BEING WITH A local is always one of the best experiences you’ll have as a traveller. It also allows you to stop thinking for a while and just go along with the flow, as regardless of where s/he takes you, you’ll at least perceive that you’re going somewhere truly locals-only. They could probably take you to a loal take of a fast food joint and you wouldn’t mind.
Luckily our local friend was far more game than that; even she had to ask for directions to take us to the place we were going for dinner. And it doesn’t get more traditional than inside the hutong – the oldest traditional form of housing in Beijing. Think narrow, quiet alleyways, and old concrete and terracotta. From the nearest subway station one must turn a corner, then into a narrow alleyway where they must navigate the intricate hutong labyrinth to reach, while contending with dog droppings and motorbikes.
And the adventure is not without its reward. Deep inside the hutong, in the most inconspicuous location which hardly any tourist could find, is an expansive food hall showcasing some of the best and most original cuisine Beijing has to offer. The hall itself also comprises narrow alleyways with stalls on either side. Almost no signs are in English – bring a dictionary app like Pleco with you.
The original cuisine is mostly snack size and perfect for sharing. It ranges from some delicacies a foreigner would have seen in yum cha or fancy dumpling joint to the absolutely insane. How ‘insane’? And of the ‘insane’ foods, what was the most ‘insane’ thing I tried? Stay tuned and you’ll find out soon…