Autumn might be a short season in Beijing but there's plenty of great things to eat!
Why: The tradition of eating mooncakes can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty when a Turpan businessman offered cakes to the Emperor Taizong. This custom of eating them later spread throughout the country. Its round shape symbolises prosperity and reunion, with boxes of mooncakes traditionally given as a gift to family members and friends. They are also the reason why Beijing’s courier services get jammed up during the Mid-Autumn Festival period as deliverymen rush to deliver mooncakes before this national holiday arrives. Mooncakes are a tasty little treat, but don’t eat too many at once – there are more than 1,000 calories in each!
Where to buy: Mooncakes can be bought at any local neighbourhood shop for less than 10RMB a piece. If you are looking for something with more exotic ingredients, prices start from 188RMB per box.
Photo by Kentaro Iemoto
Hairy Crabs 大闸蟹
Why: Hairy crabs are traditionally regarded as an autumn delicacy as they are only available during the months of September and October. These medium-sized crabs are also known as mitten crabs for their furry claws resembling mittens. Hairy crabs are enjoyed for their subtle and sweet taste but many find it a hassle as it is often a chore picking out those little sweet morsels of meat out.
Where to buy: You can try this autumn treat in several restaurants across the city. Jing Yaa Tang, Opus Lounge and Aman at Summer Palace are among our favorite picks. The price starts from 198 RMB per crab.
Roasted chestnuts 糖炒栗子
Why: When the first cold wind comes to the city, you will be able to catch a whiff of its woody aroma even before you see the local vendors selling these roasted chestnuts on the streets. They usually come in sweet and savoury flavours and the city’s supply often come from Beijing’s mountainous regions which are ideal conditions for growing chestnuts. Autumn is the best time to indulge in them as they are in season and are at its biggest.
Where to buy: Qiulixiang a chain you can find on most busy streets – just look out for the long queues. There’s one at the southern end of Nanluoguxiang and sells freshly roasted chestnuts for 20RMB/500g.
Why: You’ll often see street vendors selling pomegranate fruits or freshly squeezed pomegranate juice on almost every corner of Beijing during the autumn months. Locals believe that pomegranates can help the body detox from the effects of pollution. But for those who rather stick strictly to western medical concepts, the fruit is still rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and other nutrients like magnesium, calcium and zinc. The fruits were first introduced to China during the Tang Dynasty and are now mostly grown in the southern regions of China and then distributed nationwide.
Where to buy: Fresh pomegranate juice can be bought on the streets and a small bottle will cost you roughly 10RMB.
Photo by shizhao under CC BY-SA 2.0
Sweet potato 地瓜
Why: While sweet potatoes were only introduced to China in the 16th century, it soon become an important part of peoples’ diet and remains a very popular snack today. If you don’t fancy its cloying taste, you might want to consider its health benefits. Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamins B and C, magnesium and the important antioxidant beta-carotene.
Where to buy: Just follow your nose on any street of Beijing and you will easily find sweet potatoes which are sold on vendors’ tricycles, in the supermarkets and food market streets.