This is an updated version of my post from July 2010. I recently had a friend ask for some advice for how to travel Beijing in three days. Here’s my quick and dirty list of what to do and eat while you’re drinking in 5,000 years of Chinese culture through a firehose.
1. Hike the Great Wall 长城 from Jinshanling to Simatai.
Four hours of breathtaking views along unrestored-to-restored wall. Wear sunscreen, pack water, and during winter wear layers. Extra time? Camp on the Great Wall.
4. Scale the hill at Summer Palace 颐和园 and wind your way down to the lake.
Combine the same trip with a stop at the "Bird's Nest" Olympic stadium 北京国家体育场 and "Water Cube" or Beijing National Aquatic Center 北京国家游泳中心.
5. Visit the Temple of Heaven
Listen to older Beijinger's play musical instruments and sing Beijing Opera.
Exercise your joints and join some folks while they practice Taijiquan 太极拳.
8. Hit up some art galleries at 798
See what's stirring in the creative souls of China. This campus was once a weapons manufacturing site and was later squatted by a community of artists. Now the place is hoity-toity and hip. Definitely the must-visit for art and design folks.
9. Eat well.
You must have Beijing Roast Duck 北京烤鸭 at Da Dong. Do not go home without doing this (unless you are a vegetarian). I've tried duck at other restaurants, and while some other's like Li Qun are still tasty, my taste buds vote Da Dong as the best. However, if you want a little dilapidated courtyard chic to pair with your duck, many have trod the rubble into Li Qun – it's fun! After dinner, go for a Chinese traditional foot and/or back massage at one of Oriental Taipan's many locations in Beijing. Acupressure attention to your feet and muscles are a bargain to the dollar / euro prices that thwarted you from pampering yourself before.
Check out my review on Trip.com
Also, my absolute favorite upscale Chinese restaurant in Beijing is Transit. Here you'll find Chinese food made with love and unpretentious style. If you go out for a little something special, go to Transit.
Just checked and as of the time this blog post was written, Transit is temporary closed.
Check back here for an updated status.
For the best noodles you'll ever eat in Beijing, go to Yellow River Noodles. Get the biang biang mian (wide vegetarian noodles like no other) and have a roujiamou.
Check out my review on Trip.com.
For a taste of Yunnan region while dining outdoors, go to Dali Courtyard.
Check out my review on Trip.com
10. Get lost! Try something new!
Juice up your batteries for your camera and get lost. Walk a few blocks and down an alley. You're certain to run into something fascinating and find stories to share at home.
I rave on about my pork belly recipe that I've learned and cooked for friends and family over the past eight years. I've published my personal red-cooked pork belly recipe on the much loved Asian-recipe site RasaMalaysia.com and I've shared a couple versions in my cookbook, Family Style Chinese Cookbook. I'm fixing personal portions of my much-loved red-cooked pork belly at a popup Onita Mihaly and I are hosting in Oakland, next week. Our popup will be a menu reflecting how two daughters of immigrant moms interpret recipes they grew up with and the ones they've learned along the way.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I invite you to enter Oakland, one of our country's top local food scenes, and pull up a seat. Meet some folks at the table and strike up an interesting conversation. Speaking from experience, I'm a big fan of popup dinners because they're places where I feel like I'm interacting with humans again. Okay, it's not like we're living amongst cyborgs. But, we live our days behind desks and screens — or at least I do — and it's a refreshing experience to break bread with people and relate.
Check out the 5-course menu that pulls flavors from Korea, Vietnam, China, and the Philippines. Each course is enlivened with a personal story behind it. And if you've learned anything about me by now, you know that stories are one of my favorite ingredients.
I am so grateful I learned how to cook Chinese family-style dishes while I was in China. I'm also grateful for the many meals I had while traveling through Asia. I believe my parents did a phenomenal job introducing my brother, sister and I to food from around the world. But there are no substitutes for the flavors — the ingredients — that can be had in their country of origin. It was hard enough to have authentic Sichuan food while living in Beijing or Cantonese food anywhere else outside of Guangdong. Expanding my cooking abilities over the past several years has given me a few fun ways to express my creative side from keeping a blog, writing a cookbook and now popups!
My cookbook is a warm souvenir of memories and experiences I had while traveling through China. The recipes are authentic from the mamas, papas, aunties, uncles, and grandparents who shared them with me from their kitchens. So what happens when we take those yummy recipes and apply the seasonings to seasonal and local produce? Well that's what my next and current adventure is set out to discover.
This past New Year's Eve, my friend Onita Mihaly an accomplished branding consultant in Oakland and I brought together our family influences and kitchen skills to put on a popup dinner for our friends. We're both of mixed heritage — she's Korean-Hungarian and I'm Filipina-Danish. More importantly, we LOVE food. Here are some photos from the process and night. I'm kicking myself because I don't have many photos* from the NYE dinner, but my excuse is — I was busy being busy!
*Thanks to my husband Paul and advising-friend Riyad for snapping a lot of these.
A short story — more like a description — of how I've come to appreciate organic fruits and vegetables today.
My parents uprooted our family from Precita off Cesar Chavez (once Army St) in San Francisco to the Victory Park neighborhood in Stockton. They bought a two bedroom bungalow with a big yard where they first planted an apple tree. Meyer lemon, orange, nectarine, peach, and plum followed; with two large garden boxes where tomatoes grew skyward and zucchinis crawled wayward with enough room for a squash to outgrow a dachshund. Everything was organic before I ever knew the word.
After I left for college, my parents planted new trees—ruby red grapefruit, pear, another apple, kumquat, Persian lime and others I can't remember. I only know what they bring me these days. I'm not there to see each tree from the nursery into the yard or to watch my father stomp on a shovel to break earth. I haven't crouched below the shade of an enormous squash leaf since I was a teen.
Careful! You just might get what you asked for!
I imagine someday I'll have a house with a yard and my son will argue against pulling weeds under the hot sun and I'll probably tell him like my dad told me, "Someday you won't be able to have fruits and vegetables that grow without pesticides. You'll have to buy your strawberries from the store!"
And maybe I'll get an arrogant reply like the one I mouthed back to my dad, "So what! I'll be living in the city so of course I'll buy things in a store. I'm moving to San Francisco when I grow up!" And that I did. Today I cringe at the thought of how hurtful my words were. My dad drove a taxi in San Francisco five days a week to afford our sunny life in Stockton, and only to enjoy it with us two days out of the week.
Thankfully, my parents still have their yard and they bring more food from their yard to me than I can finish. Fruits like these Persian limes, kumquats, Meyer lemons, and tangerines without the scary chemicals are expensive. And to think it was all once just a step away, into the backyard.
These gritty-gorgeous food-porn pics are slurp-able. Or wait, that's just me catching myself from drooling. But really, these photos are exquisite and appetite-stirring madness to behold!
Chow down a peep of Lady & Pups' Sichuan-Chongqing noodles with meat sauce and chickpeas here.
I love to cook easy, homestyle recipes for family and friends. In this blog, you'll find stories and recipes I've learned from families in China and other parts of the world.