I really had no idea what to expect when I stepped off that plane to China.
I mean, sure, I had seen pictures of Beijing while watching the Olympics back in 2008. And I'd seen countless pictures in calendars - of farmers in their rice paddies, bicycles swarming the streets of Beijing, and temples soaring into the sky.
But I'd never set foot in China.
Just like a thousand words can hardly describe a picture, scores of television footage and photos can't even touch the experience of actually stepping foot in a country and immersing oneself in its food, people, and culture.
My favorite way to enjoy a city?
And that's exactly what we did in Beijing that first day. We walked and walked and walked the streets of Beijing, taking in as many sights, smells, and tastes (of course!) that we possible could.
Welcome to the first official post of the China Food Series. A few unofficial posts already sneaked their way onto this blog, such as the one about Bryan's favorite foods or the one describing hilariously translated English signs and weird flavored snacks. Nevertheless, this marks the official start of the series where I will explore various types of foods, restaurants, and my general impressions of the country.
You never know what you might find on the streets of Beijing . . .
Maybe a man painting Chinese characters with a water brush . . .
Or a really Chinese-looking Starbucks.
We stumbled upon the cutest little cooking school located in the back alleys of Beijing (called hutongs).
The owner was really nice, and invited us in to take pictures even though there was no class in session. Check out the mirror high up in front where you can see everything the instructor is doing.
Hou hai is one of three man-made lakes that used to feed into canals that served as waterways to the Imperial Palace. Now it's a beautiful recreational area surrounded by a walking path lined with hip restaurants and bars.
We tried a very popular and well known snack called "shuang pi nai." It literally means "double skinned milk" and is this delightfully creamy and gelatinous cold dessert that sort of reminds me of custard, but much lighter. I believe it's native to Hong Kong, but we went to a place that was one of the most popular in Beijing. I loved it because it wasn't too sweet, similar to most Asian desserts.
Random Street Place
The best thing about China, of course, is the food. We randomly walked into this little restaurant on a random street in Beijing in the Chaoyang district (which is where we were staying).
Don't be fooled by its humble exterior!
Check out the fantastic meal we got!
The best part? This entire meal (6 dishes!) only cost us $15 US.
And it tasted better than most of the Chinese restaurants in Boston.
My favorite was the spicy fish (literally called "water cooked fish" / shui zhu yu). The portion was humongous (I swear there was a whole fish in there), and the flavors were addictively spicy, peppery, and fragrant. The beef noodle soup was great too, especially because the noodles were all hand-drawn! No misses here, really. It's amazing - you walk into a random street restaurant and the food is fantastic.
Up next: Our first dumpling restaurant in Beijing!
It's not to late to vote for this blog for Project Food Blog, Round 5. Voting is open until Thursday night, October 14th! You can check out my post and vote here.
All Rights Reserved