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Beijing & Chengdu recs for adventurous family

h
heidihelm May 26, 2007 07:59 AM

We (parents, 8 yo daughter) are travelling to Beijing (3 jetlag days) and then onto Chengdu for 2 weeks next month. We'd love any recommendations for food or adventures, especially ones that are authentic and off the beaten path. We've been to China a few times already, but this is the first time our daughter is really excited about it. In Chengdu we have some local friends but we're on our own in Beijing and will be staying at Si He Hotel in Beijing, in an old neighborhood. Thanks Chowhounds! Heidi

  1. f
    foodcritik May 26, 2007 10:35 AM

    I just got back from Beijing the 2008 olympic city.

    Okay first i will recommend 1 unforgettable place.

    Bai Jia Da Yuan Restaurant
    Address: No. 15 Suzhou St. Haidiandistrict,
    Beijing 100080, China Fax: 82613048
    call to reserve for eating in the exterior, garden.
    010-62654186 010-62658851

    Restaurant is famous for the imperial court cuisine. It lies within the famous "Yuejia Garden". The restaurant is in the garden style of the Qing Dynasty. I bet you will not forget this dining experience. When i was there, they had the infamous mask change dance show! The secret of the mask change is still unknown to the public. People say that it is a well kept secret within the practicer. I'm guessing that it has to do with rubber bands. Lots of it.

    about the experience with you walk into the long alley. you will be greeted with qing dressed maids and maidservants "ning ji xiang", meaning good luck to you.

    spectacular

    hope you enjoy your trip!

    Last of all, please bring you camcorder / major mega pixel camera to document this place. You will love the pictures!

    6 Replies
    1. re: foodcritik
      c
      clearskies0810 May 28, 2007 01:22 PM

      how much does dinner here cost on average? (in RMB or dollars) thanks!

      1. re: clearskies0810
        f
        foodcritik May 30, 2007 06:54 AM

        An average meal for us 5 people without waste is $200 RMB. $40 RMB per person.

        mcdonalds meals are $14-18 RMB for value meal or $2 and change in US dollars. (small fries and drink) per person.

        a typical soup noodle dish is from $14 - $25 RMB.

        Remember $1.00 US Dollar is about $7.60 RMB

        --- for Dim Sum in a NICE Restaurant cost about $20 US or $178.00 RMB for us, 5 people. Big Eaters like me and my wife, my uncle and his body guard :) and grandma

        1. re: foodcritik
          Gary Soup May 30, 2007 11:45 AM

          I think clearskies was asking about Bai Jia Da Yuan, which I would guess is more tourist-priced.

          Otherwise, BJ sounds like it's about in line with Shanghai prices (assuming one avoids places like the ones at Xintiandi and 3 on the Bund).

          1. re: Gary Soup
            f
            foodcritik May 31, 2007 06:23 AM

            OOps sorry for the confusion.

            I actually was treated out for that one :(

            Not cheap for that meal!

            1. re: Gary Soup
              c
              clearskies0810 Jun 1, 2007 10:01 AM

              Thanks for clarifying for me! I was def. shocked to see 40 RMB per person, since I thought it was more along the lines of 400 RMB. =)

        2. re: foodcritik
          d
          dai11 Jul 6, 2007 05:31 AM

          Hi, Has anyone else gone here? Or know how much it is likely to cost? I have friends coming and thought it might be a good place to experience imperial cuisine with a face changing show.

        3. f
          foodcritik May 26, 2007 10:56 AM

          Okay one more for the road,

          "Xiao Fei Yang" which is translated, "Little Fat Sheep"

          Address:
          209 Xiaojie, Dongzhimen Neidajie
          middle of Gui Jie

          Telephone: 8400-1669

          opens 24 hours

          Here is a link i've found in a google search: http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing...

          over 100 all over china is a famous chain franchise hot mongolian hot pot style restaurant that you will love! There are Lots of in in Beijing. You can ask any local in Beijing and they will easily point you to one of them. I can tell you this, order 3 large beers and extra thin lamb meat & thin beef, you will be hooked on to the unique pot for 2-3 hours. prepare to sweat like a dog. ooh, one more thing, please ask for half non-spicy soup and hot spicy for yourself.

          eat and thank me later!

          1. pepper_mil May 27, 2007 04:19 AM

            Off the beaten path? Hmm, in Chengdu we have lots of Tibetan, Xinjiang, and Yunnan places in addition to Sichuan and the ubiquitous hot pot. For really good Yunnan crossing the bridge noodles (过桥米线) go to Yunnan Mengzi restaurant on Renmin Zhong Lu, 3rd section, #10. No English, ask for guo4 qiao2 mi3 xian4. It is like an elaborate chicken noodle soup with many small dishes of stir-ins; might be a nice break after a few days of fiery Sichuan. This street is being torn up for the subway system right now, but the restaurant is still open.

