"Enjoy yourself in Beijing traditional snacks" reads the wall-sized sign next to the modest doorway hiding the courtyard of Jiumen xiaochi (九门小吃). In a little hutong off of the quieter end of Houhai is this treasure trove for those seeking old-school Beijing street snacks. Wangfujing is the famous, bustling, and sickeningly touristy "street food" alley, selling row upon row of deep-fried scorpions on a stick, and other assorted weird looking goodies that neither locals, nor tourists, really want to eat. However, I suppose it makes for a good photo opp.
The Jiumen hutong complex is made up of the street food vendors that were relocated from their old location near Qianmen near Tiananmen, and the recessed entryway tucked does not even hint of the rabbit warren of little stalls overflowing with snacks (some delectable and some not so much) tucked inside. Once inside however, it's a near madhouse. It took forever to find a table upon which to unload our many trays of snacks, not to mention figuring out the payment system (buying credits on a card, which you then tap at each stall).
There were many, many more stalls and dishes that we did not have the time to try, nor the money. This kind of traditional snacktime is not cheap–we were quite shocked at how much this street food cost (around RMB 50 each), but the charm of the setting and the knowledge we were contributing some kuai to the preservation Beijing's food culture made it worthwhile.
Address: No. 1 Xiaoyou Hutong (off of Gulou Xidajie) Houhai, Xicheng District
How to Get There: Take Bus No. 5, 27, 44 or 800 and get off at Deshengmen Stop.
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