Wherever you are at breakfast time in Beijing, you’re within easy walking distance of a place selling jianbing (煎饼, jiānbǐng), a sort of savoury pancake usually sold from streetside windows. First the hot-plate will be greased up, then attacked with a scoop of batter. You’ll be asked la bu la?: nod if you want chilli, shake your head if not. Chilli powder, if you want it, is flecked onto the rapidly frying mix, along with various bits of green veg; an egg is then cracked on top, to make a tasty, omelette-like layer. When it’s nearly done, a rectangle of miscellaneous crispy substance is added, and in a flash the whole shebang will be folded and put in a plastic bag. The whole process takes well under a minute, even including the time it takes to hand over your ¥5 and say “xie xie”.

You may also care to look out for the tell-tale baskets fronting places selling dumplings, which remain every old Beijinger’s favourite form of morning sustenance. Also be sure to hunt down some Beijing yoghurt (老北京酸奶, lăo bĕijīng suānnăi) during your stay; sold in cute clay pots for ¥3–5 (including ¥1 deposit for the pot), it has a delicious, honey-like taste.

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