This is part one of a seven part series.
Though we live in one of the most diverse food cultures in the world, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of eating only at familiar restaurants. We get it – not every place has child-friendly facilities and Beijing traffic can put a snarl in even the most adventurous of plans. However, it would be a shame to miss out on all the regional cuisines that China has to offer. For our annual food issue, we decided to visit seven regional Chinese restaurants ranging from Shandong to Taiwanese; some will be familiar, most you’ve probably never heard of before. So for the New Year, we propose making a resolution to eat more, not less. Dig in!
Perhaps the best-known variety of Chinese cuisine internationally, Cantonese food is ideal for kids because of its variety and clean flavors. Dim sum in particular is popular with families, and for good reason; the small portions and neatly-wrapped buns and dumplings mean kids can sample several dishes in one sitting.
Tang Palace, a Guangdong restaurant chain with several branches in Beijing, was recommended to us by a Guangdong mom. From the gold-trimmed entryway to the main dining hall bustling with chattering customers, Tang Palace captures the essence of Hong Kong-style dim sum. Best of all, many of the best menu items are available at rock-bottom prices, making kids and parents alike go back for seconds.
These dishes are mostly steamed, making them a healthier alternative to some of China’s oilier and heavier fare. Hong Kong locals usually refer to dim sum as going for a “drink of tea” or yum cha (饮茶) because tea is so frequently served with these bite-sized dishes. Dumplings of all kinds are some of the more popular choices; the skin is typically made with starch or rice flour, and sticks lightly to chopsticks when steamed. Other popular dim sum items include rice noodle rolls (changfen), spring rolls, congee (rice porridge), spare ribs, steamed meatballs, and lotus leaf rice, just to name a few.
Note that there’s a 10 percent surcharge and regular tea costs an extra RMB 5 per customer. Dim sum is available at the Chaoyangmen branch daily from 10am to 10pm. The availability at other branches varies (see p56 for details).
Major ingredients and condiments: Shrimp, pork, beef, cabbage, carrots, glass noodles, mushrooms, rice flour, wheat starch, glutinous rice, and more
Main preparation methods: Steaming, frying, roasting
- Steamed shrimp dumplings (虾饺皇, xiajiao huang): A perennially-popular dim sum item that is healthier than many other carnivorous dishes. Instantly recognizable from the translucent skin with a hint of pink shrimp showing underneath. RMB 26.
- Mushroom and vegetable buns (香菇素菜包, xianggu sucai bao): The mushrooms in this bun have a light, spongy texture and may convince picky eaters to give it a try. RMB 13.
- Steamed black oat cream buns (黑燕麦奶皇包, hei yanmai naihuang bao): While egg tarts may be dim sum’s most famous dessert, families are advised to try this underrated alternative. The sweet, creamy filling contrasts with the light and fluffy bun. RMB 11.
Family facilities: The bathroom has western toilets with soap and toilet paper. Both chopsticks and cutlery are available, with highchairs and menus in English and Chinese (but without pictures). The main banquet hall is non-smoking; smaller side rooms allow smoking.
Tang Palace Seafood Boat 唐宫海鲜坊
1) Daily 7.30am-10.30pm (regular menu), daily 7.30am-5pm (dim sum). Chongwenmen branch: 3/F Novotel Xinqiao Hotel, Dongjiaominxiang, Dongcheng District (6512 9603) 东城区东交民巷新侨饭店3层
2) Daily 8.30am-10pm (regular menu), daily 8.30am-5pm (dim sum). Dongdan branch: 1/F, Jianguo Garden Hotel, 17 Jianguomennei Dajie, Dongcheng District (6513 1288/2088) 东城区建国门内大街17号好苑建国商务酒店1层;
3) Olympic Village branch: 1/F, Xizang Dasha, 118 Beisihuan Donglu, Chaoyang District (6498 5543) 朝阳区北四环东路118号西藏大厦1层;
4) Daily 10am-10pm. Joy City branch: Store 2, Bldg 9, Joy City, 101 Chaoyang Beilu, Chaoyang District (8552 9488) 朝阳区朝阳北路101号朝阳大悦城9层2号店铺;
5) Daily 7.30am-10.30pm. Fuchengmen branch: 1/F, Minzu Hotel, 51 Fuchengmennei Dajie, Xicheng District (6605 9327) 西城区复兴门内大街51号民族饭店1层;
6) Daily 10am-10pm. Chaoyang branch: 4/F, Fenglian Square, 18 Chaoyangmen Waidajie, Chaoyang District (6588 9388/3266) 朝阳区朝阳区门外大街18号丰联广场4层;
7) Daily 10am-10.30pm. Wangjing branch: 3/F, Fangheng Mall, 6 Futong Dongdajie, Chaoyang District (8478 5198/5296) 朝阳区阜通东大街6号方恒购物中心3层;
8) Daily 7.30am-7.30pm (regular menu), daily 7.30am-5pm (dim sum). Haidian branch: 2/F, Hotel Nikko New Century Beijing, 6 Shouti Nanlu, Haidian District (6849 1313) 海淀区首体南路6号新世纪日航酒店2层
This article originally appeared on p49 in the January 2015 issue of beijingkids. To view it online for free, click here. To find out how you can obtain your own copy, email email@example.com
Photos: Kai Chan Vong (flickr) and Kyle Mullin