Sunday, 9 April 2017

Cheap and Cheerful

Two catties of the signature Man Lou boiled dumplings
A trip to Beijing is not complete without eating jiaozi, or boiled dumplings, and one well known local place is called Xian Man Lou (馅老满).

When I lived in Beijing, a German chef friend of mine came to visit with Chinese master chef, Liu Guozhu, as they were going to open Golden Flower in Wynn Macau.

They were in Beijing to do some research, as Liu used to be one of the chefs at the famed Beijing Hotel, where he cooked for the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.

The filling inside has minced pork, chives, egg, and shrimp
Liu told me in his strong Beijing accent over the phone to meet them at this restaurant and I amazingly found it in Andingmen.

It's a two-storey restaurant and I found the two of them on the second floor at the back at a giant round table, and Liu had practically ordered every other dish on the menu. He warmly greeted me and told me to just try as much as I could!

The two chefs were leaving Beijing the next day and I was left with three bags filled with boxes of leftovers. It was insane!

Fast forward to this trip, my friend and I ended up in Andingmen after we wandered through Wudaoying hutong and I suggested we go to Xian Man Lou.

About a 10-minute walk later we were there, and after a short wait we had a table, also upstairs. I was surprised to find the restaurant wasn't as busy as it used to be, but perhaps because of the Qing Ming public holiday, there weren't as many students patronizing the restaurant at this time.

We'd had a late lunch, so we only had a few dishes. We ordered a cold appetizer of "crispy seaweed" (20 yuan), which wasn't crispy, but thick strips of seaweed that were rolled up and then sliced.

The filling here features a mackerel paste and chives
Then we had two different kinds of dumplings. While the restaurant says you can order yi liang (or one cattie, which equals 500 grams or 5 dumplings), they would rather you order er liang or two catties.

The signature lao man jiaozi (21 yuan for 10 pcs) was delicious and hearty -- it was filled with minced pork, chives, eggs and shrimp. The shrimp was a bit crunchy, and we liked the combination with the chives to brighten the flavours.

For a bit of experimentation, we tried the dumplings filled with mackerel and chives (31 yuan for 10 pcs). The mackerel was made into a smooth paste and combined with chives, though coriander would have worked just as well. I'd never had fish dumplings like this before and neither had my friend and she quite liked it.

We both downed a bottle of Yanjing beer (9 yuan) and we barely finished the food.

Nevertheless I'm glad Xian Man Lou is still there, and the dumplings are just as I remembered them! And as you can tell from the prices, it was a cheap and cheerful dinner!

Xian Man Lou
Anhu Beili Yayuan, Gulou
(+86) 6404 6944

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