After reading about the whole gamut of our previously covered street eats, such as cheesy toast, trotters, fried chicken fillet, beer burger, jianbing burrito, and egg tarts, do you secretly wish that you could try all of the tastiest selections in just one trip? Or are you fresh off the boat, wondering where you can find the most authentic local food, but too lazy to do the research on our the Beijinger website? Well, you're in luck because someone has considered all of these questions and has gone to the effort of preparing a culinary hutong tour. Famous for their breakfast, night market, and hands-on dumpling tours in Shanghai, UnTour has recently branched out to Beijing, and we went along to give their foodie tour a try.
Our knowledgeable guide Garth Wilson warns us at the beginning of the dinner tour to nibble selectively as we go. That way, we won't get stuffed too early on and miss out on the delights at each of the five culinary different locations mapped out via the packed itinerary.
We won't mention any of the restaurant's names here, so that you'll be pleasantly surprised throughout the tour. Starting at Beixinqiao, we stopped by a Mongolian firepot restaurant for hand-sliced lamb, fried tofu skin, spinach, and lettuce in a traditional copper pot. The hand-sliced lamb was much better than the frozen variety at lesser restaurants. We also had some stewed pork shoulder, cabbage and pork dumplings, and leek and egg dumpings from a small place next door. They were all brimming with flavor, especially the stewed pork shoulder, which was soft and well stewed.
The second stop was a Xinjiang restaurant for lamb kebab, roasted garlic, and eggplant kebab. We also loved the grilled naan bread here and the chuan’r coupled well with the beer, Yanjing, of course. Sitting streetside in the summer at this restaurant, you might be inspired to show off your Beijing bikini, just like the locals.
After mopping up, we headed back to Beixinqiao for jianbing, and grabbed some lovely Beijing yogurt on the way. To be honest, by this point I already felt full, even before tackling the jianbing. However, as a self-considered jianbing-lover, I couldn't resist and was happy to munch on the crispy, fried dough sheet, the scallions and cilantro mixing well with the thich sweet bean paste. We were told that the organizers tried more than 40 jianbing before settling on their favorite here. I'll happily offer my services for the next search.
Now full of jianbing and barely able to move, we tried some donkey burgers, also a long-time favorite among many lao Beijingren. As we ate, our guide gave a very interesting account of the history of the donkey burgers, but we won't spoil it for you – ask Wilson for the lowdown when you try the tour yourself.
Finally, we wobbled through a quiet and shady hutong near Dongsi, tempted by a whaff of burgers and cheese from a well-known brewery but were whisked away by Wilson down another alleyway. At the next spot we ordered edamame, tofu salad, and most importantly, chicken wings! Wings come in four varieties: non-spicy, mild, one-sided mala, and two-sided mala. The regular were already delicious, with a thick layer of honey, and a hint of pepper. Some of us were brave enough to go for two-sided, and were not disappointed, unsurprising given that the owner has been doing this for almost 20 years. Honestly, I this might be the best chicken wing joint I've ever tried. And it also taught me a lesson: trust the uncle (in this case, the owner), the one with tattoos of Chairman Mao. He won’t fail you.
After the three-hour tour, you'll not only be pleasantly full, but also well-versed in the stories behind every dish and hutong, thanks to Wilson and can consider yourself a proud graduate and street food expert among your friends.
Currently, UnTour provides a hutong breakfast tour (RMB 350 per person, RMB 2,100 for 1-6 guests), at 8am on Sunday and Wednesday. It also offers a old Beijing dinner tour (RMB 400 per person, RMB 2,400 for 1-6 guests), 7pm on Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday. All prices are all inclusive. Check here for vacancies, or email them for more information at [email protected]. UnTour are also offering a RMB 50 discount on both tours until end of August.
More stories by this author here.
Photos: UnTour, Tracy Wang
Visit the original source and full text: the Beijinger Blog