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Imperial Court Cuisine

As Beijing was the capital of several dynasties over seven hundred years, Imperial Court Food is a branch of Beijing Cuisine. Food of this kind was once only prepared for the members of the imperial court and was not accessible to ordinary people. Now, money permitting, you can have a taste of the Royal Feast of Complete Manchu-Han Courses, a most bounteous feast of Imperial Court Food.

The greatest achievement of Imperial Court Food is the Royal Feast of Complete Manchu-Han Courses, which is representative of Chinese food. As the name suggests, the grand meal was formed on the basis of the Manchu and Han cuisines. It contains one hundred and thirty-four hot dishes and forty-eight cold ones, not counting fruit and desserts. In total there should be at least one hundred and eight courses. It is so great a feast that it is divided into six meals which last three days or so. It assembles eight kinds of rare raw materials from the mountain, eight rare terrestrial ones and eight rare marine ones. Up to now, only two restaurants are able to serve this grand banquet: Fangshan Restaurant in Beihai Park   and Tingliguan Restaurant in the Summer Palace .

Food of this kind combines all kinds of delicacies that stress fresh, light and tender flavor. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the varieties increased to two hundred. Other famous dishes, apart from the Royal Feast of Complete Manchu-Han Courses, include Silky Chicken Breast, Lotus Leaf Pork Fillet, Pea Cake and Steamed Corn Bread. As the Royal Feast of Complete Manchu-Han Courses is expensive, it is also a good idea to enjoy some palatable dishes such as distinctive snacks or desserts.

The elaborate dishes typically contain superb raw ingredients, have elegant color and shape, and are very nutritious. The raw material is selected according to its habitat, quality, size and exact parts. The whole dish has a pleasing presentation, applying ingenious means of molding. The course must be made from at least two kinds of materials, which is a common rule of the imperial cuisine. The material is cut or sliced to the right size, neither big nor small. The imperial food also attaches great importance to the dishware which is luxurious, classical and elegant. The numerous dishes are made of gold, silver, jade, hawksbill, ivory or fine china.

Imperial Court Cuisine, another important part of Beijing Cuisine, originates from royal kitchens where dishes and food were only cooked for the royal family. After the fall of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Imperial Court Cuisine began to be popular among the common people with its original features that the raw material and the ingredients are carefully selected and the dishes are exquisitely prepared and delicately decorated in different colors with light taste and sufficient nutrition.

Many Restaurant serve Court Cuisine in Beijing today, such as Fangshan Restaurant and Tingliguan Restaurant being the most famous ones.

Fangshan Restaurant is in Beihai Park and the most famous dish of it is Man-Han Banquet (a dinner of Man and Han national food) which includes "eight treasures from the mountains", "eight treasures on land" and "eight treasures from the sea", such as bear's paws, humps and shark's fins, and lots of rare things, but some of them are not available on table today. There are so many dishes (one hundred and thirty four hot ones and forty eight cold ones, besides many desserts) that you have to have them in six different meals in several days.

Tingliguan is in the Summer Palace and it used to be the place where Empress Dowager Ci Xi enjoyed her opera, which, of course, is as beautiful as a painting. It is famous for its "All-Fish Feast" of over fifty kinds and this is the only one in China. When the fish is served on the table, its mouth can be still opening and closing and its gills flapping. Sometimes the fish's mouth keeps moving even when it has been eaten to bones. But you don't have to be frightened; it is just falsely alive. You want to know its secret? Just go and try it!

Imperial official cuisine is particular to Beijing. In the past, Beijing officials were all very picky about what type of food they ate. The most famous type of Official food is Tan Family Food, available in the Beijing Hotel. This is the preferred food of the Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911) official Tan Zongling, and was later introduced into restaurants. Another type of food is described in the classic novel, Dream of Red Mansions. The author, Cao Xueqin, described a number of dishes in the book and now there are several restaurants that serve this style of dish. The most famous place is the Beijing Grand View Garden Hotel next to the Beijing Grand View Garden modeled after the garden described in the Dream of Red Mansions. Other restaurants featuring this novel type of food are the Jinglun Hotel and Laijinyuxuan Restaurant in Zhongshan Park.

Imperial Official Cuisine and Medicinal Cuisine

In the past, feudal officials were quite picky about their food, so their bland cuisine is usually exquisite and its material is always carefully selected. Tan Jia Cuisine and Hong Lou Cuisine are known as Imperial Official Cuisine.

Tan Jia Cuisine, coming from Tan family, is especially famous. Today it is a local authorized dish only served at Beijing Hotel. Hong Lou Cuisine, the one that was described in Dream of Red Mansion, is served at Beijing Grand View Garden Hotel, Jinglun Hotel and Zhongshan Park.

Medicinal Cuisine is also special in Beijing. Its dishes are made with rare ingredients such as ginseng, antlers, bear's paws, soft-shelled turtles etc. It is not only valuable in terms of traditional Chinese medicine but also nourishing in terms of delicacy.

