#4 – 古槐宝鼎天津包子店 – GuHuai BaoDing: Feel a bit sick just thinking about this one.
The first part of this journey was an overwhelmingly positive experience, but things were about to take a turn for the worse. We took a bus up the road one stop, then crossed the road and walked half the way back before we found it – a small, very much standard-looking restaurant, with little or nothing in the way of decoration or atmosphere, plastic tables and the like. Still, we were there for the baozi, not the atmosphere, and ordered three of these standard-looking buns, alongside a watery bowl of liver soup which I wasn’t particularly keen on eating. The liver came straight away, and there was a fifteen minute wait for the baozi.
Price: ¥3.5 for three
Location: Xisi BeidaJie, Xisi
James – The bread on the outside is completely standard, the sort of thing you can find in any little restaurant or convenience store. The meat inside, though, is grey and slimy and tastes of absolutely nothing. A little grease came out when I first bit it, but I’d hardly call this a feature. 3/10
V – The meat is really normal, but there’s also some soup. maybe that’s why people say they’re good. Compared to normal baozi these are quite special. 5/10
Total score: 4
#5 – Wangpanzi Lurou Huoshao: Donkey’s years
It took us an age to find the next place – a couple of walks and a couple of subway trains, then we managed to walk straight past the place. It was a miracle we found the place, and by this point it was dark outside. At this point we were on a strange street – a kind of Nanluoguxiang, but for Chinese tourists rather than foreigners. The restaurant featured pictures of happy donkeys in fields, a bit off-putting when you’re eating the things, but Chinese people aren’t so squeamish. Again, these aren’t baozi at all, but we’ll return to things which are definitely baozi again soon.
Price: ¥7 each
Location: 西城区护国寺街113号 – Hukousi Temple
James – Much like our first stop again, and the cases are reassuringly crispy. Standards seem to be rising. The meat inside is a bit cold, but pretty good. My only real complaint is that they put chopped green peppers inside, never a good move. 6/10
V – The meat is really good compared to the other donkey meat restaurants. I’d like to go back. 7/10
Total score: 6½
#6 – Baorui Mending Roubing: This is what we’ve been looking for
Our final journey of the day was by far the longest, as we first took a long and difficult journey during rush hour, then proceeded to get completely lost, even though this was the one place we’d been to before. In the end we realised we’d done a complete circle of the restaurant, it was that easy to miss. Opening the door we entered a smokey box room with nondescript chairs and tables, locals drinking baijiu, the floor littered with debris, and sat down to start our 20 minute wait for our food. But it was all worth it.
Price: ¥5 for two (!)
James – What we have here is fundamentally just a beef bun – chopped beef in a tallow sauce, in an oily pastry shell – but that description can’t really do it any justice. The meat is fresh, juicy and tastes like it’s mixed with fresh herbs, the sauce is smooth and the skin is magnificently crispy and flaky. I’m only not giving it a ten because it’s so ridiculously unhealthy that it congealed into solid puddles onto my plate. A once-a-year thing, if that, but a real find nonetheless. 9/10
V – I like it – a little salty, but very fresh and tastes great. 8/10
Total score: 8½
It was dark and cold outside now, and our friend was waiting for us in the pub up the road. The rest of the trip would have to be postponed until the next weekend.