This is dangerously good Xi’an-style street food and the perfect on-the-go snack. A snail of dough is coiled around ground beef, leeks, medicinal spices and Sichuan peppercorns, then shaped and cooked on a giant griddle press until it’s deep golden and crisp outside with chewy layers inside. At 2.5RMB, what could be bad about that?
Xi’an Imperial Fragrant and Crisp. Open 8.30am-8pm daily. Niuroubing 13 Chengfu Lu (on the corner of Xueyuan Lu, next to the Chaoshifa), Haidian district (no telephone)
12. Fresh tofu
The fresh tofu that Max Levy makes at Bei is something of a signature dish, and an underground secret for those in the know. Nigari, the magic saline hand-carried from Japan, sets curds made from non-GMO soybeans. Slabs of pale tofu with six different sauces are a study in clean flavour for 58RMB.
*Bei Lower Ground Floor, The Opposite House. Open 5.30-10.30pm daily. 11 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang district (6410 5230)
13. Roast leg of lamb
Pay 32RMB per 500g for a seasoned leg of lamb (younger than most mutton) that’s spit-grilled over glowing coals. Use an extension-length knife and fork to slice hunks of meat off the bone and finish grilling on the rack below, then dip charred slices into the addictive, crunchy peanut spice seasoning and alternate bites with snacking on the gratis cold dishes.
Roast Leg of Mutton. Open 11am-midnight daily. 63 Beixinqiao San Tiao (near the Lama Temple), Dongcheng district (138 0129 3221)
This is a hotpot meal based on zhou, a watery rice porridge that’s usually eaten at breakfast. Order the hacked wild mountain chicken and simmer away (mushrooms are a delicious addition). You’ll finish up with the best chicken rice soup that melds all the good flavours in the end, an experience well worth 30RMB.
Chansixianshige. Open 11am-10pm daily. East side of Guanghe Lu (take the side road exit at Guangming Qiao), Dongerhuan, Chaoyang district (6770 2288)
One thing Haidilao knows is how to appease a crowd of people during the dinner rush with snacks, games and free manicures. Choose your soup (49RMB) and watch the secret spice packet ooze into a simmering moat. Be sure to choose the stretched noodles and get a little hip-hop noodle dance from the server to accompany your order.
Haidilao. Open 24 hours a day. 2A Baijiazhuang Lu, Chaoyang district (6595 2982)
Photo by Time Out Beijing staff