If you are familiar with Beijing history then you must know it was the Mongols who shaped the city into the way it’s built today. Most of Beijing’s cultural heritage, as well as the main tourist attractions, are rightfully associated with the Ming and Qing dynasties. However, one can not ignore the legacy of the Yuan dynasty that preceded them. Beijing’s infrastructure, the whole grid like layout which is almost perfectly aligned with the north, that’s all on the khans, mainly Kublai Khan. In fact, even the origin of the word ‘hutong’, one of the words most associated with Beijing, contains traces of the Mongolian word for water well.
The Mongolian cuisine is known for two things:
- Unlike most of the world’s cuisines, its staple is meat and not rice or other grains. That meat is not pork or chicken but beef and lamb.
- Generous portions – a Mongolian meal is a feast and as long as you are not a vegetarian, there’s absolutely zero chance you’ll leave the table hungry.
This is a direct result of the nomadic nature of the Mongolian culture. Roaming through the grasslands of Central Asia as a way of life means your bread and butter is cattle and sheep, and that you consume much of your time and food on the back of a horse. When you do camp for a significant period of time you want to make the best of it and enjoy a couple of well earned actual meals.
The Mongolian cuisine definitely made an impact on Beijing and the entire dongbei area. Beijing’s Instant Boiled Mutton is essentially Mongolian style hotpot, Beijing’s famous Roasted Lamb Leg is said to be Genghis Khan’s favorite, and Cold Beef Slices with Soy Sauce, a dish which is found in many jiachangcai restaurants also has Mongolian roots.
The saying ‘the more the merrier’ is true for dining in general, but the generous portions make it all the more valid for Mongolian restaurants. We were a party of eleven people, all young, healthy and hungry. Two members of our group had the ethnic credentials to assess the establishment and to grade the quality and authenticity of the food. The person who chose the restaurant and organized the entire dinner was a young Chinese Mongolian guy from Inner Mongolia. The guest of honor was a girl from Buryatia, also of Mongolian decent, who said she really miss the food from back home, baozi in particular. Her being homesick was the trigger for this splendid feast we had that evening. Here’s a view of the restaurant’s interior:
We started with some Mongolian naicha, which from some reason is quite salty and that takes getting used too, even if you don’t take your tea with sugar.
Luckily the tea came with some light refreshments and we had something to munch on until the real food arrived. They were sweet, crispy and really complemented the tea.
My favorite was the stringy 馓子 (sǎnzi – top left) and I just put it in the bowl and ate it the same way you have cornflakes, only it was much harder because I didn’t have a spoon. The other two were 炒米 (chǎo mǐ – fried millet, don’t confused it with fried rice) and 奶皮 (nǎi pí – clotted cream, the foamy looking stuff).
We didn’t have to wait long for the actual food to arrive. There was a lot of food, probably even too much. Like in any Chinese restaurant the dishes arrived to the table at a random order, but I will list them here starting from the most recommended ones and work my way down. It doesn’t mean the dishes at the bottom were not good, it’s just there weren’t as good or interesting as the others.
双干烩土豆 – shuāng gān huì tǔ dòu
If had one to choose the best dish we had that night this would probably be it, and I think the others would agree with me. Not only is this one of the tastiest potato dish I have ever had, but it also proudly carries unique Mongolian flavors. It’s chunky mashed potatoes stewed with beef and green beans. It’s called 双干 (shuāng gān, double dry) because the beef and beans were dried in the winds of the Mongolian grasslands.
干肉面片 – gān ròu miàn piàn
This is a dried meat and flat noodles but for 5 kuai you can add yogurt and turn it into something totally different which will completely mess with your taste buds.
脆皮酸奶 – cuì pí suān nǎi
This literally translates to crispy skin yogurt and it’s exactly that. Crispy deep fried dough wrapped around semi-frozen yogurt. Don’t wait too long before you eat it and remember to take gentle bites or you’ll get yogurt jet-streams flying around the table.
烤牛排 – kǎo niú pái
There was a lot of meat on the table that night, but these roasted beef slices along with their side dips were definitely the highlight. I have never seen so much meat getting consumed so fast, maybe except on the Discovery Channel.
