Posted by: CS
Jiangsu Cuisine in Beijing

We continue our whistle-stop tour of China's schools of cookery in Beijing this week with Jiangsu cuisine. This series is perfect if your China vacation doesn't give you time to travel the length and breadth of China (and let's be fair who has the time to fit one of the world's biggest countries into a single visit?) and try all the schools of cookery in their home locations. Instead you can try all 8 schools of Chinese cuisine on a single trip to China which encompasses the capital.

About Jiangsu Cuisine

Jiangsu Cuisine comes from Southern China and is often abbreviated to Su Cuisine. As with many schools of cookery that you'll encounter on your China tour – freshness of taste and ingredients is a prized aspect of Jiangsu food. The school tries to balance saltiness and sweetness, thick sauces but without falling into the trap of becoming greasy sauces, and light soups that never feel thin.

If you ever travel to China for a state banquet it's likely that Jiangsu food will be the meal served during your trip. It is considered one of the “Royal” food cultures of China and is used to welcome ambassadors and dignitaries from abroad at major functions.

There are several sub-styles of Jiangsu food that you may be able to find on your China vacation; these include Nanjing, Yangzhou, Suzhou, Huai'an, Xuxhou and Haizhou. The most common of these are Najing, Suzhuou and Yangzhou.

Nangzhou is all about presentation; ingredients are cut finely to make them look appealing and to add a delicate crunch to vegetables and to allow meats to surrender their flavor to the whole dish. Suzhou emphasizes sweetness and incorporates a lot of vegetables into dishes. Yangzhou food focuses on the colors of ingredients to capture the eye as well as the palate.

Jiangsu food relies on a variety of cooking methods including braising, baking, stir-frying, steaming and sautéing. There's a lot of seafood in a Jiangsu diet as Jiangsu province lies on the Yangtze River and abuts the coast of the Yellow Sea. You will also find lotus, Chinese chestnuts and bamboo shoots in many dishes from Jiangsu.

Where Can I Find a Good Jiangsu Restaurant in Beijing?

When your China tour hits Beijing you'll have no problem finding a Jiangsu restaurant – the food is very popular in the North. If you want the perfect Jiangsu meal on your China vacation then we recommend that you visit:

Mei's Mansion Family Feast which is one of the few remaining traditional restaurants in one of Beijing's few well-preserved hutongs. We like the open courtyard at Mei's it's a great place to relax away from the hustle and bustle of the city and it allows you to focus on the food rather than the setting.

Because it's in such a good location – the food is more expensive than in some other restaurants on our tour of China's cookery schools; you'll be looking at around 400 RMB per person here.

Try the ribs in sweet and sour sauce which are melt-in-the-mouth delicious and extremely flavorful. TO keep things healthy; try some stewed cabbage with water chestnuts to complement the ribs.

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Posted by: CS
Shandong Cuisine in Beijing

If food is an important part of your China vacation; welcome back to our whistle-stop tour of China's schools of cookery in Beijing. You don't have to travel all over China in order to taste everything the country has to offer during your trip. If you're going to be in China's capital, Beijing, then you can enjoy all the schools of cookery without going very far at all.

The Easiest School to Find in Beijing

Shandong cuisine is local to Beijing so it should be very easy to find during your tour of the city. Its history dates back to China's Qin Dynasty and since the turn of the first millennium it has become the most popular form of food in China. You can find it anywhere during your vacation but it's best in Beijing.

There is a very specific emphasis on fresh ingredients and maintaining that freshness throughout the cooking process. There's a good use of salt in Shandong cuisine too and the idea is to develop dishes that are tender, savory and crisp on the outside too.

There is a strong emphasis on seafood, perhaps unsurprisingly as Shandong sits on the North East coast of China. That means that the catch doesn't need to travel too far before it reaches the table; which is something that often concerns those with a delicate stomach.

There's less emphasis on rice in Shandong cuisine and more on corn, peanuts, and grains. That's a reflection of the slightly cooler climate in the North of the country which is less suited for rice growing. Vegetables tend to include potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, garlic, etc. It's worth keeping an eye on potato products as they can be a little undercooked for Western tastes.

Cooking techniques in Shandong are seriously varied with the claim that more than 30 are used in the preparation of food locally! Rapid deep fat frying is a particular favorite. Look out for Pa preparation; in which the raw ingredients are shaped and then battered in sauce and flour.

When in Beijing, Do as The Beijinger's Do

There's one meal, more than any other, that is associated with Beijing. You can eat Beijing Duck anywhere on your China trip but there's nowhere in China that you'll find a better Beijing Duck on your vacation than Beijing. The best Beijing duck is simply a taste explosion.

