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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.
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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!
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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!
26 comments on “Eat Like a Local in Beijing’s Hutongs with UnTour”
This looks awesome! I love authentic Chinese food – I went to some delicious Henan and Sichuan places back in when I lived in NYC and fell in love. I’d love to try authentic Chinese food but I think the language gap and fast pace of life in China would make over-anxious me a little paralyzed. So this sounds like a perfect way to explore the local food! Pinning for later :D
I love Sichuan and Henan food- they’re my favorite Chinese cuisines! If you come to China you should definitely try out a food tour, and get good recommendations from your hostel or hotel. There’s so much great food in China, it’s a shame most tourists miss out!
I love the Chinese food and this food tour is amazing, it’s so useful!! You have great photos and video. Thanks for sharing this experience with us :-)
No problem! Glad you liked it :D
Those donkey burgers look great! Your food tour looks amazing. I love it when you can get a taste of the “local” culture on a food tour and this looks to be just that.
Me too! Especially since China is a bit harder and more intimidating than most Asian countries. The donkey burgers were really great, and I need to go back again!
I love food tours. I book them everywhereI go as you get to try the best food. Especially in countries that it is difficult to communicate.
Me too! I’ve done two in China and one in Vietnam. I also love cooking classes- I try to do at least one of the two in every country I visit!
LOVE going on food tours!!! So much awesomeness walking around and getting to know a place via it’s food!
Me too! Especially if you can go back and visit the places later.. haha
I have always thought it would be interesting to try ‘actual’ Chinese food, not Chinese-American food! Although, donkey was certaintly a bit of surprise, but anything tastes good as a burger right? :)
So true! The donkey tastes more like pulled pork, and the bun is so good!
I love food tours especially in more “exotic” countries! However, I never knew that you could eat donkey!
p.s. Great food photography by the way! :D
Thanks so much! Yeah I’ve had donkey a few times before, it really shocked me the first time, but it’s so good!
I would love to try Honey Flavored Yogurt. That’s because I am a vegetarian. Other dishes are unfortunately not for me. That is the only reason I am hesitant to go to China or surrounding countries.
China actually has some great vegetarian food. I often go days without eating meat! The only thing is that a lot of dishes might have traces of meat, either from reusing oil or broth etc, but you can easily avoid eating visible meat in China.
I love food tours and this one sounds awesome! I love discovering hidden gems in big cities. Now I’m hungry. Thanks for sharing ;)
No problem, I’m so glad you liked it! I also really love finding hidden local restaurants in big cities so this tour was perfect!
I am a big fan of food tours, it injects you in the local scene right away.
Me too! I’ve done 3 already and I can’t wait to try more!
The food looks exotic. Was there any veg joint also ?
I would love to try out vegetarian Chinese food.
Just the yogurt on this tour, but I’m sure there are some vegetarian food tours in China! There’s lots of incredible vegetarian food here.
I’m a big fan of food tours and this one looks like a great one. The simple fact of visiting a hutong already wins me over!
Nice! I’m so glad you like the hutongs, and the food tour was excellent!
Thanks for all the info! I am heading to Beijing in a few days and can’t wait to eat all the food. I have a question on the food tours ( both Untour and Lost Plate) – was there only 1 dish per restaurant that was offered as mentioned in your review or were there more and you covered only a few? On the website they say about 15 dishes in total so wanted to know how much you actually end up trying?
Also i want to try the donkey burger so wanted to know if both tours cover it or only Untours?
I’ve been to the lost Plate tour in Chengdu and that was great and we ate till we burst but the Shanghai one did not live up to expectations so your input on Beijing would be super helpful.
Thanks again for the tips and suggestions!
Great question! Some of the restaurants have a few different dishes, whereas others only have one thing. If you really want to try the Donkey Burger, I suggest the UnTour dinner tour! Both UnTour and Lost Plate have great choices, and you really can’t go wrong, so I’d suggest checking out my post on Lost Plate’s food tour, comparing the dishes, and then decide!