Beijing’s Hutongs serve as a respite from the hustle and bustle of the big city, a reminder of its traditional cultural beginnings, and a great place to walk, explore, and experience Beijing. Last Thursday, my friend Anna and I decided to set out to Dongcheng – we both love Nanluoguxiang and the surrounding area’s Hutongs and wanted to explore some more. We ended up at Caoyuan Hutong where we entered Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant, or 百合素食 (BaiHe SuShi), for a meal.
The restaurant is located around the courtyard through this little foyer/book store.
The restaurant is clean and serves a mix of locals and tourists. We knew that we weren’t heading into a local dive given that we saw BaiHe in the Lonely Planet Beijing Guidebook. Nonetheless, the food was quite good.
Given the ancient Buddhist tradition, vegetarian food is an art that has an established history in China. Mostly, vegetarian dishes will mirror a dish that usually involves meat – using soy to replicate the texture and taste of the specific meat.
If you haven’t already tried vegetarian Chinese cuisine as such, I would recommend it. It’s an experience – most people find it surprisingly good. Buddhist vegetarian food is a healthy twist on Chinese food, while remaining traditional.
We sat outside in the courtyard on a gorgeous night. The menu is huge and features large pictures and graphics. The waitresses don’t speak much English. Chinese service is generally sub-standard, but you get used to it and learn to yell a little louder to get anyone’s attention.
We started off with a cold dish, or a LiangCai, in hot oil.
I was not the hugest fan. The main flavor was pure spiciness, setting my mouth on fire. Anna liked it more.
Beef and Bok Choy. The flavors here weren’t original, but recreated extremely well without actually using meat.
Fish in Hot Oil.
This dish was fabulous. It came in a startling large bowl, but we soon discovered it was more shallow than it appeared. The dish used Mala with Sichuanese peppercorn that creates a slow, mild burn in your mouth.Together, with the imitation fish and vegetables, the dish displayed a complex combination of flavors and textures.
BaiHe Vegetarian Restaurant
23 Caoyuan Hutong, Dongzhimennei Beixiaojie, Dongcheng District, Beijing 11000550, China