Winter scenery, local cuisine and rich history, take it all in at Beijing Published: 2019/12/16 2:15:01

Peking roast duck File Photo: VCG

Winter in Beijing may be unwaveringly cold to some, but that isn't a reason to leave the city. The following dining spots allow guests to enjoy local cuisine, accompanied by winter scenery. Otherwise, you'd be missing out on unique Forbidden City experiences.  

Peking duck at Palace Museum

Compared to the time-honored brands of Peking duck restaurants like Quanjude and Bianyifang, established in 2008, Siji Minfu has grown  increasingly popular in recent years, and its Palace Museum location is a stand out among its other locations across the city.

Guests should prepare for relatively long wait times given its location in the heart of the city, and those who want a view of the UNESCO World Heritage site with over 500 years of history can expect to wait even longer. Rest assured, it is well worth it. 

The windows provide a view of the Palace Museum, the former Chinese imperial palace, across the moat. When snow covers the golden tiled roofs, the color of the dark red walls stands out. 

When the mouth-watering aroma shifts your attention, you'd find that the chef has brought the freshly roasted duck to your table. It is sliced in front of you, and the thin and crisp skin is separated from the meat. 

It's served with spring onion, cucumber, radish, and sweet bean sauce. Wrap the ingredients with a piece of skin or meat of your choice. Take a bite, and let the flavor slowly develop in your mouth. Indulge yourself in the grand view and heavenly tastes.

Imperial Cuisine at Beihai Park

Established in 1925 by Zhao Renzhai, a former chef with the Qing imperial kitchens, Fangshan Restaurant specializes in imperial court cuisine. It is best known for manhan quanxi, which means the complete feast of Manchu and Han courses. 

While the traditional manhan quanxi is intended to be consumed across four to six banquets, the selective version of manhan quanxi at Fangshan Restaurant includes the essence of the dishes within one meal. Additionally, the restaurant is famous for its imperial pastry wandouhuang, a sweet pudding made with peas. It is said that Empress Dowager Cixi of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) was fond of this dessert.

As for the dining environment, the restaurant is located in Beihai Park. First built during the 11th century, the park is among the largest Chinese imperial gardens and home to numerous historic sites. It opened to the public in 1925. At Fangshan, you can see the White Pagoda, one of the most notable spots of Beihai Park across the frozen lake. 

Many prominent Chinese political figures including late Chinese leaders Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, as well as many international guests, have visited Fangshan Restaurant.  

Shandong Cuisine at Shichahai 

Not far from Beihai Park, is Qingyunlou, a historic restaurant specializing cuisine from East China's Shandong Province. First established in 1820, it was patronized by imperial families during the Qing Dynasty. It was closed during the 1920s and reopened at its original location in 2002. Luckily, the traditions and cooking skills required to make reputed dishes such as cujiaoyu (vinegar-and-pepper fish) at Qingyunlou have been preserved. 

The restaurant also preserved some of its original structure and decorations. A couplet hanging on the third floor was said to be written by Chen Jichang from Qing Dynasty, who was the last person in Chinese history to pass  the Xiangshi, Huishi and dianshi (the three levels of the imperial exam during ancient China).  

Unlike the first two restaurants mentioned, Qingyunlou is hidden in the hutongs (narrow street alleys lined with traditional courtyard residences). From the windows, a view of the rooftops with grey tiles and courtyards are on display. Depending on the table, the Drum and Bell Towers can also be seen. 

Winter is usually cold and bleak, but it doesn't have to be when living in Beijing. During your stay, have some fun exploring the city's rich history and cuisine. 


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