Old Beijing Snacks

As an ancient capital of several dynasties, Beijing has inherited many peculiar snacks. Many old hutong restaurants specialize in the more exotic of these such as fried pig liver and tripe cooked with soy sauce, mashed garlic, starch and aniseed, a dish known simply as chao gan’r.

Chao gan’r was a popular breakfast dish during the Qing Dynasty. Although its name translates to fried liver, the organ accounts for only a third of the dish. The best chao gan’r contains a sparkling soup of tender tripe. Traditionally it was served with a plate of steamed dumplings.

Be warned: it’s every bit as greasy as it sounds.

Another famous Beijing dish is the local style of sausage, called guanchang. The sausage filling is a mix of spices and starchy grains like wheat and rice flour. The sausages are twisted, boiled and cut into cubes for frying. Plates are served topped with a salty garlic paste.

The capital also has some sweeter snacks for diners who want to avoid the grease.

Rolling Donkeys (lv dagun) might be the best-known sweet snack of Old Beijing. The treat was first recorded in the early Qing Dynasty. Sheets of sticky rice dough are rolled together with red bean paste and covered in a soybean flour crumble. The cake is yellow, sweet and sticky.

Another sweet snack from Beijing is fried dough rings, or jiaoquan. Resembling something closer to a brown bracelet than a doughnut, the rings are crispy and fragrant. The main ingredients are flour and salt, and they are usually eaten with a glass of soymilk or wrapped in a jianbing.

Because the production process is complicated and the profit margins are low, few snack shops are willing to serve jiaoquan. The dough rings are an extremely high-calorie food, so China Highlights suggests exercising restraint when eating.

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