 Restaurants of Imperial Cuisine
   Fangshan Restaurant
   Located in Beihai Park, Fangshan Restaurant is the most famous one offering the luxurious Imperial Court Cuisine. The restaurant was opened in 1925 by imperial chefs of the former Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and caused a great sensation at that time. Fangshan means 'imitate the imperial court cuisine' in Chinese. The restaurant is made up of three parts and it can hold 500 people eating at the same time. It is decorated in imperial style with the design of dragon and phoenix. Here is the best place to experience the life of the Chinese emperors in former days. Now, it serves nearly 800 kinds of Imperial Court Dishes. Among them, Man-Han Banquet is the most famous.

Average cost per person: CNY200 - CNY300 
Hours: 11:00-13:30 17:00-19:30
Location: No.1, Wenjin Jie, inside Beihai Park
Bus Route: 5, 13, 101, 103, 109, 810 (get off at Beihai Stop)
   Li Jia Cai Restaurant

   Located in a courtyard of Yangfang hutong in Beijing, there is a special restaurant named Li Jia Cai Restaurant (Li Family Restaurant) which is devoted to Imperial Court food. The initiator of Li Jia Cai is Li Shanlin, a retired professor of mathematics, who also has great interest in cooking genuine Beijing Imperial Court Food. The restaurant has no employees. The Li family are owner and employees of the restaurant; and dinner is by set menu. That is to say, a guest can not order the dishes but must wait for whatever they serve; furthermore, one banquet daily, if you want to have a dinner here, you should make a reservation (at least two weeks ahead of time); finally there are no chemical materials in the dishes, all flavorings are natural. This restaurant has welcomed many celebrities including the former U.S. president Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, the former premier of Britain, John Major, and Chinese superstar Jackie Chan. Professor Li speaks English and can discuss Chinese culture while you enjoy your dinner and good wine. If you are a real gourmand, try to find this restaurant hidden in a Beijing hutong.
   Address: No.11, Yangfang hutong, Denei Dajie
Ting Li Guan Restaurant
   The table delicacies in Ting Li Guan Restaurant absorb the essence of the Eight Cuisines in China and combine the Han Cuisine with the other cuisines of minority groups such as Man, Mongol and Hui.
   Average cost per person: CNY70 - CNY200
   Hours: 11:00 - 14:00 16:30 - 19:00 (Make your dinner reservations at least an hour before your dinner time.)
   Location: at the south of Wanshou Hill, inside the Summer Palace
   Bus Route: 332, 374, 716, 817 (get off at Xin Jianguomen Stop)
Yushan Restaurant
   The layout of the restaurant follows the imperial palace with luxurious decoration. When eating in the restaurant, diners are served by waitresses in traditional imperial costumes.
   Average cost per person: CNY80 - CNY120
   Hours: 16:30 - 19:30
   Location: No.87, Tiantan Lu, Chongwen District
   Bus Route: 34, 35, 36, 106, 6 (get off at Tiantan North Gate Stop)
   Yan Yi Shan Zhai Restaurant

      The restaurant is located in a compound courtyard that was the residence of a princess in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). So the courtyard is commonly called Gege Fu (Princess Mansion House). It offers the best dishes of imperial cuisine and imperial stew is the special dish there. Comparing with other imperial restaurants, Yan Yi Shan Zhai Restaurant is a perfect combination of imperial cuisine and Sichuan hotpot. Diners put vegetables and meat into the soup, similar to creating the hotpot of Sichuan Cuisine.
   Hours: 11:00 - 14:00 17:00 - 22:00
   Location: No.9, Daqudeng Hutong, Backstreet of Art Gallery, Dongcheng District
   Tan Jia Cai Restaurant

Average Cost per Person: CNY200 - CNY800
Hours: 11:30 - 14:00 17:30 - 21:30
Location: 7/F, Unit C, Beijing Hotel, 33, Dong Changan Jie, Dongcheng District
Bus Route: 1, 4, 10, 52, 103 (get off at Wangfujing Stop)

Tiandi Yijia
With all this grandeur, one expects equally impressive food. Unfortunately, though Tiandi Yijia's menu seemingly offers all manner of heaven and earth, a recent meal was uneven, the sum of its parts adding up to an unsatisfactory whole.
Location:140 Nanchizi Dajie, Dongcheng District Tel:8511 5556

This lavish restaurant harkens back to a dynastic era, simulating a Beijing courtyard experience with its variety show and palace cuisine, which includes bitter douzhi and bone marrow soup. Imperial
 Location:A20, Guoxingjaiyuan, Shoutinan Lu, Haidian District Tel:8835 6687/9

Guoyao Xiaoju 
   Average Cost per Person: CNY50 - CNY200
   Hours: 09:00 - 22:00
   Location: 58, Jiaodaokou Bei Santiao, Dongcheng District
Haitang Ju
   Average Cost per Person: CNY100 - CNY300
   Hours: 10:00 - 22:00
   Location: 32, West Street, Xuanwumen, Xuanwu District
Tai Shang Gong Restaurant
   Hours: 11:00 - 14:30 17:00 - 22:00
   Location: No.15, Anding Road, Chaoyang District
Hui Zhen Lou Restaurant
   Hours: 11:00 - 14:30 17:00 - 22:00
   Location: No.8, Beichen Road (East)

Beijing Imperial Court Cuisine Restaurant:

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