Life in Beijing can be strange sometimes as anyone who has lived here for an extended period of time can tell you; In many ways, one could say it’s reminiscent of the lyrics from “Welcome to the jungle” by Gun N Roses:
Welcome to the jungle.
If you got the money, honey
we got your disease!!
So what happens when one wakes up a monday morning craving roasted lamb? Nothing more or less than getting out there to try and make it happen! A few weeks ago, I woke up with just that craving and set out to organize a little dinner with a whole roasted sheep (Kao Quan Yang 烤全羊 ), a dozen good friends, some wine/beer and loads of good fun.
The Hunt is on:
When looking for all things “roasted lamb” in China, one can’t avoid Xinjiang or Inner-Mongolia! That is just a matter of facts and history. Both cultures rightfully pride themselves on being experts in the topic and I can’t argue with that. Having had mixed experiences with Mongolian restaurants in Beijing, I opted for the Xinjiang route.
The first option that came to mind was the Xinjiang provincial restaurant as they’re supposed to represent everything Xinjiang. A quick phone call revealed that it was more like “everything-except-a-whole-roasted-lamb” but they were kind enough to direct me to a sister establishment, the Urumqi office restaurant where I had dinner some time ago.
The Urumqi office restaurant, much like the previous one, is also an official restaurant from the province and does similar things in terms of flying in staff and ingredients. They did have a whole sheep on the menu at the not-so-attractive price of 1300 RMB. I could live with the price but I was definitely not interested in the trek that was required in order to give them a deposit. I would have had to cross the whole city for that on a busy week so it was definitely a no-go. So the search continued!
Next in line was Muslim Street, aka Ox street (niu jie 牛街) in southern Beijing which is lined with muslim/Uyghur restaurants. A little googling and calling turned up the name of one restaurant: Tulufan! Wiht great reviews on dianping and a seemingly easy to find location with a roast sheep for about 800 RMB, it looked like we were gonna be in business! Unfortunately, a quick phone call revealed the place was closed for renovations (March 2009) and they couldn’t give any indication as to when they would reopen for business.
By then, the little sheep started slowly walking away from me but I feared not as my natural stubbornness dictated I HAD to have a roast sheep come hell or high waters.
I picked up the phone and called old faithful, my favorite Xinjiang restaurant in the city: Crescent Moon. The place serves amazing Xinjiang fare with an all-uyghur staff and an owner that passes the for the “Chinese Al Pacino” It took me a while to see the similarity but once I did, I did. Hallelujah, they had a whole roasted sheep on the menu and it was 880RMB! The catch was the same as elsewhere: had to order at least 24h in advance and go there to leave a deposit. Fair enough, done deal!
On a little chilly evening, I ventured into the Hutongs of Beijing, dongsi liu tiao to be exact, where I hoped that beautifully tender and juicy lamb was awaiting me and my motley crew of friends. Overall 14 people that I knew would all appreciate the feast awaiting us…. And what a feast it was.
Fearing meat overdose, we got a whole bunch of veggie dishes as well as some chicken and beef to accompany our roasted feast. Of course, Naan (uyghur flat bread) and yoghurt were also part of the festivities.
The sheep was brought out by “Al Pacino” himself on a silver platter, complete with mustache and big knife to a standing ovation from our party as well as the other customers that filled the place. It was everything I had been craving for a whole week and definitely worth the effort.
So there you have it, a whole blueprint on searching for roasted sheep in Beijing
15 persons, a whole roast sheep, xinjiang beer and red wine not to mention enough food to feed twice that amount of hungry stomach= RMB1500= a lot of happy faces!!
Even if you’re not in the mood for the whole thing, you could do a lot worse than heading to Crescent Moon if you get that Xinjiang craving, IMHO, it’s the best Xinjiang fare in Beijing.