UnTour Food Tours first started in Shanghai in 2010 and they have now branched into Beijing with two different tours – a Hutong Breakfast and Old Beijing Dinner tour with a bilingual guide. Check them out here UnTour Food Tours
Knowing that locals generally live a lifestyle that follows the mantra ‘Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’, I opted to join the Hutong Breakfast tour, which also falls on the weekend.
“Join us for breakfast as we sample the most authentic and delicious snacks that are hiding in plain sight, once you get off the crowded roads and into the backstreets. Wake up early and explore the culinary scene with our trusted vendors, your bilingual guide and a small group of new foodie friends. Over the course of three hours, you’ll eat your way through China’s 5,000 years of culinary history, try new foods and gain an appreciation for the artisans making these handmade treats. We take pride in our vendor relationships, food and city history knowledge – our guides go through a rigorous training process and are active in the F&B industry. Come taste the city’s tastiest (and safe) authentic foods with a professional insider!” – UnTour Food Tours
While I signed up for the tour first just based on availability in my schedule, I learned just before my tour that my guide-to-be was actually a long-time friend MCK, which was an added bonus to make me look even more forward to my upcoming breakfast food tour. Since it was MCK as our guide, it was actually extra incentive to rally together with a couple of other fellow foodies who have also lived in Beijing for a fair number of years. We were keen to hang out with MCK while also discovering new gems in the hutongs and squeeze in a full morning adventure before most of our friends woke up.
I will admit that while I was excited for this tour, it was not easy waking up at 7AM on a Sunday morning to cycle over to our meet-up spot at the intersection of the Lama Temple on Yonghegong by 8AM. I’ll also admit that I was 10 minutes late, but that gave my foodie friends a chance to pop over to Costa to grab something hot for our walk. And it doesn’t matter how many layers you wear, you will get cold walking outside for about 3 hours (my feet were frozen blocks of ice by the end).
Early wake-up and weather complaints aside, that’s all part of the adventure and what a foodie adventure it was! I have probably ridden my bike around the Andingmen and Yonghegong neighborhood over a hundred times and yet, I was still walking down little hutong streets I’d never been to before. UnTour takes you off the beaten path even when you think you know that path. And after living in Beijing for over 10 years, I was confident that I’d be familiar with most of the snacks, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable and I was delighted to discover a few more tasty snacks to add to my repertoire.
Silky smooth, freshly-made tofu pudding with a variety of savory toppings (ask for the option to add a bit of spice!)
Stop Number Two: We Wait in Line for 糖油饼 Tang You Bing, Basically a Chinese Version of a Donut!
Close Up Shot of 糖油饼 Tang You Bing
Local Beijinger Gives Us a Piece of His Mind – Why this Breakfast Spot is so Popular and Why He Doesn’t Like America
Stopping to Admire Some Stand-Out Architecture Along our Hutong Walk
Inside a Small Restaurant, We Attempt to Eat a Mountain of Pork & Veggie Filled Steamed Bread Buns or Baozi 包子
The Baozi 包子 were Accompanied by Fried Dough Sticks or Youtiao 油条 and a Bowl of Soymilk 豆浆
Close-Up of Pocked Filled with Fatty Pork or WuHuaRou 五花肉
JianBing has Always had a Soft Spot in my Heart and I’m so Glad it was Featured on the Breakfast Tour! A Breakfast Must!
Our Foodie Gang Poses for a Photo Outside Beijing’s Most Stylish Public Toilet
Overall, UnTour’s breakfast food tour is a blast – 3 hours of walking with nice breaks in between to stop and eat, it was a nice balance of restaurants and cafes to sit down and eat and take to eat on the go. 80% of what we tasted is something I honestly think everyone would enjoy and 20% is maybe not for everyone, but interesting nonetheless! Worried I’d reach my limit before the end of the tour, I was careful not to let myself get carried away and started with just a few bites of each dish (it was all shared between the group), but in the end I found myself at the end of the tour with plenty of stomach space to spare, kicking myself for not finishing off that savoury silken tofu from the first stop or the last 2 baozis we left behind. The great thing is that there is a ton of variety and if you read this post, you’ll know generally what to expect so you can pace yourself better than I did. #foodstrategyfail
RMB 350 may seem pricey for breakfast street snacks that are all normally dirt cheap, but you’re paying for the wonderful experience of discovering new snacks and hidden spots you wouldn’t normally find on your own and the knowledge and company of their guides is priceless.
My only other qualm is that their Shanghai breakfast tour finishes off with Freshly Baked Egg Tarts 蛋挞 for dessert, which I’m kind of jealous about. I’m a big egg tart fan (as in I want my wedding cake to be a mountain of egg tarts) and will regularly go out of my way to find good egg tarts. So in my humble opinion, I think that egg tarts should be a featured food snack for every tour (breakfast and dinner) everywhere in China (not just Shanghai) because they are just the best and people shouldn’t miss out on tasting my favorite dessert of all time.
I felt very fortunate to have my friend as my guide, but you don’t need to know MCK to enjoy a tour with him. MCK is one of the friendliest and quirkiest personalities I’ve met in China and anyone who’s interested in China, Chinese culture and food would learn so much from a few hours with MCK. Of course I haven’t met all their guides, but based on their pick of MCK, UnTour has done their homework and have found some fantastic guides for their food tours.
An extra bonus is that your guide will follow up with a personal email with a list of addresses and names to all the places you visit on your food tour along with a page of recommended Chinese and international restaurants and bars in Beijing, a page of recommended sights and experiences in Beijing and 2 different cooking recipes for you to try and recreate some of the snacks you tasted on your tour! A nice added touch and really completes your food tour experience.
UnTour Beijing Food Tours:
Beijing Breakfast Tour:
- Price RMB 350 per person (RMB 2,100 for Private Tour for 1-6 pax)
- Dates: Available on Wednesdays and Sundays
- Time: 8:00AM Start Time
Old Beijing Dinner Tour:
- Price: RMB 400 per person (RMB 2,400 for Private Tour for 1-6 pax)
- Dates: Available on Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays
- Time: 19:00 Start Time
Website: Click here for more information
Kristen Lum has an accomplished background in PR, communications and events in China. Born and raised in California, Kristen has been based in Beijing since 2006 and is founder of the lifestyle blog called LumDimSum, covering mostly restaurant news and reviews alongside upcoming events around town that relate to Beijing’s muti-faceted, quickly-developing creative industries like art, music, film, health and fitness, fashion, nightlife, charity events, and travel tips.