It's prepared a little differently than you may be used to. The skin is crisped separately from the cooked bird and cut into neat squares which can be dipped in sauce at will. There are pancakes and spring onions available for the flesh of the duck which is less fatty and superbly tender for being cooked without the skin.

Where should you go during your China tour for Beijing duck in Beijing? We think Da Dong's in Dacheng is a great place – it's supposedly the oldest duck restaurant in the city. It's definitely one of the best and you'll only need to spend around 200 RMB for the meal. However, be warned it is extremely popular and you may need to wait for a table.

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Posted by: CS
Aberdeen Harbour – A Different Side of Hong Kong

Hong Kong remains one of the most popular destinations on a China tour. A vacation in Hong Kong lets you enjoy the mix of Eastern and Western cultures in this former British colony which is now one of China's special administrative regions. If you'd like to take a day trip to see on the most recognizable places in China then you might want to consider taking in Aberdeen Harbor when you travel to Hong Kong.

About Aberdeen Harbour

Aberdeen Harbour may be one of the first places in China that many of us saw at the movies. It has featured in many Hollywood classics including James Bond and Bruce Lee movies. It was once a working port but today it mainly plays host to pleasure boats and yachts used by locals and those on vacation from mainland China. There are a number of floating restaurants on the bay which can make for a pleasant side trip to try seafood China-style.

The best known floating restaurant is the “Jumbo Floating Restaurant” (names of places in China tend to be literal at times). The food is good if a little pricey but the best reason to visit is that you'll be standing in the shoes of Tom Cruise, John Wayne and Queen Elizabeth the 2nd of England who have all spent some time aboard. The boat is owned by Hong Kong's richest man; Stanley Ho.

The bay is an active fishing territory and you can still see small fishing vessels wend their way through the pleasure cruisers. The fishermen tend to sell their catch either to the floating restaurants or the fish markets along the shore. You might want to take a tour of these markets and see the variety of marine life in Hong Kong. You should be aware that like most wet markets in China; the smells can be a little overwhelming in the middle of a hot summer day and it's perhaps best to travel to the market early in the morning rather than leave it too late.

You can hire a boat to take you out to the Ap Lei Chau Island in the center of the harbor for around 100 HKD or to visit Ocean Park. You need to be a little careful when choosing a boat; some of the crews are a tad unsavory and may push for more money once your trip is underway. If in doubt, wait and go with someone else – there's always plenty of boats around in this part of China.

Do take a walk down the promenade and enjoy the sights and smells of harbor life; though do try and avoid doing this in the middle of a summer day as the heat can be a touch overwhelming and heat stroke is not the best souvenir from a China vacation.

It's also easy to walk from Aberdeen Harbour to that major Hong Kong attraction; Victoria Peak. On your way you might want to grab a snack of fish ball noodles – a local specialty- from one of the street vendors. They are cheap and delicious.

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Posted by: CS
A Modern Ritual in Hong Kong's Golden Bauhinia Square

One of the main reasons for a trip to China is to discover the history and culture of the country. It's easy to forget that modern history can be significant too during a China vacation; there's so much of the ancient to see as you travel around China that recent developments often pass unnoticed. If your tour is going to visit China's special administrative region – Hong Kong; you might want to check out something a little newer than most of the other attractions.

The Golden Bauhinia Square

Sometimes called the expo promenade too, the Golden Bauhinia Square is a major draw to China tour parties in the know. The square itself is named after a giant statue of a Golden Bauhinia Baleana (a Chinese flower) which stands directly on the waterfront in Wan Chai near the Convention and Exhibition Center. It's easy to travel to the square and you can get a metro to Wan Chai easily and cheaply from most parts of Hong Kong.

The state was a gift from the Chinese government to welcome the people of Hong Kong back into the fold following the handover of Hong Kong to China by the British Government in 1997. The flower is a symbol of the people of Hong Kong and is considered to be very important to the locals. It rests on a pyramid supported by a pillar made of red-granite.

Each day hundreds of people make a trip to the square to witness the flag ceremonies which are conducted by the Hong Kong police. They began on the 30th of June 1997 at the time of the handover to China and have continued each day since.

The Daily Flag Raising Ceremony

This ceremony is conducted every day at 8.00 a.m. promptly; except for the first of the month. The police are garbed in their regular attire and the national anthem of China is played in full. They are accompanied by a Chinese rifle unit who travel in national dress respectfully behind the police band. Once the flag is raised there is a brief concert given by the Police Pipe Band.

