If there’s one thing that all Malaysians can agree on, it’s our love for good food.
Oh, and travelling too, since studies have shown that more and more Malaysians are travelling for leisure. From 2013 to 2015, there was a significant increase in Malaysians who travelled overseas, where 9 out of 10 respondents having done so in those two years.
We’re also travelling within the region, with top destinations being Singapore (41%), Thailand (32%), Indonesia (30%) and Hong Kong (26%). Coincidentally, they’re all major makan destinations!
So where to next? Maybe… Beijing?
Beijing itself needs no introduction. It’s the heart of China, a massive capital city with a rich history spanning across 3,000 years. From the Great Wall of China to age-old hutongs, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse into the old way of life. Much like an overstuffed dumpling, Beijing is just bursting with culture.
So if you’ve ever thought of Beijing as your next destination, we’ve got good news for you. Our friends at AirAsia X flies direct from KL to Beijing twice a day. They’ve also launched their latest promotion: all-in fare from RM299 (one way), and you can get this deal if you book anytime from now till 30th July 2017.
The travel period is anytime from now to 8th February 2018, so take advantage of the cool autumn breeze (September to November) or winter chills (December to March) and escape from this unforgiving Malaysian heat.
If you’ve booked your flights, don’t leave without a list of makan places to check out. We asked Malaysians who are living/have lived in Beijing to recommend places that will appeal to Malaysians, and here’s what they said:
1. The 24-hour dim sum place that reminds us of… a mamak?!
Makan what? Shrimp dumplings, chestnut cakes, Shanghai soup dumplings
Why here? 24 hours dim sum because malaysians are always hungry
In Malaysia, we are fortunate enough to have mamaks everywhere to cope with our midnight hunger pangs. But in other countries? The best you could hope for is probably a convenience store burrito. Unless you’re in Beijing, in which case drop by the Jin Ding Xuan restaurant which is next to the Yonghegong subway station.
Imagine a 7-eleven store, except with dimsum and decorated by the set makers of a TVB drama about Chinese royalty. You too could pretend to be Wong Fei Hung as you sit there with your braided ponytail and enjoy after-hours dumplings. Although technically, he lived in Guangzhou which is a 3-hour flight away (as far as we can tell, the food is worth the travel).
All kinds of traditional delights are served here, so no wonder it can get crowded at certain times of the day. Slept through dinner and supper because of jet lag? Having insomnia? Come and eat only la.
“Massive dim sum place that opens 24 hours! awesome for after party supper. Its like mamak but china style i guess!” – Sher
Also, a sidenote for non-Mandarain speakers: this restaurant has English on its menus and even has all allergies listed! So if you can’t take prawn, gluten etc., you can always check the menu – which is HUGE by the way – so you’ll never run out of choices.
The shrimp dumplings, chestnut cakes, and Shanghai soup dumplings are must-haves. You have to order your food through the servers as opposed to picking them from passing food carts — they don’t have that here. Service here has emphasis on being quick and accurate rather than being friendly, so don’t expect your waiter/waitress to stop for a chat. They’re busy!
TIP: Prepare to queue 30-90 minutes during peak hours like lunchtime, dinnertime or just before midnight. However, service is fast and you’ll get your food quick and still hot. One reviewer even compared it to McDonalds!
2. A really good duck place with rude and ‘action’ waiters
Details? LiQun Roast Duck (Qian MenDian) No 11 Beixiangfeng, Zhengyi Rd, Qianmendong St, Beijing | +86 10 6705 5578 | Reviews
Makan what? Peking duck, Mustard chicken feet
Why here? Good food, dirty environment, noisy crowd, cocky waiters… reminds us of some of the best Penang char kueh teow stalls!
It’s not a trip to Beijing if you don’t try Peking duck. It’s one of the most iconic dishes around with a rich, 800-year-old history that traces all the way back to China’s imperial past. You’d typically be served with carved pieces of roast duck (thin, crispy skin with a bit of meat), small pancakes, spring onions, cucumber slices and a sweet sauce (like hoisin). It also comes with a ‘show’ – at most places, the chef would carve the duck in front of you.
While there are many places in Beijing that offers Peking duck, our Malaysian friend Dannie Then recommends LiQun Restaurant at the Dongcheng District. Set in a hutong (alleyway of a traditional Chinese housing area), the restaurant has been there for over 100 years!
“This one in particular is highly recommended by locals. The owner is apparently one of the first few head chefs of the roast duck culture in Beijing.
Crispy skin and yet juicy, with an authentic sweet sauce that doesn’t taste commercialised.” – Dannie Then
Dannie also recommends the Mustard Chicken Feet: “It’s really unique. Served chilled and boneless.” Although it sounds bland, Dannie tells us that it packs a punch as it’s very flavourful.
