Hutong Breakfast

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September 11th 2019
Published: September 17th 2019
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I love Chinese breakfast food, but rarely have the chance to eat it due to a combination of different factors. I had done a breakfast tour in Beijing, when visiting previously and really enjoyed it, so decided to check out Lost Plate and their Hutong Breakfast tour. We met at 9 am, and were greeted by our lovely guide, Kelly, who already had something for us to try while we waited for everyone to arrive. I enjoyed the traditional Beijing yogurt drink, which Kelly gave us, I've had it before and it makes a nice change from a regular yogurt. I am not a big fan of honey, but you can barely taste it in the yogurt. Our first stop was just around the corner from the subway station and on the main street. There were only four of us on the tour, so it was nice and small.

Our first stop was just around the corner at a place that sold traditional temple snacks. We got to try quite a few different cakey type snacks here. I really liked most of them. I think that there was only one that I wasn't too keen on as it was a bit too dry in my opinion. Before getting to sample each one, Kelly gave us some history and told us the ingredients of each snack. It was really nice to learn some of the history, especially how the Empress Cixi used to get 108 different dishes for each meal. We also tried her favourite snack, while contained jam and coconut, the Empress had good taste, it was delicious. After the snacks, we got to try another traditional breakfast food; fermented mung bean juice with some kind of hard, fried circular bread and pickles. I've had fermented mung bean juice before, and it is definitely an acquired taste. This one in particular was pretty potent and had quitr a fishy taste to it. This is something that older people in Beijing love to have for breakfast and no doubt it is very healthy. The younger generation, however, don't seem to be as keen on it.

We only walked a few metres down the street and we stopped at a small hole in the wall place. They were making beef pies and they had all the ingredients out on the counter so you could see exactly what went into making each pie. After watching for a little while, we each had a pie. It.was really good, and reminded me of a pasty. It was certainly cheaper than Greggs. We walked back past the beeff pie place later, around lunchtime and the queue was huge. I hate queuing and I would definitely queue up for one, that's how good it was. After walking down the main street a little more, we turned into one of the hutongs. It does feel like you're stepping into another world. Gone are the cars and noise, and instead you can see small lanes and entrances to the old style courtyards. We wandered through this quiet hutong, while Kelly explained a bit about hutong life to us. I really enjoyed the walk and the glimpse into people's homes. We also walked past the Lu Xun museum, which I would like to visit in the future.

Going deeper into the hutong, we came to the restaurant where we would try some more breakfast delicacies. The restaurant was in a small strip of three or four restaurants, and it was tiny when we walked inside. There were only about three tables. Here, we got to try some traditional breakfast food that is eaten all over China. We were each given a bowl of sweet soy milk and some things to dip into it. One was youtiao (油条), which is a deep fried doughstick. It was interesting to hear the backstory about it. Long, long ago, there were a general who was bad and the dough sticks were made to represent him and his wife. In the past, giant doughsticks were made to be burnt, I think, to show what people wanted to happen to the general. I love youtiao but try not to eat them too often as they aren't the healthiest thing in the world. We also had the traditional Beijing breakfast snack of tang you bing(糖油饼), which is fried brown sugar dough. It was really yummy, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had to stop myself from eating too much of it, as I knew we still had many foods to try. There as another small fried croquette looking thing, which was also sweet. We also tried another dish in the restaurant, which was a tofu and mushroom dish in a kind of gravy. That was really good, too.

After leaving the restaurant, we wandered the hutong for a while to let our food digest. I loved all the people watching we did and seeing all the small stores operating. We made our way to a street stall, where we got jianbing guozi (煎饼果子). It was funny when we arrived at the stall as the woman started to make the first one, but when her husband realised there was an audience, he took over to put on a show. Jianbing is a really good food, it's cheap and filling, and is piping hot when it comes off the hot plate. I couldn't even hold mine, it was that hot. Jianbing is a type of pancake, in which the batter is batter is poured on to a large spinning circle and spread out over it. An egg is then added and spread into the batter. Finally, a spicy sauce is added to the pancake, along with corriander and guozi, which is a lagre crisp like thing. The jianbing was really good and I enjoyed eating it. We only had half each, but that was more than enough as I ended up saving some for later. We headed to a small wet market and took a look around there. Then we headed across to a small hole in the wall Halal beef place. The beef was really delicious, and I could have happily ate more of it. If only my stomach was bigger. We wandered around the hutong some more, I was happy watching people go about their daily business, this wasn't one of the more touristy hutongs, but a real slice of Beijing life.

We headed to our next sit down stop. This place was another small restaurant. We were having two different foods in this place. One was another pancake, a thicker one with an egg fried into it, and wonton soup. There was a husband and wife team making the egg filled pancakes, not that the hesband seemed to be donig much other than drinking his tea, while his wife cooked the pancakes. Our pancakes soon arrived in small plastic bags and I left mine to one side in order to let it cool down a bit. The wonton soup arrived and I was happy to dig into that. I love wonton soup and this one was particularly good. The pork dumplings were really tasty, and the chicken broth was one of the best I've had. It was so tasty. We were really lucky as we got the last bowl of wonton soup, a guy came in shortly after us and was unsuccessful in obtaining a bowl as they'd sold out. We had come to the restaurant at a good timre as we were able to watch the switch over from breakfast to lunch. There was a womam setting up a big trolley filled with basins of bubbling hotpot into which.she placed skewers covered with a variety of meats, tofu, and vegetables. Part of me wished I could stay for lunch, too. I decided that my pancake was cool enough for comsumption and dug in. It was really good. The pancake was a lot thicker than a jiangbing, and the egg was fried while into the dough mixture. The pancake was wrapped around a large lettuce leaf. After all the food we'd had, I couldn't finish it, but I was able to put it in my bag to enjoy later.

We made our way to our final restaurant, which was just back up the street. We walked in through the kitchen and past the big bubbling vat of lamb soup, into the dining room. I love lamb and was happy when the smell hit me as we entered. We grabbed a table and waited for the food to appear. I just thought that we would be having a bowl of the lamb soup, but some other dishes turned up, too. I really Enjoyed the lamb soup, the milky looking broth was tasty, and the lamb delicious. We also had a small savoury sesame pastry/pancake, that was yummy and if only I hadn't of been so full, I could have ate a few of them. We also had a tofu skin salad, which was dressed in sesame oil, and was very tasty, too. Although the restaurant was quiet, we had beaten the lunchtime rush, quite a few delivery men pulled up to get people's take out.

After our final restaurant we headed to a small cafe hidden in the hutong for a caffeine fix. I really needed it as I was going to fall into a food coma nap. The cafe was really cute and I really enjoyed my coffee. I think they had a rooftop seating area, but we stayed inside. Once we had drank our coffees the tour was over and we headed back to the subway station, which was only a few minutes walk away. I really enjoyed the tour, the hutong neighbourhood we went to really gave a glimpse of local life. All the food we tried was really good, and the restaurants were definitely off the main tourist trail.

Additional photos below
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Breakfast FoodsBreakfast Foods
Breakfast Foods

Fried dough stick, sweet croquette, and fried brown sugar dough

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