Ghost St: Heart of Beijing’s culinary underground

One comment on popular online tourist guide described Guijie as an “amazing selection of restaurants for such a variety of fine Chinese food at a reasonable price”.

In Xiang’s opinion, there is no better place to eat out in Beijing, or even the world.

When the street started to show its business potential around 2000, officials had planned to change its name, as they thought the original may not be auspicious, Xiang says.

But many restaurant owners spoke up against the proposal, fearing that the name change would somehow ruin the fengshui, the geomantic conditions that the Chinese believe affect fate and fortune, especially that of business.

Fortunately, another Chinese character that sounds like “ghost” but means “food basket” was identified. Soon after, a bronze tripod of the “food basket” was erected at the street entrance, officially endorsing Ghost Street’s position as the capital’s culinary hub.

Around the same time, Hua’s restaurant promoted its first “spicy crayfish festival” and started a trend that has continued to this day.

In the summer, you may find more than half the restaurants on Guijie selling the lip-numbingly spicy crustaceans – which has become the signature dish along the food alley.

These days, Guijie is the weather vane of culinary trends in Beijing, a barometer of what’s good eating, and what’s popular.


Photo Credits: yeldahtron

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