Fava beans in Shaoxing wine at Kong Yiji, Beijing

This rustic restaurant near the city center is all about Shaoxing wine, a brown, nutty rice wine which can be drunk on its own or used to marinate or boil just about every dish. The beans were boiled in it, which gives them a sweetness and lovely, homey quality, great for sharing with friends and family over, well, more Shaoxing wine.

The wine itself was served in a series of blue and white porcelain vessels, a flask nested inside a cup of hot water, and another cup for drinking the warm Shaoxing wine.

The restaurant’s other famous dish is drunken shrimp, which arrived at the table in a cut-glass bowl bubbling from inside. The waitress told me to leave the lid on, I assumed it was because it was hot. But when the bubbling finally stopped, the glass was eerily cold. I lifted one of the tiny creatures from the bowl and tasted it – it tasted just like it was: raw, whole shrimp hat had suffocated in Shaoxing wine. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’m all about cultural sensitivity, but this struck me as torture and definitely note worth the effort on my part or on the part of the shrimp.

I ordered a bowl of rice and ate the rest of the beans as my dinner. They really were tasty.

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