Beijing: Hot and Sour Soup in Beijing is Just as Gloopy18 Jun 2014
Location: Beijing, China
Late night addendum: we decided to walk over to the Donghuamen night market for some snack in lieu of dinner (we were still stuffed from the dozens of dumplings we'd eaten earlier today). Turns out there are two reasons to go to the Donghuamen night market: to gawk at Australian tourists gawking at squids, endangered species, and novelty-size insects deep fried on sticks, and to be very disappointed by the most forgettable Peking duck I've ever had.
I guess it’s kind of like New York where it’s possible to have both the best and worst pizza in the world, all within a couple of blocks.
Seriously, do yourself a favor: if you do come to the night market to gawk, avoid actually buying anything. It's all been sitting around for hours and is massively overpriced. Something just seems off about a row of several dozen food stands that all have basically the same menu, all run by people all wearing the same uniform.
After being disappointed by the goods, we decided to hit up the same dumpling joint we went to last night, hoping they might have a couple new flavors or skins on the menu. But when we got there, in pace of a quiet dumpling joint, there was a raucous restaurant serving up mostly Sichuan specialties—sliced oxtail and tripe, beef cooked in a sizzling vat of chile oil, roasted whole fish with chiles, and the like.
We ordered a couple of big beers for 4 Yuan apiece (Yanjing is China's version of PBR. Cool, crisp, not-too-alcoholic, and incredibly refreshing when served ice cold), then I asked for a plate of smashed cucumbers with garlic, and some slippery liang fen noodles (clear, watery noodles with an agar-like texture made from mung bean starch) tossed with vinegar, sugar, fresh chilies, garlic, and peanuts. This may have been the first dish I've tasted since coming to China where the version I know from Chinese restaurants in the US (like Legend in Chelsea) actually trumped the version here. Makes sense, given it was a Beijing restaurant doing Sichuan food.
Adri, wanting to keep things light, decided to order a bowl of soup. We both love hot and sour soup—even the heavily-thickened Chinatown lunch special version (or perhaps especially)—so we were excited to see that what came to our table was actually not far off from what we were used to in the US. Perhaps a little heavier on the white pepper with slices of ham instead of roast pork, but everything from the gloppiness to the cheap plastic spoons was right there.
We didn't quite expect to receive an entire half gallon of the stuff, but who's complaining? Certainly not Adri.