Shanghai, Beijing and Xi’an usually round out any three-city itinerary for first time China travelers, and we offer tours in both Shanghai & Beijing. In our welcome packet, UnTour Food Tours provides all of our guests in both Shanghai and Beijing with detailed information about the best places to eat in each city. We’ve also published Glutton Guide Shanghai, a digital guidebook that focuses only on the best places to eat and drink in the city, but we want to make sure you dine on delicious food the entire time you’re in China, so here’s some of our recommendations for the Beijing and Xi’an, the other two in the tourist triumvirate.
Heard about Beijing’s hutong alleyways, but not sure what to do or where to go? Join us for breakfast as we sample the most authentic and delicious snacks that are hiding in plain sight, once you get off the crowded roads and into the backstreets. Wake up early and explore the culinary scene with our trusted vendors, your bilingual guide and a small group of new foodie friends. Over the course of three hours, you’ll eat your way through China’s 5,000 years of culinary history, try new foods and gain an appreciation for the artisans making these handmade treats.
We’ll meander through some of Beijing’s oldest, original hutongs – we don’t take you to rebuilt or crowded areas filled with tourists. Step away from the hotel buffet and explore a historic and local neighborhood, brimming with local vendors and hole-in-the-wall eateries. Book here.
Beijing’s dinnertime cuisine is so much more than the crowded tourist markets featuring bugs and mystery meat on sticks! Join our small group food tour as we explore delicious, traditional dishes shoulder-to-shoulder with Beijingers in a traditional Hutong neighborhood. You’ll meet your bilingual guide and small group at a convenient location, then head out to try traditional dishes that Chinese chefs have been perfecting for thousands of years. Book here.
More Beijing info:
When you go to Beijing, go to Baoyuan for dumplings and Da Dong for duck. I prefer not to make a reservation at Da Dong and go at peak dining times because they have free flow beer/wine for people who are waiting. Also, the ducks are being roasted in the lobby of most of the outlets, which is mouthwateringly amazing.
If you’re interested in hiring a private car service in Beijing, we have a very affordable option at just 400-500rmb/day, recommended to the US embassy staff. Other services to the Great wall, and other sights, have you sitting on a bus driving around to all the hotels in Beijing picking up other guests for several hours, etc.With a private driver you can control your whole plan and not have to deal with the nightmarish taxi scene. Patrick speaks English, and sets it all up to pick up at your hotel, and go wherever you want, but your driver won’t speak any English likely – you need to be prepared with where you want to go, or explain it all to Patrick when you reserve: +86 135-0126-7887 Update: Email is easiest: firstname.lastname@example.org If you have a bigger group, a van for 9 passengers is about 1000 RMB for the day.
(Note – if you come on an UnTour, you get a discount on Lost Plate’s Food Tours in Xi’an!)
Xi’an’s most popular pastime is snacking. Culinary legend has it that Shanxi province is home to more than 100 varieties of noodles, making it impossible to enjoy all the bountiful strands in a long weekend. Instead of maxing out on a carb-heavy binge that would make Dr Atkins cringe, just make sure to sample the holy triumvirate of Xi’an’s noodle offerings: biangbiang mian, saozi mian and yangrou pao mian.
Signs for biangbiang mian are easy enough to spot even for the Mandarin illiterate. Just keep your eyes out for signs that repeat a character with 58 complicated strokes twice. Happy diners slurping broad, chewy noodles tossed with sizzling chili oil and blanched bok choy will be your confirmation that you’ve found the right spot. And with winter fast approaching, saozi mian is the perfect dish to warm you up from the inside out. These hand-pulled soup noodles come piled with sliced greens, chunks of dry tofu and raw garlic in a fiery broth of chili oil and Qishan vinegar, an acidic condiment famous for souring atop a mountain 140 kilometers east of Xi’an. If you like to play with the food, the yangrou paomo is for you. First tear bits of flatbread into a bowl before dumping on a savory lamb stew. Glass noodles made of mung beans soak up bold, hearty flavors, adding heft to the filing bowl.
And, of course, there’s the Xi’an Hamburger or roujiamo. Made famous by night markets around the country, the slow-cooked pork melts into a mess of fatty meat stuffed into the folds of flatbread. It’s the perfect on-the-go snack to help tide you over until you’ve found the next noodle stall to try.
Where to Eat
For a DIY culinary tour of Shanxi’s best snacks, head to the Muslim Quarter. Xi’an might be 99 percent Han, but the Hui minority group, known for their noodle dexterity, have gathered their modest population of 50,000 in this central neighborhood. The main street, Hui Min Jie, has been given the obligatory tourist makeover, complete with flashing neon signs and a fake market hawking scarves and Pumas. But go just an alley or two beyond the cobblestones, you’ll find halal butchers hacking up whole lambs for shoppers in headscarves and taqiyah.
Beilin District, Huimin Jie. (碑林区回民街)
Or head to one of Xi’an’s family-owned restaurant. Here, they eschew the standard sprawling Chinese menu and focus with laser-like intensity on executing one or two specialty staples perfectly.
For Biang Biang Mian
Beilin District, 80 Nanyuan Lu, across from the Chunfasheng Restaurant)
For Saozi Mian
Qishan Mianguan (岐山面馆)
Xincheng District, 282 Xiyi Lu, near Dadong Jie (down an alley)
For Yangrou Paomo
Laomi Jia Dayu Paomo (老米家大雨泡馍)
Beilin District, Xiyang Shizhong Duan, near Parkson’s
Ziwu Lu Zhangji Roujiamo (子午路张记肉夹馍 )
Yanta District, 227 Cuihua Lu, near the south side of the Big Wild Good Pagoda School