Beijing

Beijing Food Tour: Exploring Local Hutong Restaurants with Lost Plate

On December 4 Lost Plate invited me to join their Beijing Evening Food Tour, a delicious and thrilling food experience that involved zooming around the city by tuktuk to try 10 authentic dishes at 4 sit-down restaurants, plus one craft brewery. I’ve previously been on one of their food tours, and so I once again happily (and hungrily) accepted.

As Lost Plate says of themselves, this isn’t your standard “go to a market and then a street-food stall” experience. And it truly isn’t. This is a deep dive into local culture, with history and stories coming alive around you while rich and diverse flavors explode in your mouth. It’s heavenly.

As someone who has lived in Beijing for 3 years you can take it from me: this is the best way to experience local restaurants in Beijing. We often don’t take the time to explore new places or even savor our favorites, so why not take an evening to do just that? And their tours aren’t limited to Beijing, or even evening times. They also offer tours in Chengdu, Shanghai, Suzhou, Yunnan, and Xi’an, as well as breakfast tours, and unique food travel tours. Whether you’re new to China or have been here for years and are looking for new experiences, their tours are for you.

If you want to book a tour, make sure you use my code for a discount at checkout: RACHELMEETSCHINA

Now let’s get on to the food!

1. Traditional Beijing noodles: Zhajiangmian 炸酱面

Zhajiangmian (“fried sauce noodles”) are made of thick wheat noodles topped with a soybean paste sauce and cucumbers, radishes, and other vegetables. These ingedients are served separately, then you can personally add them together and mix it up for a fresh taste!

These are traditional Beijing noodle you can find all over the city. I’ve had many bowls of zhajiangmian during my time here, but it’s always a joy to revisit this classic dish. (Also, who could say no to a bowl of noodles? I don’t want to be friends with that person.)

2. Mongolian BBQ

The second stop was a wonderful surprise for me because it was in my old hutong neighborhood in Beijing near Beixinqiao. It was a restaurant I had walked by many times but actually never visited before!

Inside we were greeted with large plates of meat and vegetables soaking in marinades and just waiting to sizzle on the grill. Mongolian BBQ is cooked on a grill over coals and is a fun experience to cook your own food and eat right away. It is also perfect on a chilly night 😋

3. Doornail Meat Pie (Men ding rou bing 门钉肉饼)

One of my recent favorites in Beijing: 门钉肉饼 (doornail meat pie). These consist of meat and spices wrapped in a bread covering and fried up to juicy and golden perfection.

The Story of Doornail Meat Pies

It’s a funny name with an interesting story as well: During Empress Ci Xi’s time in the late Qing Dynasty, the Forbidden Cities Head Chef was preparing the dinner. It is said that Empress Ci Xi was one of the cruelest and meanest empresses and she had high demands for her chef. Every day she required him to create new dishes. One day he decided to wrap a pastry around meat and fry it. And the Empress absolutely loved it. She called for the chef, and he was terrified thinking he was going to be executed for his experimental dish. He walked out to meet the Empress, shaking and fearing for his life. The Empress asked him “What is this called?” The Chef, who put no thought into a name for the dish was shocked and froze. He looked around, thinking, hoping he could think of the right thing to say… He saw the door nails on the big red doors in the Forbidden City, and he spurted out “men ding rou bing” (door nail meal pie).

And so we have it, delicious men ding rou bing! Dip them in chili oil and vinegar to enhance the flavor even more. I promise it won’t disappoint.

4. Spring Pancakes (春饼 chūnbǐng)

The last (food) stop on the tour was trying Spring Pancakes (春饼 chūnbǐng). These are a traditional dish to eat during the new year or new season. You essentially have many different dishes that you will wrap inside a pancake, like fried eggs, sprouts, shredded pork, and other vegetables and meat dishes. It was a savory and satisfying way to end our food adventure.

Also….at some point during the tour the baijiu was brought out. At 42%, baijiu is no joke (and it tastes not too dissimilar to what you imagine lighter fluid would taste like). But it’s a classic China experience you need to try!

5. Peiping Machine Brewing (北平机器)

The tour wrapped up at the well-known Beijing brewery Peiping Machine Brewing. This gem in the Fangjia hutongs has many beer options and gave us the chance to digest our full bellies and reminisce on all the tasty dishes we had enjoyed.

Beijing Food Tour Experience with Lost Plate

Overall it was a fantastic night with tasty dishes, new friends, and a slew of new restaurants in Beijing I had never been to before. Our guide, Flower, was not only very informative about the history of the dishes and the hutong neighborhoods we went to, but also really delightful to chat with during our tour. Our group had lots of fun bonding over the experience: food is always a great way to bridge cultures. Also, the food and drinks are unlimited at each spot, so you can eat to your heart and belly’s content!

If you’re looking for a food tour experience, I highly recommend Lost Plate. Check out their various food tours online and make sure you use my code for a discount at checkout: RACHELMEETSCHINA

Happy eating!

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