大丰收 – dà fēng shou
There’s nothing special about this veggie platter. In fact, it’s not even a Mongolian dish but a dongbei one. The only reason it’s this high up here is because with the amount of meat and carbs we had on the table, having a dish which was made purely of fresh vegetables was next to divine.
沙葱炒鸡蛋 – shā cōng chǎo jī dàn
Scrambled eggs with desert onion. You won’t find this dish in many restaurants because desert onion (Allium Mongolicum) is so rare it doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia entry.
羊肉包子 – yáng ròu bāo zi
Lamb baozi were the reason we held this dinner in the first place. They didn’t disappoint, neither by taste nor size, but they did face some fierce competition other combinations of dough and meat.
蒙古肉饼 – měng gǔ ròu bǐng
These meat pies taste as good as they look. They arrived towards the end of the meal when were pretty full, but luckily bing is the most dabao friendly food ever.
馕抱羊肉松 – náng bào yáng ròu sōng
Ground lamb with chopped vegetables over flat bread. This dish is similar to one of my all time favorites – Muslim Minced Meat Noodles only with bread instead of noodles.
好辽饭 – hǎo liáo fàn
Don’t bother looking up haoliao in the dictionary because it’s not a real Chinese word. It’s meant to sound like the word ‘mixed’ in Mongolian. Mongolian mixed rice is not fried but cooked the tradiontal way – in a pot with all the rest of the ingredients. The rice came with a delicious side of assorted pickled vegetables.
老乡炒莜面 – lǎo xiāng chǎo yóu miàn
This Mongolian stir fried noodle dish is unusual in two ways. One, the noodles are made from naked oat flour. Two, on top of all the usual vegetables you expect to find in stir fried noodles, this one also has potatoes.
土豆熬小白菜 – tǔ dòu áo xiǎo bái cài
Mashed potatoes with Chinese cabbage. It was good, but not as good as the other mashed potatoes we had that night.
手抓肉 – shǒu zhuā ròu
Shouzhuarou (handheld meat, usually lamb) is a famous Muslim dish. I have tried it in several Muslim restaurant and always found it to be a bit too hardcore for me, mostly because it’s pure meat with minimal seasoning, so I am not a big fan. With that being said, this was one of the best shouzhuarou I have tried.
草原珍品 – cǎo yuán zhēn pǐn
Speaking of hardcore, this dish named ‘precious treasures of the grassland’ is all intestines and blood sausages. It’s a dish for the adventurous, and because of its name and challenging nature, I couldn’t help imagining my stomach wearing a hat and carrying a whip – Indiana Jones style.
拔丝奶皮 – bā sī nǎi pí
Sugar coated Mongolian clotted cream. This wasn’t too bad but I like the traditional Chinese sugar coated dishes better.
During the meal we also indulged ourselves with two bottles of Inner Mongolian baijiu called 河套银樽 (hé tào yín zūn).
I usually try to avoid baijiu whenever I can because like many other people I know here, my stomach has been traumatized by cheap baijiu. This time I happy to report there wasn’t even the slightest nausea, which means it was high quality liqueur.
For all of the above we ended up paying 1116 yuan, which was about 110 kuai per person. Not very cheap but certainly not over priced if you consider what we got in return for our money. I have had meals way more expensive than this one in which I got far less for my money. Plus, we really could order less and still be completely satisfied.
Address: 北京市海淀区魏公村民院北路10号 (Number 10 Wěigōngcūn mínyuàn North Rd, Haidian District, Beijing
Phone Number: 010-88420854
Directions: The restaurant is located very close to the Minzu University of China (west third ring road) on Wegongcun road along with many other ethnic restaurants. You can take subway line 4 to Weigongcun station. Get out at exit D and start walking south. When you see this building turn right to Weigongcun raod. After a couple of hundred meters the restaurant will be on your left.
By the way, there’s another Mandehai restaurant in Chaoyang District but I haven’t tried it. Zoom out to see it on the map above.
Addres: 北京市朝阳区东三环北路巷军南里二巷甲5号 (xiāng jūn nán lǐ 2 xiāng jiǎ wǔ hào, third ring road east, Chaoyang District, Beijing)
Phone Number: 010-51311038/37/36