Beijinger Kitchen Cooking Class4/5
Shuttered away in the back of an inconspicuous courtyard house, itself hidden among the matrix-like streets of Beijing's hutongs, lies Beijinger Kitchen Cooking Class. People there have such a passion for sharing Chinese cuisine with foreign visitors that he opened up his own small-scale cooking school using money gifted by his grandfather, who supported his entrepreneurial bent. Imagine going around to your best friend's Beijing studio and receiving a very hands-on, no fuss, private cooking lesson from one of the city's best chefs - that pretty much sums up the intimacy, and relaxedness, of this experience.
Catherine Lu Tours Xi'an4/5
Although China can seem, to some Westerners, like a society governed by strict etiquette, you'll find that dining at family homes is a very relaxed and welcoming experience. You'll start with a cup of green tea, followed by beer or a soft drink, before sitting down to eat. Dishes are brought out as and when they're ready, everybody shares, and the table soon groans with steaming plates. Expect anything and everything, from stir-fried vegetable dishes to dumplings striped with mint-green-shaded dough. You'll also be accompanied by a bilingual private guide, who acts as your interpreter and explains which dishes are local to Shaanxi Province.
Gastronomic exploration of Beijing5/5
The hutongs are a preserved slice of Old China in the heart of metropolitan Beijing. These narrow, grey-bricked streets of single-story buildings, constructed on a grid system, are dense with traditional siheyuan (courtyard) houses. They're mostly residential, and relatively untouched by Western-esque development. This walking tour offers a way of exploring them while sampling their array of breakfast dishes. Your guide will likely first take you to try fried pork dumplings, and youtiao (fried dough sticks) dipped in doujiang (soy milk). Then there'll be jianbing, a crêpe cooked in front of you on a hotplate. It's loaded with a gooey egg, herbs and chilli.
Guided food tour in Sichuan province4/5
The laid-back city of Chengdu is mostly known in the West for its giant pandas and teahouses, but its food is celebrated throughout China. Here you'll find some of the country's hottest dishes. You'll join your guide, a Chengdu resident, on a tour of four or five eating places. The premise which is very much lived up to is that you'll get to dine on great food in out-of-the-way spots you'd be unlikely to stumble upon if exploring independently.
Shanghai's biggest outdoor seafood market4/5
This 24-hour market is known to have the freshest seafood in Shanghai and you can find nearly every sea creature here. Fish, shellfish and crabs are all available to be purchased and then cooked at a nearby restaurant of your choosing. Aside from the fresh food, you will have the chance to experience a bustling Chinese fish market in action, guts and bones flying from every direction and passionate shoppers eagerly haggling for the best prices.
Typically popular market4/5
It's hectic, overwhelming and full of street snacks that you just have to try. This market is full of vendors and restaurants with mostly outdoor seating and a large selection of handmade food items. Typically popular for its seafood selection, visitors can find stalls touting crayfish and skewered marine animals for BBQ. You will also be able to find skewered meats, vegetable kebabs and small tea houses to help you wash it all down when you’re finished eating.
Healthy vegetarian food4/5
Even full blown meat eaters can appreciate the taste and creative preparation of the vegetarian food in restaurants surrounding the Llama Temple. As this temple is a place representing Buddhism, the neighborhood around it has become a gathering place for visiting Buddhists and monks who adhere to a vegetarian diet. Take a walk around the neighborhood and pop into one of the clearly labeled restaurants for lotus root dishes, green vegetables and mushroom meals that taste pretty close to actual meat.
Unique dining experience4/5
An example of the city's more quirky side, the House of Poo restaurant offers a dining experience that is truly unique. Guests pull up to their tables on Western toilet shaped seats and meals like beef curry are served in mini toilet bowls right on the table.
Some items like the mashed potatoes are actually shaped like poo themselves and you will have to get over the visual appearance to be able to enjoy them.
Thankfully, the tone is light - faeces-tious, you might say - and nothing actually looks like real effluence.
Most novel place to sample snacks4/5
This one has got to be put at the top of the list as it's perhaps the strangest and most novel place to sample snacks in the city. Without the distraction of souvenir stalls and t-shirt shops, Donghuamen is an unusual sight, lit up and lined with vendors selling some of the most disgusting, scary and interesting looking snacks you may have ever seen. From scorpions on sticks, dried and edible starfish and deep fried spiders to smelly tofu, snake, squid on sticks and chicken hearts, you are bound to discover something you've never tasted before.