I like spicy food. Maybe because I am an Indonesian, maybe because I am an Indian; both contribute to my love of chili. I wrote this spicy food in China piece for the time when I write for a famous Indian travel magazine, but since it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon, I am posting it here, hoping it will persuade them to give me a spot in their guest post column. Either that, or to share eating options with my fellow desi on where to eat spicy food in China.
Before I visited China, I had no expectation of their food. My best friends never particularly mentioned any food from their hometowns. Even if it was only so-so, I didn’t care because as long as my historical curiosity was satisfied, I would be one happy traveler. So yeah, little did I know I would have a gastronomical experience in China that included a sumptuous home-cooked meal, drinking crab soup with a straw, and dim sum treats with them, but alone, I ate my share of spicy food in China to satisfy my Indian tongue.
4 Spicy Food in China:
Foreigner Friendly Green Chili Frog
This was my first meal at the famous Hutong in Beijing. I had been walking up and down the alley for some time trying to decide where to eat. There were many restaurants, most with interesting names, but I decided to try this one because they grew onions in a vase. Maybe it was purely for decoration, but I was kinda hoping they would pluck it right in front of me and add it as an ingredient to my food.
The restaurant was packed with travelers, and I was sitting beside a bunch of Indonesian girls, while on the other side there was a German couple. The menu showed an extensive range of food and all sounded so nice. I settled on the green chili frog. Frog is not so easy to find back home, and also not something Fafa usually wants to share. So here I would indulge.
It’s so dreamingly delicious. It was a cold day, but I stepped out with a full smile, and warm body, heart and tummy. After a horrible dining experience the night before, this seemed like a payback. Thanks universe!
Drum and Gong // Nan luogu Xiang, Beijing 100009 // Cuisine: yummy Chinese
A Taste of Shredded Beef with Chili at Hutong
I went back to the same Hutong the next day. The plan was to drink a Venti Peach Blossom Tea Latte, send some postcards and eat at the same place as yesterday (above) but at the last minute I went into the restaurant beside it because they kept inviting me in. They even showed me the menu and advised what their best dishes were (they gave me the thumbs up gestures). I hadn’t talked to anyone the whole day unless I was ordering and paying; it almost felt like we were friends! So I went in, and to my surprise, a part of the restaurant was covered with post-it notes from customers. It reminded me of Song’s Pad Thai on Phi Phi Island. I ordered the shredded beef because I was missing Fafa. As simple as that.
Taste // 106 Nanluogu Xaing, Dongcheng District, Beijing // Cuisine: Chongqing
Pickled Frog Spicy Spirit Took Me to Cloud Nine
This is a huge restaurant in a shopping mall, but was almost empty. I circled the mall to find a more reliable place to eat, but my heart was set on this one because of the name, Spicy Spirit. How bad could it be? It has spicy in its name – Fafa’s words were ringing in my head. It should be good enough for a spicy food in China saga.
I sat down and ordered a yummy-looking drink and the pickled chili frog dish. I mean, chili frog was already yum, added pickle sounded even better, and after a short wait it came. I paid and wondered why there weren’t many customers? The food was delicious. Only, the next day when I went back and needed to queue to eat at the same place, I knew why. The first time I had come at an odd hour (perks of being on holiday). This time the huge restaurant was not only packed, there was a waiting list. Thankfully, they could fit in dinner for one shortly after I had arrived.
Spicy Spirit // 1018 Changning Rd, Changning, Shanghai, China, Could Nine Mall, Shanghai //Cuisine: Szechuan
Xian Hot Pot Delight at Wangfujing
As a super-fan of spicy hot pot meals, I wanted to try an authentic one, and I got the chance in Beijing. There were two hot pot restaurants facing each other. I went into the humbler one (was running low on RMB). I ordered quail eggs, sweet potato and (again) frog. It came in a huge pot. It was obvious that the meal was meant to be shared. Oh well, too late, so I sat there for more than an hour pacing myself to finish it. I did. It was oh so good!
“I forgot the name” // APM Shopping Mall, Wangfujing, Beijing // Cuisine: Xiang
I hope this personal list helps you when you travel to China and wish to satisfy your craving for spicy food, but I suggest you ignore this list and keep an open mind instead. Chinese food has a huge range of tastes to indulge in, so don’t miss out just because you have this awesome cheat sheet.
Do you try new restaurants when you travel or do your research beforehand? Also, do you have a favorite Chinese cuisine of a specific region in China? Mine is Szechuan.
When heading to the great east, eat your way to the spicy food in China. Or as my BFF, Jik, would say, happy eating you all!