Beijing Food Culture



As for Beijing Cuisine, people also call it the Capital City cuisine. Beijing was the capital city for the Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Except for the Ming Dynasty, all the rulers of these dynasties were from northern nomadic tribes. For those 500- plus years, the dishes available from Beijing's catering trade were dominated by meat dishes, which corresponded to the eating habits of the ruling class. The Mongolian rulers of the Yuan Dynasty were especially fond of mutton, and 80% of the dishes in their palace were made of mutton. These mutton dishes still are made today, such as stewed mutton, instant – boiled mutton, quick – fried mutton tripe, and fried dumplings with minced mutton. The Qing Dynasty rulers ate pork before moving to Beijing from Shenyang in northeastern China. Their cooking methods were stewing, roasting, and boiling. Pork and mutton have been equally represented in Beijing cuisine since the Qing Dynasty as a result of the dietetic influence of the Manchus. Roast and stewed pig, pork dishes, and pig's offal stewed in ceramic pots offered by the Shaguoju Restaurant (ceramic pots restaurant) were the first to be offered to suit the eating preferences of the Manchus. Gradually these dishes were accepted by the residents of Beijing.

Beijing was the gathering place of the literati and officials, and many skilled chefs followed these people to Beijing. These chefs brought the different cuisines to the capital and greatly enriched the flavors of Beijing cuisine. The Shandong, Huai-Yang, and Jiangsu-Zhejiang cuisines all strongly influenced Beijing cuisine. Because Shandong was near Beijing, people migrated from there to Beijing to earn their living, and many worked in the catering trade. Shandong cuisine was similar to Beijing cuisine, so its dishes were quickly accepted. The Shandong people almost had a monopoly on the Beijing catering trade during the Qing Dynasty.

People from Shandong opened many famous Beijing restaurants, including the Tongfengtang, Fushoutang, Huifengtang, Guangheju, and Tongheju. The quick-frying techniques of the Shandong cuisine and its use of onions greatly influenced Beijing cuisine. For example, quick-fried mutton, a popular, common dish, is a typical Beijing dish that uses the cooking skills and flavoring methods of the Shandong cuisine. Now, people in Beijing quickly fry onions in hot oil before stir-frying the dish because of the influence of the Shandong cuisine.


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