A seemingly boundless metropolis of over 20 million inhabitants and more than 3,000 years of history, Beijing can be overwhelming – and so can its culinary offerings. ‘Chinese food’ is not food in the singular – here it’s a plural affair. What’s hard to grasp outside of the country becomes infinitely clear after a handful of days: China might just have the richest, most diverse set of any one nation.
There’s the spicy, mouth-numbing cuisine of Sichuan, the dry heat of Hunan and then Guizhou’s preferred sour-spicy flavour blend. Shanghai keeps things sweet, while at times the food of Yunnan Province recalls Southeast Asia with its bright citrusy accents. Northeastern Dongbei is home to the steamed buns and boiled dumplings known the world over, while cooking culinary traditions in the outer reaches of the northwestern provinces reflects Central Asia’s heavy reliance on cumin. The list goes on and on in a country whose history spans over 3,000 years.
And Beijing is a microcosm of it all. The city draws people from all over China and they bring their food traditions with them; no other city anywhere offers a better crash course in Chinese food. Mix this fierce food culture with a newly emerging but robust contemporary international food scene, and you’ve got the dynamic, intoxicating landscape that is eating in today’s Beijing.