But one thing we found through online reviews, was that the service isn’t that great and the place is kinda dirty. Waiters can be a bit unfriendly… but that’s not something Malaysians aren’t used to la. 😛
“It’s pretty old school, and the waiters are also cocky BIG TIME. Kinda like that famous char kueh teow stall in Penang. Feels like home for a bit.” – Dannie Then
Ordering is easy as they have set meals with side dishes. A reviewer said it cost him 338RMB (RM213) but it had plenty of food for the cost. But the best part was, for an extra 25RMB (RM16), they’ll cook up your duck scraps in a spice of your choice so you can gnaw on them to your heart’s content.
BTW, rumour has it that a very, very, VERY popular Malaysian politician has also eaten there
TIP: The queue is LONG. Dannie waited almost 2 hours under the hot sun! Phone them up and reserve a duck so you know you’ll still have it when you arrive. You’ll still have to wait in line though. Be warned that they don’t do half-portions so you need to order at least one duck.
It’s a little hard to find, so just follow the cute ducks on the wall to get to LiQun. Toilets are apparently a nightmare, so ease yourself before you go. If not, you’ll be directed to public loos outside the laneway, where you’ll be pooping/peeing alongside others o_O
3. A place that will treat you like legit royalty
Details? Bai Jia Da Yuan Restaurant 15 Suzhou St, Haidian District, Beijing, China | +86 10 6265 4186 | www.baijiadayuan.cn | Reviews
Makan what? Flower salad, garlic prawns, pulled noodles
Why here? Can become a royalty for a while, who dowan?
Located in the Haidian district, this restaurant has been attracting local foodies and globe-trotting tourists alike. Why? Because it’s a perfect combination of Imperial cuisine (basically food that originates from imperial kitchens), rich history, well-preserved architecture, and feeling like a royal Tai Tai. The place was built 300 years ago as the Prince’s Palace during the Qing dynasty. There you’ll find over 50 hectares of gorgeous pavilions, terraces, towers, corridors, gardens and ponds.
“BJDY was a prince’s residence so walking around the restaurant in itself is an experience. Plus the waiters are dressed as eunuchs and waitresses as concubines! They greet you in ancient Chinese as if you are royalty.” – Judy Lim
It’s so legit that even the utensils used are that of royal households. And since royals are never one to entertain themselves, YOU’LL be entertained through the night with music and an impressive, traditional face-changing show.
As for what to order, Judy recommends the flower salad. “They have a unique dish like the flower salad. It’s literally flowers, but it tastes good. The food is great and the tea list is impressive.” We looked up more reviews on TripAdvisor and found that some also suggested the Peking duck, garlic prawns, claypot eggplant and freshly-pulled noodles.
TIP: Get there at about 6pm – 6.30pm. You’ll arrive with some sunlight so you can take in the views of the beautiful gardens. After that, you’ll be just in time for the performance while you have your dinner. After you’re done, you’ll leave when it’s dark and when the gardens are illuminated with lanterns. Hou feeling ah~
4. Take a break from notorious China toilets with this super clean toilet (plus you get lotsa free stuff!)
Details? 23 Shatan N St, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China | +86 10 8400 2232 | www.temple-restaurant.com | Reviews
Makan what? Wagyu Flank Steak, Marbled Cod, pot-roasted lobster, home-made marshmallows
Why here? You can get FREE STUFF in between meals. No self-respecting Malaysian would say no!
After spending your afternoon exploring the historical Forbidden City (or Bandar Haram… kidding), you can rest your weary feet and leisurely enjoy a night of lazy pampered eating at TRB Hutong, formerly known as the Temple Restaurant Beijing.
Ok, this isn’t a place for local Chinese food… but the food is still good nonetheless. Here you can order any 3 or 5 individual French/European dishes from the menu to be served in courses, or select a fixed set meal. Then just leave the rest to them.
“Highly recognized establishment among the expat crowd and nestled within renovated temple grounds. Go for the 3 or 5 course menu and they’ll wow guests with their service and serve you more than you ordered (extra food & wine freebies) in between.
Love the historic and cultural feel of the place, plenty of character.” – Tiffany Ooi
Free drinks, free courses, and sometimes even a welcome cake will be served to guests at the TRB Hutong, and sometimes, the owners even make surprise appearances at guest tables! Free cookies are also given at the end of your meal for you to tapau. One customer said her husband was served a soup dish “on the house” because he was waiting for her to finish her salad. (Better ask your partner eat slowly…)
They’re well known for the quality of their service and food which mixes old and new. Even New York Times was there, and they loved the “hot pistachio soufflé with Gianduja ice-cream.”
