Whether you like fresh produce or meat, traditional Beijing staples or imported goods, Sanyuanli Market is hands down the best place to shop for food in Beijing’s Chaoyang District. If you live anywhere near Sanlitun, Dongzhimen, or Liangmaqiao, it’s just a quick bike ride away from where you live:
The market is a narrow corridor about 100m long, lined with small shops selling fresh produce, meats, seafood, home supplies (hammers, bowls, batteries, towels, etc.), imported foods, Chinese noodles and breads, tofu, cheese, and alcohol. It’s a one stop shop!
The produce is impeccable, almost eerily perfect, and always tastes very fresh. They sometimes carry hard-to-find fruits like figs when in season. Some of the stalls claim to be selling organic produce. But when I asked around, one woman told me (after I had already promised to buy some vegetables) that she doubted many of the stores really carried organic. Much of the produce likely comes from giant greenhouse farms around Beijing, some of the tropical fruit is shipped in from Hainan, Australia, and Thailand depending on the time of year.
I usually pass on the meat stands, but they seem decent enough for those interested. Both the fish and meat guys have told that they get fresh shipments in daily. Beware though, there are sometimes flies in the market and the meat is open to the air, so sanitation is potentially an issue.
The fish in Sanyuanli is easily 1/3 the price of the fish in foreign supermarkets. I’ve bought mackerel on occasion and according to the shopkeeper, it’s flown in every day from Norway, along with the salmon. For those worried about sustainability issues, flying food in on ice from halfway around the world may not be optimal. However, imported fish is less likely to be contaminated with environmental toxins than local stock, and Norway in particular is known for sustainable fishery management.
Sanyuanli not only carries all the Chinese cooking staples (cooking wine 料酒, oyster sauce 蚝油, soy sauce 酱油, sesame oil 芝麻油) but provides the necessary range of spices and sauces for almost any kind of international cuisine. I’ve made great Mexican food, Indian food, Korean food, and Italian with ingredients purchased at Sanyuanli. A favorite at my house is the fresh basil on sale for 3-5RMB per bag. They also carry a nice variety of dry goods like Italian noodles, lentils, chickpeas, popcorn kernals, and pine nuts. Much of this is sold from bulk bags so the prices are quite reasonable.
There’s much much more, but I’ll leave some things for you to discover on your own (teaser: think snacks, tea, and a huge cheese selection). Just remember to bring LARGE bags when you go. You always end up walking out of Sanyuanli with much more than you intended to buy….
The front entrance to Sanyuanli Market is on the South side Shun Yuan Jie 顺源街, between Xinyuan Jie 新源街 (the same street as Sanlitun St. 三里屯路) and the East third ring road 东三环 in Chaoyang District 朝阳区. There’s also a back entrance available from Xinyuan Nan Lu 新源南路 (turn into the small alley next to the newspaper stand and walk straight back to the north).
For a more detailed map, check out the City Weekend Listing.