Curious Sweets in Beijing

It’s a very humid, grey day in Beijing, China. Temperatures too are at a record breaking high. Hot, humid conditions however do not stop the many thousands of locals and tourists as they gently stroll the big open promenade in central Beijing. Huge department stores hug both sides of the promenade as do specialty shops offering everything from matcha tea ice cream to global fashion brands.

Surprising there is no sense of rush here as we join in the long procession with the locals. The space is enjoyed by all. Equally filled with families, young couples and friends out enjoying time together they wander talking and often eating skewed meat delicacies.

The crazy Bejing road traffic would suggest that the crowds through the promenade would be equally chaotic and yet stroll is exactly the pace of this late afternoon pleasure for so many locals. The calm and gentle pulse of this crowd disrupted intermittantly by the timed rythmic march of sets of four uniformed soldiers who set a straight corse through the crowd marching two abreast in a tight display of authority and order. A typical sight for most and causes no stress as the strollers just seem to slip out of the way of this uniformed trajectory.

Despite a plethora of global brands like Herme and Victoria Secrets there are still many reminders that one is in Beijing. Splendid workmanship in Chinese traditional architecture global brands and shops that spark curiosity abound.

Always on the lookout for brownies, cakes and confectionery of any type we’re drawn into a store midway along the promenade. The store is called Beijing Wang Fu Jing Food Store. Huge red Chinese Characters high above the store entrance are the first attraction though peering in through the front door a world of high piles of colourful twisted confectionery wraps is pure temptation.

Stepping in is like passing back in time – at least 20 separate stores most of which selling variations of the same confectionery and each with at least 3 people behind every counter. So unfamiliar to us now is each salesperson dressed in a stiff starched white uniform complete with white peaked hat – a very conservative style reminescent of images of the food hall at David Jones or Myers in days gone by.

The store is alive and fully loaded with customers. Very notceable is a loud backdrop of Chinese language as customer orders are called followed by vigorous scooping of the little confectionery morsels to meet those orders. At every counter is a person either actively recruiting customers by way of loud spruking or alternatively offering samples of what are variations of fruit jellies and high boil candy.

Fascinating to watch is this sweet heaven of mayhem juxtaposed with the quiet wanderings outside on the promenade. I find myself trying to reconcile how all these stores are able to differentiate in the same hall. At first glance it seemed like it may be one store however it became more apparent that the stores were all individual shops.

Toward the back of the hall, a cabinet full of traditional Chinese pastries is intriguing and interesting. No brownies in sight of course, but this refrigerated cabinet offers a comprehensive range of pastry.

Over to the left of the bakery at the rear of the store, a long thin glassed in store offers Peking duck for sale. A thin petite woman in a uniform seemingly standing on a box behind the glass called through the window to customers and then frantically scurried to fufil orders.

This store and its many confectionery stores within a store is a mystery that remains – I wonder how those stores compete or differentiate – do they have regulars that buy in with a familiar relationship to a particular store? The prices were all similar so it remains a mystery. Love to hear from anyone who knows or has visited.

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