I had two ulterior motives when I made plans to go to Beijing to meet a friend making her first visit to China. The first, hiking the Great Wall from Jinshanling to Simitai, you’ll hear about on Wednesday. The second was the divine dumpling restaurant Xian Lao Man, perhaps my favorite place to eat in China.
Their dumplings were our reward for completing the not-actually-that-difficult Great Wall hike, and they did not disappoint. What makes XLM’s dumpling’s special is the very high stuffing-to-wrapper ratio. These are no limp flaps of dough containing just enough meat to give them a bit of flavor. No, we’re talking golf-ball-sized dumplings positively bursting with filling and flavor. And the menu is full of variety: On Sunday, we shared pork and fennel, pork and corn, and lamb and leek, but my all-time favorite is egg and carrot. This combo is a dry and rather lackluster choice at many other dumpling restaurants, but the fresh ingredients positively sing at Xian Lao Man. If you order them “shui jiao” (水饺), they are simply boiled, but say you want them “guo tie” (锅贴) and they will be fried to a crisp on the bottom.
Aside from dumplings, the restaurant also offers a range of other Sichuan stirfries, but the only non-dumpling dish I ever order is “tiger salad” (老虎菜), a spicy mix of fresh cilantro, green onions and green peppers. The sharp, clean taste is a perfect palate-cleanser between rounds of dumplings.
Just writing this post is making me hungry. I’ve made more than one trip to Beijing for another meal at Xian Lao Man; if you’re already headed there, you would be remiss not to add it to your itinerary.
Xian Lao Man is located in the Dongcheng district, at 252 Andingmennei Dajie (安定门内大姐52号). Walk south from the Andingmen subway station on the east side of the street. The restaurant will be on your right shortly before you reach the first big intersection. Three orders of dumplings and a tiger salad was way too much food for two people, and it still only added up to 42 RMB.