The Enhanced Flag Raising Ceremony

If you are lucky enough that your China vacation is in Hong Kong on the first of the month; you can attend the enhanced flag raising ceremony. This is conducted by local youth uniformed groups (UG); these are members of organizations like the Scouts or the St. John's Ambulance Brigade.

This enhanced ceremony is conducted without music; except on the 1st of July and the 1st of October. You may wish to see both the daily and enhanced flag raising ceremonies if you can during your China tour.

Once you've seen the ceremony; there's plenty to see in the local area. Wan Chai is home to many bars and restaurants (and the infamous red-light district) and also the China Bank building which is one of Hong Kong's best known man-made landmarks. It's a very safe area and one that is very popular with expats in Hong Kong.

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Posted by: CS
Hunan Food In Beijing – Our Regional Cookery Tour Keeps Moving

If you're planning a China trip but you're worried that your China tour won't let you visit every part of the country – don't worry! You can still try food from every region of China on your vacation without having to travel outside of China's capital Beijing. There are 8 schools of cookery in China and each of them is represented in Beijing. This week we're going to look at Hunan Cuisine.

About Hunan Cuisine

Hunan cuisine is also known in China as “Xiang Cuisine”. It travels to Beijing from a province that is often called “the home of rice and fish” but that's not the extent of the cookery. In fact Hunan province offers one of the most varied approaches to cooking that you'll encounter on a China tour. The main focus is on rich, creamy and moist dishes and with just a gentle hint of chili.

The food is also designed to appeal to the nose and it's created with the aim of spreading a delicate aroma throughout the kitchen and serving space. It's the perfect adventure for your China vacation after a day's hard sight-seeing. The scents will gently tease your appetite and senses into relaxation. Hunan cuisine is very much seasonally based and that can mean that Hunan restaurants are a bit cheaper than other schools' restaurants. There's no need to import ingredients or preserve them – they're cooked as soon as they're gathered or caught.

There's also a visual aspect to Hunan food which comes in the form of finely cut meats and vegetables style to please the eye. It's another good reason to visit a Hunan restaurant during your China trip.

Common ingredients in Hunan cuisine include soy sauce, spicy chili infused oils, red peppers, fennel, and tea seed oils. They're used as much for the color that they add to recipes as for the flavors. Hunan food can be extremely spicy at times so you might want to ask the waiter/waitress if you're in doubt. Hunan folks will eat chilies by the handful if they can get away with it.

Where to Eat Hunan Cuisine in Beijing?

There are plenty of Hunan restaurants in Beijing. The food is cheap, delicious and popular but we've found what we consider to be the best Hunan restaurant in the capital; Gen Ju Di.

It's a peculiar place because it's a full scale replica of the Communist Party's headquarters in Hunan. Fortunately, it's also trying to achieve a certain nostalgia feel and the wait staff is all dressed up in period army uniforms – that's something you're unlikely to see elsewhere on a China vacation and it's worth making the trip to Gen Ju Di just for this.

It's one of the cheapest restaurants in China despite the pomp and circumstance of the setting and we doubt you'll spend more than 100 RMB. We like to keep things simple and the chili hot pot allows you to try just about every meat, vegetable and spice from the menu. Keep it company with a couple of cold beers and it can be the perfect end to a busy day in Beijing.

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Posted by: CS
Health Tips for Your China Vacation

Before you travel to China you might be a little nervous about the health risks of a vacation overseas. The good news is that most trips to China are completely uneventful on the health front. However, if you’d like to be sure that your China tour goes without a hitch we’ve got some tips for you before you travel to China.

What to Pack?

Wherever you travel in the world or China it’s a good idea to have some basic remedies etc. on hand before you go. That’s because it can be hard to track down a pharmacy when your China tour is on the Great Wall or you’re stood amongst the Terracotta Warriors. You don’t want to miss out on any of your China vacation so a little preparation can stand you in good stead.

Sun-Tan Lotion

Obviously this depends on the time of year that your China trip takes place at but it’s a good idea to bring some sun-tan lotion as it can get quite warm in Summer and Hong Kong and Macau are hot for most of the year. High protection factors can stop you getting sun-burned.

A Hat and Sunglasses

A hat can come in handy both in Winter and Summer to keep you warm or keep the sun off your head. Sunglasses can also be useful in Winter if you find somewhere particularly dusty then you can protect your eyes easily from the dust.

