Eating inside the Great Wall

_ECB3162-Edit-2On my way home from a recent business trip to Cambodia I was lucky enough to spend 5 days in Beijing where I had some interesting and some not so interesting food adventures.  I would have liked to post this earlier but the wonderful government of China blocks any page that supports free speech and as a result no access to wordpress, then when I got home I was just being lazy…  So here it is a little late, but I hope you enjoy.

Sadly I booked a hotel in a business area of Beijing and not near many restaurants so with the difficulty of getting taxi service I found myself eating dinner every night at my hotel where the food was not so good.  But there is another side to the coin, I was with a tour group which included lunch every day so I had some chances to get out and try other stuff.

The first day of the tour the lunch was a big disappointment, served family style (everyone shares the dishes) in the cafeteria style restaurant of the government-run jade factory (read that as high pressure sales environment).  The food was not bad but it was nothing special, there was a wide variety of things to choose from, including french fries, and the spicy chicken dish was rather good.  When I went up to the bar to get a drink I noticed that this government-run restaurant had only received 4 stars from the government-run tourism restaurant board which makes me wonder where the 5th star went.

Day 2 was a bit more promising as we ate in a small restaurant street side.  I don’t know the name of the restaurant but it was near the forbidden city and seems to be a place the tour companies bring their customers.  Again the food was served family style with a good variety to choose from, and once again the spicy chicken dish was the star of the meal.  There was also a rather simple cabbage dish which looked like nothing more than boiled cabbage with lots of butter and red pepper, but it had a nice bite to it.  The highlight of this meal was the group I was with as they were a great mix of Americans, Chinese (living in America), Europeans, and a couple from South Africa which led to some fun conversation.

Day 3 of the tour was the most disappointing tour wise but the best food wise.  We started our journey to lunch with a rickshaw of Utong, one of the older areas of Beijing.  This area consists of single story court-yard style houses where you will have 4 small houses sharing a single court-yard.  While these small houses are rather old and consist of little more than 2 or 3 bed rooms, a small sitting room, and a small kitchen (they don’t even have bathrooms in the house but have to share a public toilet down the street) they can cost as much as ten times more than a high-rise condo or apartment.

Our lunch on the 3rd day was served in one of these small houses by a local family at a small folding table setup in one of the bed rooms.  Again the meal was served family style but this time the food was much better and there was more of it.  We started off with just 4 plates; meat balls (not the Italian kind), rice, Chinese cookies, and stir fried beef with green beans.  As we ate our host kept bringing more and more food for us to enjoy, including a spicy chicken dish that once again became the star of the meal (I like spicy chicken dishes…).  Unfortunately the family asked us not to take pictures in their home so I don’t have any pictures of the food but here are a couple showing the area on our way to lunch.

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-erik

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