The culi­nary jour­ney

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWOCENTS - By Michael Evans

We all know that China is a na­tion of food­ies. Chi­nese restau­rants are per­haps the coun­try’s great­est am­bas­sadors abroad. At home, mil­lions of Chi­nese see their coun­try’s wide-rang­ing and an­cient cui­sine as one of their proud­est achieve­ment.

So, any­one could rea­son­ably ex­pect liv­ing in to­day’s China to be like re­sid­ing in a culi­nary heaven.

How­ever, it’s been sur­pris­ingly dif­fi­cult to find the kind of de­li­cious, au­then­tic dishes I came here crav­ing and ex­pected to find around ev­ery cor­ner.

Sim­ply put, most of my in­ter­na­tional friends pre­fer in­ter­na­tional food, and each time I asked my friends for their fa­vorite lo­cal eater­ies or in­vite them on a trip to ex­plore a new neigh­bor­hood restau­rant, I usu­ally come away empty handed.

The ob­vi­ous an­swer to my dilemma, of course, was sim­ply to ask a Chi­nese per­son. But this so­lu­tion was also not as easy as it sounded. Most of my Chi­nese friends were not lo­cal Bei­jingers, with many hav­ing lived in this city barely longer than I had. Their best source of in­for­ma­tion on what to eat came from web­sites and apps that fo­cus on what is new and trendy rather than what is traditional and au­then­tic.

There­fore, find­ing the real hid­den culi­nary gems in this city has been a lot of work. My first step on this jour­ney was find­ing some real, lo­cal Bei­jingers to guide me. Most of the young peo­ple my age had lit­tle in­ter­est in the same old dishes they have eaten all their lives, but at least they knew where to di­rect me – to the restau­rants their par­ents had taken them to grow­ing up and where their elders still in­sisted on go­ing when the fam­ily gets to­gether.

I was also, slowly, able to dis­cover other for­eign­ers like me who had come to Bei­jing with the same goal and shared my frus­tra­tion.

They had put to­gether their own lists of fa­vorite places to eat, often hid­den in the mid­dle of twist­ing hu­tong al­ley­ways and with hardly a sign out front to at­tract cus­tomers.

But more than any­thing else, the best restau­rants I’ve found have been a re­sult of sim­ple leg­work.

And af­ter what seemed like a fool’s er­rand, I have to say that the jour­ney made the des­ti­na­tion all that much more worthwhile.

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