Tempting the gods

Updated: 2011-01-12 15:10

By Ye Jun (China Daily)

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Tempting the gods


Tempting the gods

Fujianese cuisine features an aromatic concoction so delicious that it sways the deities. Ye Jun follows his nose.

The best provincial cuisines in Beijing are reportedly always where the provincial administrative centers are. If that is true, then Bamin Restaurant, which serves refined Fujian cuisine, is certainly at the right place. It is located at Fujian Building, which houses a four-star hotel, and the Fujian provincial government's Beijing office.

"Bamin" is another name for Fujian.

The restaurant is a hidden gem, tucked inside the hotel, and relatively unknown apart from the insiders. Nicely decorated with above average food, its comparatively obscure location has helped keep the prices down, so if you are looking for more bang for the buck, this is it.

Certainly the signature Buddha Jumps Over the Wall would have cost a small fortune elsewhere. Here, the cheapest version using mushrooms costs just 88 yuan ($13) a bowl, although the more expensive options can cost you 188 yuan upwards to about 598 yuan for the ultimate classic. This is the Fujian specialty using the marine treasures of the coastal province, including abalone, shark's fin, fish maw and mushroom, all lovingly slow-cooked in broth to extract the rich flavors.

While the Cantonese and Shandong chefs have their wantons, the Fujian cooks take pride in a fish-paste-and-potato starch dumpling they call "meat swallow", often stuffed with pork. It's eaten just like wanton, although the skin turns transparent and has a chewy bite that the wanton skin lacks. It is a very tasty snack that is served in soup.

The Fujianese also like to start the meal with a platter of appetizers that include pancake rolls, lettuce cups and oyster jelly. The pancake is served with diced pork, deep-fried shallots, chopped peanuts and fragrant meat floss.

Rustic charm appears in the braised pork short ribs served with a piece of corn on the cob and wrapped in reed.

The rice dumpling with preserved vegetable, another dish drawn from the countryside, sells on its chewy, glutinous texture.

Dessert is the classic pinang taro or binlangyu, a flavorful purple "betel nut" yam imported from Fuding, that is mashed and slow-cooked with sugar and often garnished with syrup-soaked gingko nuts.

The average cost here is about 80 to 150 yuan per diner, although the bill can escalate if you order the more expensive seafood dishes.


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