Area: Gulou (Baochao Hutong)
Price: 50-100 RMB per person
At any given time in Beijing, where all Chinese cuisines are available night and day, there’s always one region that’s hogging the spotlight. Taiwanese is enjoying attention now, and Sichuan is always popular. But the star of the moment in Beijing is, definitely, Yunnan.
Yunnan Province is in China’s far southwest, and its cuisine is very easy to love. It relies on simply cooked local produce – like mushrooms, pineapple, mint, flowers and lemongrass – and delicious preserved products like ham. For Beijingers it’s also nice to think about a visit to the gorgeous Yunnanese countryside (which we imagine, incorrectly or not, to be all green hills, blue rivers, etc.)
There are plenty of great Yunnan restaurants out there now (Middle 8th, Dali Courtyard, In & Out) that are all as good as they are expensive. Equal deliciousness can be found at Dali Renjia in Baochao Hutong, with an interior slightly dustier and a price slightly friendlier.
Jasmine flowers stir-fried with egg (茉莉花炒鸡蛋). The flowers are more buds, and their gentle herbal flavor is perfect, PERFECT, with the salty stir-fried egg. The combination is a Yunnan classic.
The beef with lime (柠檬牛肉) isn’t delicate at all. Cured beef slices are covered in vinegar, lime, mint, and chilies, making the dish very acidic and spicy. And addictive.
Cucumber salad is always delicious, as in smacked cucumber, （拍黄瓜) but this lime cucumber salad (柠檬黄瓜) kicks it a crazy notch up with extra acid from the limes and a huge amount of chili. This one had me running for the fridge for drinks and sniffling hard – I’m a chili addict so I loved it.
The day I took pictures they had run out of pea tofu (碗豆腐), but if you’re a tofu lover don’t forget to order it – the lightly pea-flavoured tofu is dressed with vinegar, chilies and soybeans; it’s pretty sublime.
There’s no question, Dali Renjia is an awesome place to eat in Gulou, with a great rooftop view away from the Nanluoguxiang crowds. This meal cost us about 50 RMB each (if we had ordered more meat dishes, it would have been more). That, plus the service is always great – casual but attentive, and the waiters have suspended their break time more than once to serve us a midafternoon meal.
80 Baochao Hutong 宝钞胡同80号
Opening hours – ??? They are never closed at lunch or early dinnertime.