Disposable Face Masks

If you’re at all concerned about pollution in China then disposable face masks will cut down the amount of pollution that you can breathe in dramatically. In truth if you’re only going to travel for a few days the exposure to pollution is negligible any way.

Acetaminophen and Immodium

You can buy both of these over-the-counter medicines in China but it’s probably best to pack them instead. Acetaminophen is for headaches or minor colds or flu bouts. The Immodium is there to help with any episodes of traveler’s diarrhea. You are very unlikely to get any form of food poisoning in China particularly if you take advice on where to eat from your tour guide or hotel. However, an upset stomach can be a common symptom of travel and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

On the Plane

It’s a long way to China from the United States. It’s a good idea to drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol on the plane. That way you stay hydrated and fresh. It’s recommended that you get up and walk around a little every few hours to protect yourself from DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) which is a rare condition that might be caused by sitting still for too long.

You should try to sleep on the plane if possible. You should also remove your shoes to prevent your feet from swelling at the reduced pressures in the cabin.

In general, you can expect your China vacation to pass without any real health worries at all. You should make sure that you have appropriate travel insurance just in case as treatment in China can be a little expensive.

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Posted by: CS
Great Reasons to Include Shanghai on Your China Tour

If you’re wondering where to include in your China tour itinerary then you have plenty of options. Everywhere you can travel in China can make for a great China vacation. However if you’re uncertain sa to whether to include Shanghai in your China trip – we’ve got some great reasons for you to choose the city:

  • It’s the largest city in the world not just China. There are more than 20 million people based in Shanghai. That means if you take a trip to Shanghai – you’ll be stood in the equivalent of a double “mega city” (a mega city has 10 million or more inhabitants).

  • It’s the richest city in China and that means if you want to see how China is changing on your vacation – Shanghai’s the best place to do just that. It’s a vibrant, modern, cosmopolitan city and uniquely Chinese.

  • You won’t be alone. Some of the world’s most notable people travel to Shanghai to experience life in China. You’ll be walking in the shoes of George Bernard Shaw and Albert Einstein among others. It’s one of the few places you can see on a China tour that brings together the best of the East and the best of the West.

  • You can shop until you drop and then shop some more. If you want to return from your China vacation weighed down with bargains then Shanghai’s the place to stock up in. Head down to the markets and malls and feast your eyes on the wealth of products made in China for a fraction of the cost of back home.

  • There’s no need to sleep! Shanghai is a truly 24-hour city and there are clubs, bars and nightlife galore – in fact Shanghai’s probably the best place in China to go out at night in and there’s far more choice of nightlife here than there is in Beijing.

  • It’s easy to get around. Actually this is true of most Chinese cities. If you want to take a trip on your own then you’ll find that the public transport system is excellent. The metro and bus network covers pretty much everywhere in the city and it’s extremely cheap and efficient.

  • There are plenty of things to see and do. Everyone wants to visit The Bund which may be the most picturesque piece of waterfront anywhere in Asia with the heady mix of modern China and classic Western architecture. However, once you get off the beaten path you’ll find that it’s impossible to get bored in Shanghai – there are museums, parks, and galleries everywhere.

  • English is spoken in most major tourist destinations. Shanghai’s cosmopolitan heritage and major finance district tends to attract rather more English speaking graduates than the rest of China. That can make finding your way round a little easier than in some of the other major Chinese cities.

Shanghai is a truly unique experience. If you’d like you visit to China to include the world’s largest city – we thoroughly recommend it. It’s an unforgettable place.

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Posted by: CS
Yamdrock Lake, Tibet – A Shining Spectacle

Much of a vacation in Tibet will be spent taking in the man-made wonders of this beautiful Buddhist nation. However a tour of Tibet’s countryside can reveal incredible natural wonders too. If you travel just a little way out of Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, you will find Yamdrok Lake an incredible melt water lake formed from the glaciers of the Himalayas. It’s very much worth the trip if you want to see one of the last unspoiled wilderness’s on earth in Tibet.

About Yamdrock Lake

Yamdrock Lake is on the highway to Gyantse from Lhasa. You’ll need to hire a 4x4 vehicle for the trip as travel on Tibet’s roads is somewhat challenging. It’s surrounded on all sides by the grey and snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas. It’s not a small lake either; it covers over 640 square kilometers of Tibet’s countryside and at its deepest point it’s nearly 60 meters deep. You won’t want to discover that, it’s far too cold to swim safely in Yamdrock Lake.

