Capital eats

By Julie Bertoni Source:Global Times Published: 2012-12-28 20:04:05


Laocu huashengmi Photo: Julie Bertoni/GT
Laocu huashengmi Photo: Julie Bertoni/GT

The traditional way to eat jingjiang rousi Photos: Julie Bertoni/GT
The traditional way to eat jingjiang rousi Photo: Julie Bertoni/GT

Living in a foreign country takes some getting used to. For me, finding a home in Beijing meant making good friends, being brave enough to try new things, and doing my best to see the city through locals' eyes.

To my delight, I found plenty of enchanting elements in the Chinese capital, chief among them being local cuisine. Street snacks, locally produced beverages, and the standard fare in Beijing restaurants have given me endless opportunities to explore the character of my new home, and many local eats will be part of my repertoire for years to come.

While sometimes challenging, I have made it my business to replicate the authentic Chinese cuisine I encounter here, most of which resembles nothing that I've eaten at Chinese restaurants back home in the US. Though it's hard to pick favorites, I chose to tackle two Beijing staples in my quest to record recipes for dishes I hope to never forget.

As with any cooking instructions, be sure to read through all the steps before beginning .

Jingjiang rousi

With its intoxicating, complex flavor, this sublime concoction can be found in nearly any restaurant in China's bustling capital city. Succulent slivers of pork are laid out on a plate with thinly sliced scallions and pressed squares of tofu skin, setting the stage for a build-your-own wrap feast that rivals the fun and flavor of a proper Peking duck dinner.

While it's not part of the tradition, I like when restaurants serve cucumber slivers alongside the pearly strands of white scallion base, so feel free to follow custom or improvise by adding this option. For an easier time with the knife, put the raw pork loin in the freezer for one hour and then slice.

A note on shopping: This recipe calls for sweet bean sauce (tian mian jiang or 甜面酱), an ingredient that varies wildly from brand to brand. Some forms of this generic sauce are pale, chunky and too salty for this recipe, while the ideal version is sweet, dark and extremely smooth, like hoisin sauce. The brand I trust is Liu Bi Jiu, which can easily be found in many shops in Beijing. If shopping in the West, ask for help at an Asian grocery store and tell them specifically what you're looking for.


150-200 grams tofu skin, cut into 20-centimeter squares

300 grams pork loin

1 egg white

52 milliliters Chinese yellow cooking wine (or sherry)

3 Tbs sweet bean sauce

3 Tbs sugar

5 milliliters sesame oil

1/2 tsp cornstarch

75 milliliters peanut or other high-heat oil

1 1/2 Tbs chopped ginger

sesame oil

white ends of 5 scallions, slivered

1/2 cucumber, slivered (optional)


1. Cut pork, against the grain, into 3-millimeter-wide slices and turn to slice into strips of the same width.

2. Marinate pork in the egg white and 30 milliliters wine for about 30-45 minutes.

3. Combine sweet bean sauce, sugar and sesame oil. Stir well and set aside.

4. Drain pork and place in a bowl. Add cornstarch and turn pork with fingers until well blended.

5. Rub some oil on the bottom and sides of an empty wok. Pour about 45 milliliters of oil into wok and turn flame on high. Add pork and work spatula through meat quickly to prevent sticking, about 1 to 2 minutes.

6. Remove pork from wok with slotted spoon, discard oil and scrub off any food that stuck to the surface.

7. Pour remaining oil into wok and turn flame on medium. Add ginger and stir gently for about a minute, until ginger releases aroma.

8. Add bean sauce mixture and cook about 3 minutes, allowing to bubble and release steam.

9. Add 22 milliliters wine, stir and cook about one minute more. Add pork and stir until evenly coated. Drizzle with sesame oil, stir once more and turn off flame.

10. Serve with tofu skins, slivered scallions and optional cucumbers.

At the table: Take one square of tofu skin and place a few pieces of pork in the center, then add a few scallion slivers (and cucumber). Wrap ends of tofu skin to enclose contents and eat with chopsticks.

Laocu huashengmi

When it comes to flavor, this unassuming peanut dish packs a punch that makes first-time tasters wonder what hit them. Little do they know they're already hooked. Fried peanuts soaked in vinegar? I admit I was skeptical - Who ever heard of such a thing? - as I took my first bite of what is now one of my favorite things to order at Beijing restaurants. The tangy vinegar sauce is balanced perfectly by the right amount of sugar, making this dish one of the best way to enjoy peanuts that I've ever encountered.

This peanut treat is meant to be a side dish, as its intense flavors are best appreciated when served with other fare, so be sure to set it alongside other foods. While many a Beijinger may wish to eat to the bottom of the bowl, it's not advised to indulge too much on such bold flavors. When I make this dish at home, I like to follow the lead of Beijing cooks who add carrots and cucumber to make for a more nutritious snack, but most places prefer simply peanuts, scallions, cilantro and vinegar sauce.


About 200 grams raw, shelled peanuts

80 milliliters peanut or other high-heat oil

120 milliliters Chinese black vinegar

10 milliliters soy sauce

4 tsp sugar

sesame oil

3 scallions, chopped

1 small carrot, chopped

1/2 cucumber, chopped

leaves from 4-5 sprigs cilantro (coriander), chopped


1. Rinse peanuts in cold water. Drain.

2. Pour oil into unheated wok, turn flame on medium-high, and add peanuts. Cook about 3 or 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Note: They will begin to make a loud popping sound, and you will notice some peanut halves splitting apart. 

3. When peanuts begin to turn a dark, ruddy-brown color, turn off flame and remove from wok with a slotted spoon. Set peanuts to cool.

4. Combine vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and a drizzle of sesame oil. Stir and let mingle.

5. After peanuts have cooled, give the vinegar sauce a final stir and add to nuts. Toss in chopped cilantro, carrot, and cucumber and stir until well mixed.

Posted in: Miscellany

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