            With an eight year old, it might be fun to go for the hand pulled la mian, where they make the noodles right in front of you. Yummy and very cheap too. These are in most neighborhoods and I am not sure where you will be based but there is one good place just north of the first ring on XinNanLu, heading north on your left. Can't miss it. (Everyone knows KeHuaBeiLu - this road turns into XinNanLu at the first ring). Also no English, but just ask for la1mian4 or point to others' dishes. There is a communal table in the middle so it is a good place to practice Chinese.

            Edit: we have that little sheep restaurant here, too, in case you don't get to it in Beijing

            5 Replies
            1. re: pepper_mil
              Gary Soup May 27, 2007 07:14 AM

              Xiao Feiyang is everywhere these days, including the US and Canada. Good and fun as it is, I wouldn't waste a meal in Chengdu on it. Beijing, maybe, where the native cuisine is more limited an where Heidi may already have found the "best of."

              1. re: Gary Soup
                f
                foodcritik May 31, 2007 10:30 AM

                hey Gary Soup,

                Here are some pics i've taken in Beijing, see if it is this place you've been. I went there twice and sweated like a dog. Winter is better with this experience.

                 
                 
                 
                1. re: foodcritik
                  Gary Soup May 31, 2007 06:56 PM

                  The only branches I've been to are in Shanghai, but yes, same chain.

              2. re: pepper_mil
                j
                jenn May 31, 2007 10:05 AM

                The last time we were in China, my kids were 6 & 8. Sigh. Haven't been to Chengdu but my fingers are crossed........have been to Beijing quite a few times considering....

                What I like about going to Beijing is that you can find lots of places to try that aren't expensive and if you can't take the food [my mind trails back to my husband inadvertantly ordering a bowl of Chinese menudo for breakfast one morning....of course, elder pup who will eat anything like it......] you can just pay and leave and find something else.

                There "was" a hand pulled noodle place in Beijing off Wangfujing across from where the night market is located. It was part of a chain called "Malan Noodles" ---used to have two branches in SoCal though one those closed. Anyrate, my kids LOVE watching them pull the noodles and its pretty good food too. Also, sort of across the street from there is a restaurant called "Chinese Dumpling" Don't be put off by the english name--the food is all yummy northern Chinese stuff with a focus on: DUMPLINGS!!!! This is my kids' favorite place in Beijing. Your order will take a while to come to the table but that is because they make all the dumplings fresh and by hand.

                THAT SAID, our elder daughter just went to Beijing with classmates and she swears that the building where Chinese Dumpling was located [eastern end of the night market] is no longer there. So my suggestion may be pointless!!!!

                I'd also suggest the nightmarket---my kids really liked picking things out on skewers.

                Lastly, one really fun thing to do is walk down the street in Beijing EARLY in the morning and look for someone making dan bing--the pancake/bread with the egg in it. My kids love doing that for breakfast in the morning. As of summer '05, there were a lot of these places on the main street just east of Wangfujing [sorry no map hand but the street as you go away from the Forbidden city] and I'm sure you can find them on other side streets as well.

                1. re: jenn
                  baron45 Nov 3, 2007 02:40 PM

                  I checked out the Wang Fu Jing markets and saw some skewers of scorpions & seahorse, as well as silkworm cocoons (I think). There was also a stall selling what looked like pita pockets of meat.

                   
                   
              3. w
                WHills Jun 2, 2007 06:01 PM

                For Beijing, I would try out a roast duck. The kids may enjoy watching them carve the thing, and you can search this board for which peking duck is the best. Dumplings that are freshly made are also a good alternative.

                I would be careful with what your kid eats, at least initially. Some of the Chinese foods are not as "clean" as you are used to in the states. It generally takes me a week to adjust, and I avoid street foods until I'm adjusted.

                5 Replies
                1. re: WHills
                  Gary Soup Jun 2, 2007 07:00 PM

                  I would think kids would have less finicky stomachs than their elders.

                  I don't know what you mean by "adjust" unless it's to the tap water, which I avoid even in Shanghai, where it's supposedly as wholesome nowadays as in most American cities. And how do you"adjust" to something by avoiding it? Me, I'm ready for some nice, greasy shengjian bao the minute I get off the plane, my sexagenarian stomach and all...

                   
                  1. re: Gary Soup
                    w
                    WHills Jun 5, 2007 02:51 PM

                    When I was lived in Beijing, I know a lot of people got sick (i.e. runs) from eating things from local stands the first week or so. After time, they "adjusted" and were able to eat things from local stands without getting sick. Maybe you have a strong stomach, but I think there are bacteria and other things that may be unfamiliar in a foreign country, so I would go easy initially.

                    I think what happens is when you are travelling, especially after a long flight, you are jet lagged and your immune system is not as strong as it is when you are at home. So, it takes a few days or even a week to get over the jet lag and build up your immune system. So, if you eat something that has bacteria or is not as clean right off the plane, you might catch some kind of bug easier and have stomach problems. Street food is generally not as clean as a restaurant, or so I think.