The lake is said to resemble a dragon if you view it from above as there is a central body of water with several small limbs stretching out below and then a long “tail” trailing out behind the main body to the North. It’s at a very high elevation (over 4,000 meters above sea level) so you won’t want to make a trip out to the lake in the early part of your Tibet vacation as it can be hard to catch your breath until you’re used to the altitude. It’s much easier to wander the shores once you’ve spent a little time in Tibet and adjusted.

One nice thing about the lake is that it hasn’t yet become part of the established tours of Tibet and you should be able to find plenty of quiet places to just enjoy some silence and appreciate the native Tibetan way of life. The waters are so clear and clean because there’s no source of pollution within hundreds of miles. It’s a good place to grab some lunch too as the local fisherman bring their catch in throughout the day and you can enjoy some of the freshest fish at any of the nearby restaurants.

You should take your camera as the contrast between clear water, the mountainside and the wealth of flora and fauna on the shores offers some of the best photo opportunities you’ll find during your Tibet vacation.

Between April and October you’ll also find the most splendid collection of bird life in Asia. All the migrating birds that move between India, China and Central Asia stop by the shores of the lake during their migration. It’s an absolutely astonishing sight and you’ll find that bringing a pair of binoculars at this time can greatly enhance your visit to the lake.

Once you’ve had your fill of nature; you can repair for some food and drink at the nearby village of Nangartse. You’re sure of a friendly Tibetan welcome there and you’ll be amazed at how much cheaper it is than Lhasa.

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Posted by: CS
Tashilunpo Monastery, Tibet – A Spiritual Highlight

A trip to Tibet is an unmissable chance to connect with the spiritual heritage of the Far East. A vacation in Tibet brings you into contact with the ultimate evolution of Buddhism in China and you’ll be able to take a tour of all of the most important religious places in Tibet as you travel round the country. One of the most important monasteries in Tibet is Tashilunpo; here’s some background which could make your visit even more memorable.

About Tashilunpo Monastery

You may not have time to squeeze Tashilunpo into your Tibet tour itinerary as it’s quite a way out of Lhasa. However, if you do find that you can free up a day or two it’s very much worth visiting as it’s the largest monastery of its kind in Tibet. It is a Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) monastery and it’s one of the 6 most sacred monasteries of that type in all of China. The faith made the trip from Mongolia to Tibet and China in the late 15th century and as such it’s the newest branch of Buddhism in Tibet.

As your tour approaches Tashilunpo from the road the first thing you’ll see is the golden roof dominating the frozen landscape below. You might want to ask your driver to stop so you can take a vacation photograph as it’s a truly stunning sight to behold.

The name Tashilunpo means “the heap of glory” and the monastery is held in high regard throughout Tibet. It was the source of several Pashen Lamas and is considered to be the 2nd highest of all the Gelugpa monasteries in the world.

There’s certainly plenty of wonderful things to be found in the monastery’s grounds including:

The Maitreya Temple

This houses the largest statue of Buddha in Tibet and in China. It was built by the 9th Pachem Lama and it contains nearly 300 kilos of Gold and more than 150,000 kilos of Brass! It’s an incredible sight and worth making the trip to Tashilunpo for alone.

The Buddha Festival

If you’re lucky enough to time your vacation for the 5th month of the Buddhist year (July or August depending on the exact lunar date of the month) then there’s a huge Buddhist festival held in the Tashilunpo monastery’s grounds.

Three different Buddhas are displayed on each day of the festival. One to represent the past, one the present and one the future. Tens of thousands of people turn up to celebrate life around the Buddhas and they all congregate eventually in front of the giant Buddha in the Maitreya Temple. There’s a giant platform constructed from local rock which the festival is held on and where monks offer blessings and prayers for those gathered there.

It’s one of the largest festivals in Tibet and outsiders are quite welcome to gather with the faithful and join in the celebrations. Please remember to be respectful of people’s beliefs throughout the festival as it’s a very important part of local culture.

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Posted by: CS
Guangdong Cuisine in Beijing

If you’re on a vacation in China but you don’t have time for a tour of the whole country – you can still try every type of cookery in China’s capital city; Beijing. China’s food is one of the main reasons that the locals take trips to other provinces and we think it’s one of the best reasons to travel to China too. Today we’ll look at Guangdong Cuisine in Beijing.

About Guangdong Cuisine

Guangdong Cuisine is better known in the West as Cantonese Cuisine; though the dishes we’re familiar with tend to have been developed by emigrants from Hong Kong rather than from the mainland. Cantonese is perhaps the most popular food in China and you won’t have to travel too far to find a Cantonese restaurant to your liking.

