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Beijing – A melting pot of cuisines in China

Beijing, the capital city of Peoples’ Republic of China, has over the centuries been home to a vast number of nomadic communities. The city is therefore a mosaic of cultures, and is often viewed as a melting pot of cuisines.

Beijing is a treasure house of a wide array of culinary delights. Just sample the communities who made Beijing their home in the distant past and the cuisines they brought along with them. The Mongols from the Ming Dynasty loved to gorge on mutton. The people during the Qing Dynasty era were pork loving. The communities in the south were the first to grow rice and popularize its eating. The people from the north preferred buns, breads, noodles, and steamed dumplings such as baozi and jiaozi.

Meat in Beijing and the rest of China continues to be a staple for most dishes prepared today. It is cooked in many ways. This includes stewing, steaming, stir-frying, instant-boiling, roasting and deep-fat frying. The Peking roast duck, the most famous dish in Beijing, is a meat derivative. This exotic dish finds mention in a recipe book first written in 1330 by Hu Sihui, who used to be an inspector of imperial kitchens when China’s capital was in Nanjing city.

The Peking roast duck was a popular royal dish during those times. It later on moved to Beijing when the royal court moved there in early 15th century. This dish was however refined over time when various cooks tried their hands at it to impress the emperors in the palace kitchens in the Forbidden City. According to the legend, the Peking roast duck as well as other imperial dishes were smuggled out of palace and provided to the general people to give them a taste of fine dining.

The imperial Beijing was though not happening on the culinary front until the defeat of the Ching Dynasty in 1911. With the overthrow of the dynasty, a food revolution took place in Beijing during the same year with unemployed court chefs setting up their own restaurants across the city. The influence of the imperial food can be found in thousands of restaurants in Beijing even today.  When visiting Beijing for a business or leisure trip don’t miss out on popular dishes such as Over the Bridge Noodles and Sichuan duck smoked with tea leaves and camphor wood.

To get a taste of real Beijing cuisines, take a tour of the Gui Jie Street. Dining out here is a fascinating experience. This nearly one-mile-long street has more than 100 restaurants. These look simply wonderful with dairy lights and red lanterns brightly illuminated. There’s a story behind the naming of this street. Its name has come from “ghost fairs” of the vendors who used to sell their groceries starting late at night until the break of dawn. The traders then used kerosene lamps which created ghostly shadows, thus giving it the name. Today the street is bustling from the wee hours and continues till night.

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