Donglaishun 東來順 is synonymous with Beijing’s (some say Mongolian) style of hotpot called 涮羊肉 (mutton shabu-shabu). Shuai 涮 is the action of moving the meat in boiling hot water, and the sound that it makes is shabu-shabu.
Donglaishun’s essence remains its famous mutton hot pot. Boiled, as ever, in distinctive copper pots over white-hot charcoal with hand-cut mutton that leaves no trace of blood on the plates, these are so carefully guarded at this restaurant.
Donglaishun uses Laoshan mineral water 崂山矿泉水 for their hotpot if you opt for the plain water option; the other choice I had was the Sichuan mala 麻辣 flavour. Hotpot with water may sound a little unappetising, but the lamb and mutton that they use are reared specially for Donglaishun, so the boiling water gives you an unadulterated taste of the meat.
Paper-thin slices of Inner Mongolian black-headed lamb 杜蒙羔羊 is cooked instantly and stays tender even when boiled for longer periods of time. These are introduced in recent time to compliment the hand-cut mutton as the younger generation prefer these fattier lamb with the gamey taste of mutton.
The special sauces made from secret recipes provide a fiesta of flavours. These sauces are charged individually these days, unlike most other hotpot restaurants that give unlimited access to the sauce bar.
It is the sauce that made the difference because there’s no taste in the soup base. When they say water, it is really water.
Besides water, the hand-cut mutton is the other highlight of eating at Donglaishun. These mutton is raised at their farm and the sheep’s diet consists of only mineral water and a wild chive 蒙古韭 (Allium mongolicum Regel) native to the Mongolian steppes. It was advised that you cooked it for not longer than 7 sec.
There are other items in the menu to blanch in the hotpot, and popularly some vegetable and fungi are in order.
芜爆百叶 Beef trip with coriander is a traditional Chinese muslim dish was invented in the early Qing Dynasty and has a history of more than 300 years. Beef tripe, when cooked right, is crunchy and tender at the same time. It is sautéed over a large fire in an iron cast wok with coriander for that distinctly herby taste.
羊肉串 Mutton loin kebab has its origin along the silk route, where voyagers grilled these succulent meat with spices gathered from around the world. Many similar styles can be found in the Middle East and in Tibet/Xinjiang.
There’s nothing wrong to eat at Donglaishun if you are visiting Beijing as a tourist for the first time, it’s on top of the list for must-do in Beijing together with a visit to the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. But I do not know why I am still held under the spell of this substandard hotpot restaurant.
While the meal itself is halal, the drink menu isn’t (beer and Chinese wines are available), so my Muslims friend be aware even though it is promoted as such. This branch is right at the southern end of the pedestrian street Wangfujing 王府井大街. Be warned, the aircon in the place is really poor and the restaurant is poorly ventilated. Not recommended if you want a better dining environment; there’s another branch in APM just 200m further up the street.
Perhaps it’s because of the state-ownership or the “instruction” that Mao had given to keep Donglaishun going forever, the restaurant has not moved along with the modern palate. The only concession perhaps would be the live seafood tank (albeit not too many choices) that is at the entrance, because xian 鲜, the Chinese word for umami is made up of mutton and fish .
东来顺饭庄 Dong Lai Shun Restaurant
Tel : 010 65139661
Visited May 2023