Beijing Food Tour Through The Hutongs With UnTour Food Tours
You might be surprised that the food in Beijing is nothing like your sweet and sour pork back home. In fact, the cuisine in China’s capital has been influenced by a variety of ethnic groups from all over Asia creating a truly unique kind of food scene. The guides form UnTour food tours lead you right to those places the locals swear by on their Beijing food tour.
ABOUT UNTOUR FOOD TOURS
It is the goal of UnTour Food Tours to lead guests to the hidden culinary gems of Beijing and Shanghai since 2010. All of their guides go through a rigorous training process and all of them are fluent in Chinese and English. UnTour offers two tour formats: breakfast tours and dinner tours, but also do private tours for anyone interested, such as corporate events, school groups and other special requests. Below, I share my experience about the Hutong breakfast tour in Beijing. Check out their Shanghai tours here.
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HUTONG BREAKFAST TOUR AT A GLANCE
Beijing counts an unbelievable number of hutongs spiraling in all directions from the Forbidden City in the center of Beijing. Navigating through them, let alone finding places to eat there can be a daunting task as a layman. Over 7,000 happy travelers have joined UnTour on their morning adventures through the Hutongs near Yonghegong Lama Temple. During the tour, you get the chance to try the most authentic snacks at local favorite food stalls or shops tucked away in the hutong alleyways. Wake up early and join UnTour in the hutongs and three hours later, you have eaten your way through 5,000 years of culinary history of Beijing – and you’ll be so stuffed you won’t need another bite for the rest of the day.
PERSONAL CULINARY HIGHLIGHTS
The Hutong breakfast tour takes 3 hours and involves sampling a variety of dishes from Beijing and other parts of China. There is also a cozy coffee break at a small café to recharge your energy. Below is a sneak peak of my personal favorite dishes from the tour.
Halal Snacks 清真小吃
This was the first stop of the tour and I was very excited because we had fried brown sugar dough and savory tofu pudding. I had tofu pudding for breakfast a lot when in lived in Changsha, Hunan, but it had always been sweet. This Northern Chinese version, however, is served in a savory, salty gravy-like soup. It was really delicious.
Veggie & Pork Buns 菜包肉包
Who doesn’t love Chinese buns? Of course this was one of the stops during this food tour. We got to sample delicious Chinese bao filled with veggies and meat. While you may have had this dish before, you might not have had it with homemade chili paste, crullers and sweet soy milk. Tour guide Chang explained that the locals love to combine savory and sweet flavors to balance out their palate. Besides the chili, you also dip your buns in vinegar and/or soy sauce. Delish!
Mung Bean Juice 老北京豆汁
A very interesting dish we had on our tour was mung bean juice. A fellow tour participant from Australia described the smell as “garbage can” and the taste as “toilet water”. I’m sure I’ve painted the picture for you. If you are not into fermented foods, this is probably your worst nightmare but I must say I was quite surprised by this mung bean juice. It’s one of those things that only locals really like and appreciate. Would you try it?
One of my favorite Chinese snacks in Jianbing, a Chinese-style crepe. However, I had never been to a Jianbing stall as unique as this one. The crepes are made according to an old Northern Chinese recipe in a large heated oven vessel. The Jianbing master simply sticks the raw crepes to the sides of the vessel where they sit and cook through for a couple of minutes. How cool is that?
Yogurt In a Jar 奶酪
Nai lao, or Beijing yogurt, is a fermented milk drink that is popularly consumed in northern China. You can buy it at a lot of places and it’s usually consumed on the go. Once again, tour guide Chang told us a clever tip: Once you’re done with your sour yogurt drink, don’t throw the glass in the trash can but leave it on top of the bin as people come and pick them up later.
Shao Mai 烧麦
These delicious buns are a local favorite. They are first steamed and then pan-fried on the bottom. They are filled with anything from veggies to meat. Our guide Chang ordered beef and lamb varieties to try. They were oh so delicious!
Fried Mung Bean Tofu 炒麻豆腐
For our last stop, Chang presented us with a true highlight: fried mung bean tofu with almond tofu tea. The mung bean tofu was mashed much like hummus and eaten plan with a spoon. It might not look too delicious but the flavors were bold. That’s why this dish was one of my favorites. Moreover, I really liked the sweet almond tofu that came with it. Chang also got us sugar ears that made this another savory and sweet combination locals swear by.
Hungry Yet? Join UnTour in Beijing or Shanghai!
I had a great time exploring the culinary scene of Beijing and its hutongs with Chang and fellow travelers. Chang led us to places I would have never found myself and presented us with dishes and drinks, most of which I would never try on my own. Therefore, I highly recommend UnTour to anyone traveling to Beijing who isn’t a pro at local food. The best part, all participants received a pamphlet listing all the places and dishes we tried as well as two recipes for Northeastern boiled pork and cabbage dumplings as well as almond tofu. This way, you can take a bite of Beijing home with you.
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Recommended Hotels in Beijing
The hotels recommended below are hotels I have personally stayed at and recommend to other travelers.
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