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I love Chinese food: steamed dumplings, fiery Sichuan, hearty Peking duck, cheap jianbing pancakes… you name it! But for some reason, I always hear horror stories of people who visit China and hate the food.
What is this? This isn’t the Chinese food I get back in the US??
I know finding incredible Chinese food can be difficult, especially if you don’t speak Chinese. That’s why I always recommend everyone take a food tour in China. You’ll get to taste so many different incredible dishes, and you’ll leave more familiar with the Chinese food landscape. If you love a place you visit, you can always head back for a full meal!
Beijing’s Hidden Hutong Eats
One of the things I love most about living in Beijing’s hutongs is all of the hidden bars and restaurants you’d never be able to find unless you know where you’re going. In addition to attending a food tour, I fully recommend spending a few hours wandering around Beijing’s ancient alleyways.
When I started looking into awesome tours and activities in Beijing, I realized that there were some incredible options right in my backyard. A food tour and a hutong tour all in one? Jackpot!
Eating Like a Local with UnTour
Last month I embarked on an evening food tour with UnTour, who has just recently branched out from their Shanghai food tour to include Beijing. I met my guide Lotus at the Beixingqiao subway station and set out with a family of four from Australia.
1. Roast Mutton
Our first stop was roast mutton Mongolian style, with a big chunk of meat on a spit. The restaurant was packed with locals and foreigners alike, and we all sat around the fire as the Aussie dad sawed off chunks for us to dip in various sauces and spices and wrap in a lettuce leaf. Lotus also bought a big plate of steamed dumplings for us to try, in addition to some smaller vegetable and peanut appetizers, we could sample.
2. Outdoor BBQ
Out next stop was an outdoor BBQ with roast meat, veggies, and tofu on sticks. Chuanr, as the Beijing locals call it, is my favorite late-night snack, so I was glad it was included in the itinerary. The best of the bunch was probably the golden needle mushrooms wrapped in tofu skin. It was so good!
Lotus also purchased us a bottle of Baijiu for the rest of the tour, encouraging the adults of the group to take shots of the strong Chinese liquor. I normally hate baijiu, but this brand actually wasn’t half-bad!
3. Jarred Yogurt
Our small group stopped in a tiny alley to watch local women play mahjong, a Chinese version of dominoes, while Lotus ran into a convenience store to buy us small glass jars of honey-flavored Chinese yogurt. We then sipped our yogurt through a plastic straw as we continued onto the next location. Prior to the tour, I’d seen this yogurt everywhere, but never purchased it. Now I’m obsessed and I buy it all the time!
4. Donkey Burgers
You can eat donkey?! That’s right- donkey is a Chinese delicacy, and I was delighted to try a “donkey burger”, which was actually more like pulled pork on a thin piece of bread. These donkey burgers were so delicious, I took my friend back to visit a week later!
5. Chinese Chicken Wings
Our final stop was a local hutong house turned restaurant for Chinese chicken wings. Our plate was piled high with mild, medium and spicy wings- the minimum order. I was obsessed with the double-spicy wings (spices on both sides), but I was so full I could barely eat more than a few. However, the gregarious owner has a rule against wings left on the plate, so we had to finish them all between us!
Check out the whole adventure on Snapchat!
A Food Tour Full of Chinese History and Culture
Aside from the incredible food, I was very impressed by Lotus’ knowledge of Chinese history and culture. Having lived in China for about four years now, there’s not much about Beijing’s I don’t know, but I was constantly learning new things on my food tour with UnTour!
Lotus told us the tale of how the big mutton roast originated from the Mongolians and was brought into Beijing through war, as well as the story behind the Chinese steamed dumpling. While I already knew the Chinese character for chuanr was “串” (it even looks like meat on a stick!), Lotus taught me to look for that character hanging from a storefront with lit-up Christmas lights whenever I’m looking for a little late-night BBQ.
UnTour also gave us a small packet with a map and all of the different food locations in case we ever wanted to visit again. They also listed many other incredible restaurants and tourist stops to help make the most of your trip!
Book a Food Tour for Your China Trip!
Overall, I definitely recommend UnTour for families, couples, and individuals who are really looking for some great food and insight into traditional Chinese culture and history. I had a great time, and I’m so glad I live close to all of these restaurants because I’ll definitely be back!
Heading to Shanghai or Beijing? Definitely, try out a food tour with UnTour.
Have you ever done a food tour? Which one is your favorite?
Thanks so much to UnTour for inviting me on an evening food tour in Beijing!