Old Door Post 老门框爆肚 @ Beijing

Another type of hotpot, Instant Boiled Mutton 涮(shuàn)羊肉, doesn’t sound like much. But the knowledge and technique behind it has been passed down for hundreds of years.

Every Old Peking 老北京 will have their favourite Instant Boiled Mutton place. The tourist favourite is 东来顺. But Old Pekings will not be seen there.

Besides 东来顺, 聚宝源 and 福寿斋, the three oldest restaurants of this genre and tourists favourites, Old Door Post is considered a hidden gem and only frequented by those in the know.

The Place

Old Door Post 老门框 was founded in 1910, named after 门框胡同 Door Post Hutong. Hutongs are little streets in Beijing that are lined with rustic old houses called SiHeYuan 四合院 that contains rooms on all four sides and a courtyard in the middle. Hutong originated from Yuan Dynasty – remember Kublai Khan? The Mongolians brought in mutton and lamb as one main source of meat, and the Instant Boiled Mutton hotpot was allegedly brought in by them and made popular in the Qing Dynasty a thousand year later.

Back to the restaurant. The Door Post Hutong was famous for Peking street food. But when the Communist took over China, most of these entrepreneurial eateries were combinied into national co-ops and became state-owned. Old Door Post was one of them. When China opened up in 1980s, many of these restaurants and eateries were returned to private ownership. The original Feng Instant Boiled Mutton 冯爆肚 trademark was owned by a conglomerate, but lucky for all of us, Old Door Post decided to strike it out themselves. It retained the same old methods of handling mutton, and the secret recipe of the magical sesame sauce that accompanied the mutton.

The Pot

L2M-CN-SHUAI-2
Charcoal hotpot 老北京铜锅

According to tradition, the hotpot must have the following characteristics:
1. It must be a copper pot.  And this is the most important rule of all.
2. The meat must be fresh meat hand-cut, never frozen.
3, No stock, just plain water with a couple of cut pieces of leeks.
4, Dipping sauce with only three ingredients : sesame sauce 芝麻酱, chives 韭菜 and preserved tofu 豆腐乳.

This copper pot must be a big one, as it will be placed directly in the middle of the table for sharing. There is now a mini version using one pot for each person, that is hygienic but not right. Hotpot is communal eating, individual pots lack the liveliness of people eating together.

You put burning coal or charcoal beneath the pot, and there should not be a topping up of the coal in the middle of the meal. If you are given a pot that was used by a previous customer, the pot will flame out in the middle of your meal and your water will not boil. Any responsible restaurant owner will make sure you have proper pot that would have enough fire that would last throughout your two-hour meal. The water will continue boiling without fail.

The Mutton

In the past, there were no refrigerators in old Beijing, and there was no machinery, so therefore no frozen meat and everything was hand cut.

No matter what part of the lamb it comes from – tendon, head, grind, rib, loin, shank or innards – everything is hand-cut. The right hand holds the knife while the left hand holds a piece of cloth and press down on the flesh. Each piece has a bit of fat and a bit of lean meat, and its thickness is always the same. This requires years of practice. The knife work is swift and the meat does not bleed as much, the nicely lined meat sticks to the plate. And when you finish with the plate of meat, there is no residue blood. These are all signs of a good chef and fresh mutton.

Frozen meat will product bloody plates, guaranteed the chef at Old Door Post.
A sheep of 60 pounds will only produce around 3 pounds of edible parts – around 8 of 12 parts of a sheep can be eaten as ingredients of hotpot. These parts can either be fat, lean, and/or crisp. The amount of fat in mutton is too much for the average person to eat. So when a chef cuts the meat, he has to delicately balance the amount of fat with lean meat. Too thin, the meat will turn to leather in the hot soup. They have to be of a proper thickness to stand the boiling water.

There are only three things in the hotpot: water, ginger, leeks and nothing else. There must not be anything else – what Chinese medicine, what mixed mushroom, what seasoning, ludicrous! If there’s something else, then it’s most likely that there is something wrong and he has to hide it with a heavy stock. This type of clear water stock tests the quality of meat. After the dinner, the soup must remain clear.

The sauce is a standard sesame-peanut sauce. Not really peanut butter or tahini, it is the combination of both, texture of tahini with peanut and sesame taste. To that you add sesame oil, preserved tofu, vinegar and sugar and chives. And for the more adventurous, you add stinky preserved tofu. I would not recommend to add chilli or other crazy, strong tasting stuff as they will kill the delicate taste of the mutton.

Last but not least, candied garlic is served, you guessed it, as a palate cleanser. I am not sure if this cleanse the palate or just makes your palate go “WHAM!”.

Experience

There are two stores, the main store opposite Erdos Hotel, and this one. This is the older of the two, authentic and very crowded. Closed at 10pm, so if you are a night owl, go to the one opposite Erdos.

This is not a date night restaurant, the service in this place is pleasant at best (and that is only when the place is not crowded).

老门框爆肚(金宝街店)
地址: 金宝街东段59号(鄂尔多斯酒店对面)
电话: 010-83886698
营业时间: 周一至周日 11:00-14:00 17:30-22:00 修改

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