Chinese cuisine is an integral part of Chinese culture. Not only do Chinese people enjoy eating, they also believe that eating good food can bring harmony and closeness to family and relationships. Shopping daily for fresh food is essential for all Chinese cooking and even pre-prepared food such as dim sum must gleam, glisten, and steam as if just taken out of the oven. This freshness and celebration of cooking is reflected in all of Trafalgar’s Chinese dining experiences. From enjoying a home-cooked lunch in a traditional Hutong to mastering the art of Sichuan cooking in Chengdu, we’ve chosen our six favourite local and immersive food experiences to enjoy on your next trip to China.
1. Enjoy a traditional lunch in a Hutong
On day four of our 10 day Classic China tour, you have the opportunity to meet a local Chinese family in one of Beijing’s Hutongs and join them for a home-cooked lunch. The Hutongs of Beijing are ancient alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard residences. Today, they are designated protected areas and offer a glimpse into what life was like in Beijing hundreds of years ago.
You’ll start your exclusive Be My Guest experience by exploring the Hutong by rickshaw as you ride to the home of a local family. You’ll be greeted with a warm welcome from the family before enjoying a home-cooked lunch of fresh local cuisine. While you’re there, take the opportunity to admire the structure and layout of their traditional home. This modest home comprises of just two rooms, a lounge and bedroom, with a separate kitchen. After lunch, you’ll listen to stories about life in the Hutong – a truly unique Chinese dining experience.
2. Try dumpling making in Xi’an
Another fantastic immersive dining experience is dumpling making in Xi’an. On day 6 of our Best of China with Yangtze Cruise tour, you’ll learn the ancient art of dumpling making. Stuff your dumplings full of delicious flavours including pork and chive or stewed lamb and coriander, and enjoy your tasty creation for lunch.
According to legend, Chinese stuffed dumplings were invented during the Han Dynasty by a man named Zhang Zhongjian. Zhang returned to his ancestral village during winter and noticed many of his neighbours were suffering from frostbite, particularly around their ears. To help warm them up, Zhang cooked up a batch of mutton, chili and healing herbs and wrapped them in scraps of dough. He folded the dumplings to look like little ears, boiled them and handed them out to his chilly neighbours. It’s uncertain whether the dumplings cured frostbite, but the villagers loved the taste of Zhang’s creation so much that they kept making dumplings 1,800 years later.
3. Dine on Peking duck in Beijing
On day 2 of our Best of China with Yangtze Cruise, you’ll spend the day exploring the iconic Great Wall of China. At over 21,000 km in length and more than 2,000 years old, this cultural icon is a powerful symbol for China, representing a long history that has shaped the country. Did you know it would take you over a year to walk its entire length? Thankfully, we’ll take things easy, exploring only Juyong Pass of the Great Wall.
After all that exploring, get ready to head out for a mouth-watering ‘Regional Dinner’ of crispy Peking duck, Beijing’s most famous dish. Originating during the Imperial era, Peking (old name for Beijing) duck is tender slices of roasted duck meat with crispy skin, wrapped inside a thin pancake and served with a side of cucumbers, spring onions, hoisin sauce, and/or sweet bean sauce. This is a must try on any trip to Beijing – you’ll thank us later.
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4. Feast on a traditional lunch of Chinese noodles
What better way to experience Chinese dining than with a hearty bowl of steaming noodles? On day 6 of our Classic China tour, you’ll do exactly that. After a morning marvelling at the Terracotta Warriors, you’ll slurp yourself silly with a delicious lunch of Chinese noodles.
The Chinese noodle is believed to have originated during the Han dynasty, which means it’s over 4,000 years old. There are many different types of noodles, incorporated into different Chinese celebrations throughout the year. For example at birthdays, Chinese people eat longevity noodles and when couples get married, noodles are eaten with gravy which means flavored life. Which style of noodle will you choose?
5. Discover Dim Sum on the Jumbo Floating Restaurant
Welcome to the famous Jumbo Floating Restaurant. This sprawling floating eatery has played host to some of the biggest celebrities and finest dignitaries in the world including HM Queen Elizabeth II and film stars Tom Cruise, Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li.
On day 2 of our Hong Kong and Macau Experience, you’ll spend the day sightseeing around Hong Kong followed by a delicious dim sum lunch aboard the Jumbo Floating Restaurant. Dim sum is a Cantonese style of steamed dumpling made into small, bite-sized portions. Generally, it’s served on small plates for everyone to share. Today, there are over one thousand dim sum dishes in existence – our favourite are xiao long bao!
6. Master Sichuan cooking in Chengdu
Our final immersive Chinese dining experience is a Sichuan cooking class in Chengdu. On day 8 of Best of China with Yangtze cruise, we’ll head to the Museum of Sichuan Cuisine to learn regional cooking practices. You’ll discover how to crush chilli into powder using a Qing Dynasty pestle and mortar, view ancient kitchenware, recipe books and manuscripts that recorded the history of Sichuan cuisine. Then, inhale the delicious scents wafting through Restaurant Alley as you pay tribute to the Kitchen God. Finally, you’ll have a go at creating your own culinary magic with the guidance of a local chef.
How delicious do these sound? Which Chinese dining experience would you pick? Let us know in the comments below. For more inspiration, take a look at our unique China trips.