Peking Duck? or Lamb Kebabs?
We found out later that one can eat pretty well (and if not careful, reach a 'bloated' stage quite easily) in this city for about Rmb50 (S$10) per person. Our first meal in this city was at a little 'baozi' shop in a side-street to the right of the entrance to TianTan - shop was no bigger that a mid-size bedroom, accomodating no more than 15 people at any one time sitting elbow to elbow. Didn't look great but it was quite filled with locals (a good bet usually of edible food). A steamer of about 8 'baozi' (meat dumpling) cost us Rmb3 (I calculated and calculated in my head, and yes, it was unbelievably S$0.70 or so). It tasted quite good (fresh out of the steamer) and just like the locals at the shop, we doused (not dipped) the entire baozi in the light black vinegar sauce that accompanied it - yum! It set a good precedent for the rest of the trip.
A taxi-driver told us to take a walk down 'GuiJie' (Ghost street?) if we wanted to try the local cuisine. So we took the city subway to Dongzhimen station, and walked down Dongzhimenwai Dajie.. about 100m down, we found that the entire road is filled with restaurants and pubs on both sides of the road and it stretched for quite a distance. Alamak, how to pick which restaurant to go in, by number of diners? by decor? (some were really hip & happenin') - in the end, we just followed our noses to the most aromatic lamb kebab that we've ever inhaled, and ended up in a Xinjiang-style restaurant (the only one on that stretch). It looked warm, unassuming, and the locals looked boisterous, happy and full. The two of us had sticks of lamb and chicken wings, wonderfully spiced and grilled, a huge dish of spicy mutton stew served on 'pita-like' bread (thicker to soak up the delicious stew), a whole fish - filleted and deep-fried with sesame seeds coating, a plate of vegetables, sweet lemon-melon strips for dessert downed with 2 bottles of the local Chinese beer (all for Rmb100) (approx S$20). This place definitely passed the 'bloated stage' test!