn’t get at home (Vancouver, BC). For me, I considered this hitting a home run.
Well what do you know? The first restaurant I ended up trying in Beijing specialized in Chinese Islamaic cuisine and Mongolian food. The first sign that gave it away was the poster hanging on the wall. Do you see it? And then the second thing was no pork dishes. I learned how to say the basic food words and although I had no idea what they were saying back, I understood it was a Halal restaurant.
There is actually a significant amount of Muslims and Chinese muslims in Beijing. Some are immigrants which dates back centuries ago and some are tourists, but regardless there are restaurants that cater to them and apparently they’re not too difficult to find. Generally pork is a big part of Chinese cuisine, especially Cantonese-Chinese cuisine, but there are lots of non-pork options as well.
I opened the menu and had no idea what I was really doing. Thank goodness there were photos though and everything was so cheap that I ordered a bunch of things and just told them to make half portions so I wouldn’t waste. I recognized some dishes, but for the most part there were a lot of things I had not seen before. Mongolian and Chinese Islamic cuisine are definitely things I can’t really find at home (Vancouver, BC), so this was ideal.
On the table:
Pickled Daikon – This was a cold appetizer of shaved daikon. They were crunchy and pickled and the photo in the menu looked like beets. I’ve never seen beets used in traditional Chinese cooking so that’s why I ordered the dish, but it turned out to be daikon anyway.
Satay Sticks – Mantou, Chicken Hearts, Chicken Kidneys and Lamb. These were very flavourful and well spiced with lots of cumin. If this is considered authentic, then Chef James – Xin Jiang Man BBQ at the Richmond Night Market does a fantastic job with his Beijing style satay sticks. I think these had Mongolian influence though and the dry rub seasoning was very Middle Eastern and it didn’t taste Chinese at all. The spices were stronger, spicier and smokier without that soy sauce marinade flavour.
Mongolian Yogurt – I ordered this based on the photo and I thought it was dessert. It was actually yogurt which went well with my satay sticks. It neutralized the spices and smoky seasoning. This was Mongolian Yogurt made from the milk of Mongolian cows. There is lots of Mongolian influence in Beijing cuisine and this yogurt is quite popular. It was quite thin and a bit sweeter. It’s not that sour and it was sprinkled with raisins and gogi berries.
Spicy Beijing Mung Bean Cold Noodles with Soybean Paste & Peanuts – This dish came up fairly often and it was always served as an appetizer. The noodles aren’t chewy, but they’re thick and slippery. The dish was naturally a bit oily and the sauce was made from soybean paste, chili oil, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, chilies, chives and crushed peanuts. It was a tangy, sweet, savoury and spicy dish and I really enjoyed it.
If you’re in Vancouver and you want to try it then Szechuan Delicious Cuisine served a pretty legit one which was even better than this one in terms of flavour.
Scrambled Egg & Tomato Soup – I ordered this based on photo and it was exactly what it sounded like. The soup was a cucumber and vegetable soup base and it was very light and simple. There were also some Chinese cucumbers which are firmer and crunchier and crispier than English cucumbers. A lot of Chinese soups have scrambled egg in it like this one and every traditional Chinese meal should start with soup to warm the stomach.
It was a very fluffy and crispy sweet omelette with sweet corn throughout. It was sprinkled with sugar and it was definitely on the sweet side, but not a dessert. I’ve never seen this before, but it’s casual street food. It’s made with eggs, corn, flour, salt, onions, oil and maybe wheat flour or corn starch.
Flat Corn Pancake – This pretty much tasted exactly like the corn pancake I ordered above. They photographed differently on the menu and I didn’t realize they would be almost the same. This is a fried snack that I saw on Beijing restaurant menus, but it’s not typical outside of China.