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January 12, 2020

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Cheerful way to enjoy traditional Beijing barbecue

LAO Hu Tong is dedicated to traditional Beijing-style barbecue and hotpot inside a small but cozy space accented with nostalgic details reminiscent of the old Chinese capital city itself.

The restaurant name literally translates as “old hutong” (an alley between a row of a single-story siheyuan courtyard that was a home to Beijingers in the past). Zhizi barbecue is often found in the city’s old alleyways and is a favorite of Beijing natives.

It is said zhizi (a type of grill) originated from the Manchu and Mongolian nomads.

There are two ways of enjoying zhizi barbecue — the civil way and the cheerful way. The “civil way” is when waiters prepare the grilled barbecue and send it over to customers sitting at their tables. The “cheerful way” is when diners gather around the table and grill their prepared meats, accompanied by drinks and laughs.

Lao Hu Tong restaurant owner William Zhang wants to bring the authentic “cheerful way” of grilling to the city.

The restaurant provides customers with an apron to avoid oil splattering on them from the grilling pan, and staff instruct diners how to grill in the right way. The grilling pan is placed over the charcoal fires and when the fire is vigorous, mutton, shredded shallots and other food is spread over the zhizi.

Try the mutton shoulder cut (55 yuan) and mutton with pickled cabbage (52 yuan). They also upgrade the recipe with an onsen egg on top of the meat to make it more “fancy.”

Unlike Japanese yakiniku and Korean BBQ, the Beijing-style grill uses a mixture of dry cumin seeds, cumin powder and chili powder as dipping.

The mutton meat, together with coriander, shallots and dry cumin dipping sauce makes the authentic flavors that have been favored by Beijingers for generations.

The original Beijing experience at Lao Hu Tong is to combine both zhizi barbecue and the traditional hotpot instant boiled mutton.

I continued my dinner by replacing the zhizi grill with hotpot. The menu might be confusing if you are not familiar with the names representing different parts of the mutton. Just ask one of the waiters for assistance and they will be happy to help you select the best offerings according to your preference.

The beauty of instant boiled mutton lies all in the freshness of the ingredients and the sauce on the side, made of sesame paste, fermented beancurd condiment and leeks.

Gathering friends around a charcoal fired zhizi grill or a steamy pot of broth with some of the best mutton on offer is a great option for an after-work activity this winter season.


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