Date: Jan 23rd 2014 2:15p.m.
You’ve seen those familiar red signs all over the city—Daoxiangcun Foodstuff Co., Ltd., Beijing, China Time-Honored Brand (laozihao). A bakery, prepared-foods emporium, one-stop gift shop and cultural relic, it’s a Beijing institution.
But inside, it’s a different story. There isn’t a single word of English anywhere. Shushus and ayis cut the queue in order to snap up the choice bits of pastry or guanchang. Things that are supposed to be cookies resemble hockey pucks with mysterious innards. Never fear. This is the insider’s guide to Daoxiangcun (稻香村).
For cookies with Chinese characteristics, look no further. The pastries are buttery, flaky and filled with mung bean, date paste, black sesame, matcha tea, rose and more. Two specialties (and favorites of ours) are the date cookie shaped like a flower (枣花酥, RMB15/jin), and ox-tongue pancake (牛舌饼, RMB13/jin) with a savory Sichuan peppercorn-salt filling. Can’t decide what’s good? Ask for a Jing Ba Jian (京八件, RMB110) and get Daoxiangcun’s eight best-selling treats, expertly packed for you in a festive box.
Moving on to the packaged goods, we’re sad that it’s so hard to go on driving trips around China, because snacks from here are much tastier than what’s usually on offer in a North American gas station minimart. We would munch on haw flakes, peanut brittle, sesame candy and our favorite numbing-hot dried duck gizzards for the entire trip. Waiting on the tarmac during your delayed flight to Shanghai is no fun, but having any of these treats in your bag will make the wait slightly less interminable.