Jingjiang rousi (京酱肉丝)
What: While several quintessential Beijing foods are, shall we say, an acquired taste, jingjiang rousi is a hands-down crowd pleaser no matter who you are or where you’re from. It’s one of the few classic Beijing dishes you can find in restaurants big and small across China, and is a frequent favorite of even the pickiest expats and travelers.
Made of thin strips of pork stir-fried in bean paste and garlic, its taste might remind you a little of zhajiang mian, though the resulting sauce is a bit lighter and sweeter. You’ll find it served with a plate of chopped green onions and a pile of thin, square-shaped pancakes…which many first-time diners are surprised to find are actually made of tofu! If you’ve had Peking duck, you can probably guess the drill: Place the meat and a few onions on a pancake, wrap it up, and enjoy. With the contrast between the steaming hot filling and the refreshingly cool tofu wrap, it’s a fantastic dish to order with a cold bottle of Tsingtao beer on a lazy summer afternoon.
Where: To enjoy jingjiang rousi like the locals do, we usually head to Beijing Rongshunyuan Xiaojie Dalian Huoshao (北京荣顺园小街褡裢火烧, 9 Neiwubu Jie 内务部街9号, map), tucked away in the corner of a scenic and recently renovated hutong. Instead of tea or water, diners are served a complimentary bowl of warm corn porridge (yumi zhou, 玉米粥) and are encouraged to load up their plates with unlimited helpings of pickled radishes and kimchi-like paocai (泡菜), also for free. Their generosity makes this the kind of place you can linger in on a lazy afternoon. If you stop by after lunchtime, you’re likely to find a gathering of elderly neighbors sipping their porridge as they expound on topics ranging from politics to the secrets of a long life.
When: Daily, 11am-10:30pm
Order: Despite the rustic décor and no-frills setup, the jingjiang rousi (25 RMB) is served with panache, the meat and onions arrayed atop a pinwheel of tofu pancakes. As you can probably tell from the restaurant’s name, the very filling dalian huoshao are also worth a try, with 16 different meat and vegetarian varieties, sold by the pair for just 8 or 9 RMB.
Alternatively: Given the dish’s popularity, it would probably be harder to find a place that doesn’t serve jingjiang rousi. In any event, we’d recommend old Beijing stalwarts like Li Ji (李记, 19 Ya’er Hutong, 鸦儿胡同19号, map) or Bai Kui (白魁, 158 Jiaodaokou Nan Dajie, 交道口南大街158号, map) for this dish.