It is nestled in a scenic area of Beijing with several nearby attractions (the Peking University Honglou, Palace Museum, and Jingshan park), so you definitely have a variety of things to do before your reservation.
The best part is, knowing China’s notorious reputation on.. erm… toilet hygiene, TRB is really conscious of their guest’s experience to the point where the toilet is cleaned after EVERY guest. And they use expensive Aēsop and L’Occitane handwash which is like… washing your hands with liquid gold. <3
TIP: Tou might want to use the maps from their website or call the restaurant to direct your driver as it may be difficult to find on your own.
5. Miss your cili padi? Here’s a place to get your pedas fix (and get a… manicure?!)
Details? Hai Di Lao (Wangfujing outlet) 8/F, In 88 Shopping Mall, No.88 Wangfujing Main Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing | +86 10 5762 0153 | Review
Makan what? Hot pot with ‘ma lat’ soup
Why here? Malaysians can’t live without their pedas food!
While mostly known as ‘steamboat’ in Malaysia, many other countries refer to this dish as ‘hot pot’. And while Malaysians end up sweating while having their steamboat (and subsequently having their plastic chairs wet with thigh sweat!), the hot pot experience is a lot more comfortable when you’re in somewhere cold like Beijing (seasonal).
Regardless of the season, ‘Ma Lat’ hotpot is a perennial favourite among the locals because of its super pedas kick. But it’s not the kind of pedas that you’ll get from our local curry mee or tom yam soups. Ma Lat will literally numb your lips! How? It incorporates the characteristics of Sichuan chilies (the pedas bit) and Sichuan peppercorns (which legit makes your lips numb).
“There’s Hunan and Sichuan food which I think Malaysians would be very receptive to, because they’re both mega spicy. Sichuan hotpot is a particular fave.
I’ve been to a bunch (of hotpot places) but one that’s super famous and that everyone loves is Hai Di Lao.” – Natasha Hussian
Hai Di Lao is a popular hotpot chain with more than 10 outlets within Beijing, so you may not need to go out of your way to try it. (Actually, they have over 70 outlets WORLDWIDE, nearest one to us in Singapore!) “It’s similar to a steamboat and you can choose what you want to put into the hot pot. You can choose your veggies, meat and the broth,” Natasha tells us. “You can also mix your own sauce to dip your cooked food. What’s cool about the sauce is, you can mix it according to your taste.”
Good food aside, we found more reviews that talked about the incredible services that make the dining experience a lot more fun and value-for-money. If you’re good with origami and can fold paper cranes, you can get discount/freebies. If you’re waiting in line, you can also get a free manicure. (WHAT?!) And while you eat, you can even be entertained with a noodle-pulling dance:
TIP: For all that, you can expect the place to be packed with visitors… so come early, or make a reservation beforehand!
Beijing is truly a food lover’s paradise
It wasn’t easy narrowing down to these 5 locations… we wanted to highlight more, but if we did, we’d be writing a 40-page article! So here are some other places that were recommended by our friends:
- Quanjude 全聚德 – a 140-year-old restaurant that serves Peking duck. It’s a chain restaurant so it’s pretty accessible from wherever you are.
- Duck De Chine – another Peking duck and dim sum place. It’s got a classy atmosphere of a refurbished, traditional Beijing courtyard with art sculptures around the premises.
- Ling Er Jiu 零贰玖 – a tiny, late-night noodle shop serving some incredible youpo noodles (hot oil noodles) and roujiamo (meat burger)
- Grandma’s Home 外婆家 – a local ‘ngai song sek fan’ shop that serves up homecook-style meals
- Susu Vietnamese 苏苏会- yes, it’s Vietnamese, but it was suggested by a few different people, so the food’s gotta be really really good!
- Mr. Shi’s Dumplings – a WIDE variety of fresh dumplings cooked either steamed or fried
- The Great Leap Brewing Bar – excellent craft brews, but not at all a Chinese-y place. Very American, serves a mean spicy chicken burger.
- Donghuamen Night Market – a buzzing pasar malam that serves up all sorts of food (even the weird ones like scorpions and animal penises)… of course you gotta go!
Our respondents said that Beijing is never short of something delicious to eat. Even if you don’t find yourself at one of the places we’ve listed above, you’ll be able to find something as good, if not better, by just walking around. Just remember to look for places with lots of locals (young and old) and a maybe even a queue… those are some sure-fire ways of knowing if a place has good food
In the meantime, don’t forget to take advantage of AirAsia X’s current promotion to Beijing, from RM299 (all-in, one way) available from now till 30th July 2017. Spend less on your travels so you can spend more on your makan
P/S: Know of any other good makan places in Beijing? Or tried any of the ones we’ve listed above? Comment below!