If there’s anything that needs to be known about China and Chinese culture, it’s that they place great importance on food. The culture approaches food in a way that’s somewhat different from the Western tradition at times, preferring a variety of flavors and textures throughout a meal instead of doubling down on more of the same. They also enjoy communal meals where people are able to sample a little bit of everything. In short, it follows the Daoist tradition.
With such great importance placed on communal meals, the culture has invested a lot of time and experimentation in making the best dishes. And so, we’ve made a short list of the 6 bucket list-worthy food experiences in China.
Dine with award-winning food writer Fuchsia Dunlop in Sichuan Province
Starting the list off with a bang is Fuchsia Dunlop, who has spent many years practicing and refining her knowledge of Chinese cuisine – and is the only foreigner to ever graduate from the prestigious Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine. She is a Westerner herself and knows the options so well that simply telling her a few of your most and least favorite dishes should give her an immediate idea of what to recommend for your palate. She can answer any question you could have about the dishes they present, and will be sure to astound your tastebuds. Fuchsia has two gastronomic tours, one through China’s most popular cities and another exploring China’s ethnically diverse Yunnan Province.
Photo by Fuchsia Dunlop
RELATED READING: Fuchsia Dunlop Shares Her Recipes
Picnic at the Foot of Meili Mountain in the Shangri-la Valleys
For those who prefer to be more in touch with both nature and their spirituality, may we suggest a picnic nestled deep in the Meili Mountains of the Shangri-la Valleys? As Shangri-la suggests, it is a beautiful environment that can only be described as picturesque. Toast to your continued prosperity while sipping champagne while sitting beside a sacred lake and anticipating the organic meal prepared by the porters who collected all the ingredients locally. If this appeals to you, we invite you to check out The Songtsam Circuit.
Meili Mountain, Yunnan | Photo by WildChina traveler, Karen Ahn
RELATED READING: A Foodie’s Yunnan Voyage
Eat Truffle Chicken Soup in Yunnan
Yunnan is famous around China for having an even greater emphasis on their cooking traditions than other areas. We have several routes that lead you through some of the most sensual culinary experiences you will ever experience, such as eating truffle chicken soup which, incredibly, requires a whole pound of fresh truffles to properly make.
Try the world’s best dumplings on a foodie walking tour in Shanghai’s French Concession
From jiaozi to shaomai, China is known for its delicious dumplings. Each region seems to do theirs a little differently, but Shanghai is known for its particular twist: the soup-filled dumpling, or xiao long bao. They offer a delicious garlic dipping sauce that deeply compliments the broth and meat contained within the delicate flour pouch and are something anyone who enjoys Chinese food should experience. For a truly memorable experience of Shanghai’s cuisine, learn how to make your own dumplings on a foodie walking tour through the iconic French Concession.
A Shanghainese xiao long bao
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Chef’s table Peking duck dinner in Beijing
Of course, no culinary experience in China would be complete without indulging in some Peking duck, which has gained renown the world over. Watch as the chef comes to the table and prepares the bite-size slices of meat and skin from this crispy fowl right before your eyes. Eat the meat by itself or compliment it with the small sticks of celery, cucumber, radish, and other condiments, all wrapped in a small wonton-like wrapper. This mouthwatering dish can be discovered on nearly all of our Beijing journeys, which can be explored in further detail here.
Peking Duck | Photo by Kyle Obermann
RELATED READING: Best Chinese Food in Each City: A City by City Guide
Pick your own vegetables in the Wudang Mountains
Compliment your body, mind, and stomach all together in the Wudang Mountains – the origin of Tai Chi, and home of many Daoist scholars and a highly sustainable approach to cooking. The food is all grown and collected locally, much of it vegetarian, and will tantalize even the most rabid of carnivores. They even have fresh tea leaves that you can harvest from your balcony. And if you somehow overindulge, you can even study martial arts to work it off. Open your mind to the Tao philosophy and food mindfulness on our own escape to the Wudang Mountains.
RELATED READING: 4 Taoist Sites in the Wudang Mountains
Some people are surprised when they learn just how food-obsessed China is since the West hardly knows much about it aside from some Cantonese dishes and our Americanized interpretations or outright inventions. If you consider yourself to be a foodie, or simply have a refined palate, we highly recommend tasting what can hardly be described – merely experienced.