Probably the best way to discover Chinese food is to follow your palate and nose. Walk up to the street stalls or hole in the walls and simply point at what you would like to have, you’ll find that many Chinese people are eager to help or explain if possible. It is a culinary paradise with large differences depending on the region you are in. When in Beijing you can fill up on tasty wontons, filled with leeks and minced meat. These can be found all over China but the ones we tried in Beijing where by far the most delicious. Peking Duck is Beijing’s signature dish, we were blown away by our tasting at Da Dong, where they still fire the ovens up on fruit tree wood giving it a very significant flavor. In Shanghai a must try is Yang’s Fry Dumpling in Hyanghe Rd. These are mouthwatering fried dumplings with a crispy texture combined with meaty, soupy center.
From posh and modern Shanghai we arrived in Xi’an, the former Silk Road terminus. Xi’an is a melting pot of cultures with a distinctive Muslim presence. For great food and an even better atmosphere a must try is the Muslim quarter. This bustling neighborhood is packed with family run restaurants, butcher shops and street food. Look out for the lamb skewers, little delicious orange rosewater pastries and yángròu pàomò; a dish you start by shredding bread in a bowl, which they then fill up with lamb soup.
If you are really looking for amazing but a bit challenging food, try the famous Sichuan Hotpot in Chengdu. Don’t be scared to try the spicy one, and with spicy we mean mouth numbing spicy, think off a broth filled with red peppers, Sichuan flower peppers and Chili oil. You cook your chosen side dishes (go for thinly sliced beef and lotus root!) in the broth and when they are ready you dip them in sesame oil flavored with coriander and garlic. It’s delicious and truly a great dining experience.
An overall tip is too look out for the noodle shops, you can find them all over China (we learnt the Chinese character for noodles, 面, by heart) and in every city they are a bit different. Hand pulled wheat noodles in Xi’an and Chengdu, rice noodles topped with peanut and fried egg in Guilin. They have one thing in common, it’s cheap and wholesome fast food and you eat with the local people, a must try.
In Hong Kong we were lucky to get a table at Maxim’s Palace, probably the best dumplings in town. The dishes are all served in steamers and can be chosen from the old school trolleys that are wheeled around the tables. For another flashback in time head for Mido’s, a large menu in a fantastic fifties setting. Or try something what we would think off decadent, fried oyster omelet, in Temple Street.
After a month of traveling and tasting in China we know we only have been able to enjoy a glimpse of this food loving country. Every place has its own flavors and typical cuisine, you keep on discovering. We are sure we will be going back to visit this amazing country.
Lore and Wannes
Some handy addresses :
Dadong Roast Duck restaurant
22 Dongsishitiao, Dongcheng
At beginning of Zhengfu Street comming from Renmin Road, in the building on the left, on the second floor
Yang’s Fry Dumplings
97 Huanghe Road
749 Caoxi Bei Lu, near Yude Lu
Edinburgh Pace 5-7
63 Temple Street