                    As for kids, especially young kids (under 12), they are usually like elders and have weaker immune systems than adults. So, they may be more prune to getting sick.

                    1. re: WHills
                      Gary Soup Jun 5, 2007 06:59 PM

                      Maybe I do have a stong stomach, but in eight trips to Shanghai, all after the age of 50 and three of them after the age of 60, I have never had a problem with the food. I sick with street foods that are thoroughly cooked, and fresh off the grill or out of the fryer.

                      1. re: WHills
                        pepper_mil Jun 9, 2007 05:35 PM

                        I was also wondering what 'adventurous' meant for the OP and if I should give street food recs, which opens up a whole new world esp here in China but which many foreigners (and locals as well) eschew entirely. On the other hand, they have been to China before so have at least some idea of what to expect.

                        Food safety standards are very different here than in the west, no matter where you are. I trust street food a little more than restaurant food, since I can inspect the ingredients and see the cooking methods right in front of me. The only time I have been sick here has been from restaurant food. This is probably a good topic for a different board though.

                        The most visitor-accessible 'street food' in Chengdu is on Jinli street near the Wuhou temple, where the food is served out of booths and the items are translated into English - not that the translations help much. Higher priced and without the element of serendipity that really good street food has, but visitors might feel more comfortable there and it saves time if you are looking for a particular thing. Many of the dan hong gao vendors, for example, seem to have switched to cool drinks since the weather has gotten warmer. This is a neat place to visit, though not 'off the beaten path' as requested. You will see lots of Tibetans in this area. It is cool to see them getting into taxis or checking out laptops on Computer Street. You should try San Da Pao - I just did a blog post on it.

                        http://frugalcuisine.blogspot.com

                        1. re: pepper_mil
                          Gary Soup Jun 9, 2007 08:25 PM

                          I think anybody who's eaten a hot dog at a county fair should not be afraid to eat cooked street food. This piece by the late, great, R W Apple about eating in Shanghai has a marvelous description of none other than Jean-Georges Vongerichten going for a jian bing from a hawker and being "in seventh heaven."

                          http://travel2.nytimes.com/2005/10/09...

                  2. pepper_mil Jun 2, 2007 06:36 PM

                    More Chengdu - yesterday I ate at a Xinjiang (Uighur) restaurant that you might like - it is a place I would definitely bring visitors for lunch. It is called Xinjiang Hong Mudan Mushin Kuai Canting, according to the sign, and is a short walk south of Sichuan University's south gate on the coner of Guojiaqiao Bei Jie and KeHua Jie - a big place, open to the street. They have the usual grill/oven out front where you can get lamb skewers and nan bread to go.

                    This is the third Uighur place I've been that actually has a pinyin menu (though the food categories are not pinned, unfortunately.) Lots of people were eating Da Pan Ji, the big pan chicken that is a specialty of these places. A small order is 28 kuai and would easily feed three. When you have eaten most of the chunks of meat and vegetables and get down to the juices, they bring out fresh wide noodles to stir in. I ordered lao hu cai (I think tiger vegetables) that ended up being a salad of tomatoes with thinly sliced onions and peppers in a sweet, vinegary, spicy dressing. Really good.

                    The neat thing about this place is the atmosphere - the unversity crowd, the workers who look more Middle eastern than Chinese calling out orders in Uighur or Uighur accented Mandarin. The lamb skewer guy comes through the room so that you can grab as many as you want, if you forgot to order some.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: pepper_mil
                      k
                      karenitasf Jan 14, 2008 08:37 PM

                      Yo, thanks pepper_mil, that Xinjiang place ROCKED. Thanks so much for the recommendation!!! I just got back from Chengdu and somehow arrived there without a useful guidebook- logged on to CH, got your rec, and it was the first place we went- we thought it was super fun and tasty and cheap and the neighborhood was loads of fun as well. Love the Chowhound.

                      It's amazing to me how hardly anyone mentions the awesome street food in Chengdu! It was the BEST. I used some recs from people there, other sites, this site, etc. but often found that places were hard to find if you didn't have concrete information. (including Pepper_mil's suggestion, but it's not his/her fault, the map we had of that area was screwy and we know no Chinese.)

                      I felt compelled to do 2 much lengthier blog posts on Chengdu food, with street names and directions and photos and tips and such- in hopes it will help others navigate more easily!

                      http://offthemeathook.com/2008/01/02/chengdu-is-for-lovers-of-food.aspx
                      http://offthemeathook.com/2008/01/10/...

                      1. re: karenitasf
                        pepper_mil Jan 14, 2008 10:37 PM

                        Glad you liked it....yes, winter is the season for street food here. I've been meaning to do a few more report type posts, thanks for the nudge. My blog has a few posts on specific street foods, but nothing on where to find what. Those sneaky vendors tend to move around a bit too.

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