A trip to a Cantonese restaurant reveals that the school of cookery specializes in tender meats, ever so slight sweet sauces which are very light on the tongue. The ingredients used are those people most associate with China, oyster sauce, soy sauce, plum sauce and sweet and sour sauce.

If you’d like to try something less familiar during your China vacation look out for the five-spice powder and star anise dishes which are mouthwateringly pleasant. You should be aware that Guangdong Cuisine is the reason it is often said (in China as well as elsewhere) that “The Chinese eat anything with legs except for a table and anything that flies except for a plane.” So you can be really adventurous when your tour stops at a Cantonese restaurant or you can play it safe. It is an incredibly varied school of cookery.

There’s less frying involved in Cantonese food and much more braising which leaves the flavors of the ingredients to suffuse with each other and deliver a very satisfactory result on the taste buds.

Where Do I Find Guangdong Cuisine in Beijing?

There are plenty of options for your China tour group when it hits Beijing but we think you might want to check out the Lichang Seafood Restaurant (the one in Hugosi rather than the others in the chain) as it’s the longest established Cantonese restaurant in the city and it’s still packed out every day at main meal times. You might as well get a little history as part of your China vacation dining experience right?

There’s plenty to choose from on the menu and if you’d like to be as authentic as possible then it’s a good idea to try some of the dim sum. These are brought to the table at regular intervals on little carts and you just point at a tray to try it.

The lobster sashimi is incredible (if a little pricey) and we’ve found that the durian cakes here are one of the best ways to experience the flavor of this famously stinky fruit without being overwhelmed by the odor.

A trip to the Lichang Seafood Restaurant will normally set you back around $40-$50 a head and it’s worth every penny.

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Posted by: CS
Fujian Cuisine in Beijing

This is the second of an eight part series on how to take a tour of all China’s schools of cookery in Beijing. It’s designed to help you fit as much of the incredible cuisine in the country as you can during your China tour. A vacation in China can be greatly enhanced by great food and this guide aims to help you do just that as you travel around China’s capital city.

About Fujian Cuisine

Fujian (or sometime Min) cuisine is from Southern China and the Fujian province. It has one of the longest established histories of any of China’s schools of cookery. There are recipes which date back over 5,000 years. That makes it perhaps the most authentic Chinese food you can eat on your vacation.

Getting Fujian food outside of China is difficult and that gives you a great reason to try it on your tour. You’ll find that there are 3 blends of Fujian cookery too; Fuzhou, Western and Southern. The Fuzhou style focuses on contrasting sweet and sour, Western is based on mustard with a strong hint of peppers throughout the dishes and Southern is sweet with a delicate hint of spice.

In Fujian every meal begins with a soup course and it would be unthinkable for a meal not to have soup. Soups are extremely complex creations with dozens of herbs, spices, oils, vinegars, soy sauces, etc. employed in their cooking. If you do travel to a Fujian restaurant make sure you spend some time choosing the perfect soup for the occasion; it’s likely to be the best soup you have in China.

Cooking techniques in Fujian cuisine are incredibly varied; much more so than in other schools of cuisine in China. You’ll find pan-fried, deep-fried, boiled, baked, stewed, casseroled, simmered, smoked, braised and sautéed foods galore. Teetotalers should be aware that red rice wine is a prominent ingredient in many dishes so if you’d prefer to remain abstemious on your trip you may need to pick through the menu carefully. Where to Get Fujian Cuisine in Beijing?

There are many good Fujian restaurants in Beijing and it shouldn’t be hard to squeeze one into your China tour. Our favorite is a place called Wuyishan Nongjiacai. It’s best visited in conjunction with a trip to Beijing’s tea markets which are very nearby. Once you’ve spent a pleasant hour or two wandering the markets you should have worked up an appetite for some great food.

It's a very reasonably priced place and you should not spend much more than 100 RMB for a range of courses per person. (That’s around $15). Fujian food is very much about fish and the majority of fish dishes on the menu are absolutely superb but we’d encourage you to go for the beef and taro. It looks pretty ugly on the plate but it tastes incredible. If you want something a bit more adventurous the cauliflower with squid is rather good too.

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Posted by: CS
The National Stadium of China (The Bird's Nest)

If you'd have taken a tour of China back in 2008; you'd have witnessed perhaps the greatest Olympic games of all time. China's entrance to the world stage was no small beans. The country spent a fortune on an Olympic extravaganza and there are some lasting monuments to the event that you can see on your China trip. One of the big highlights of a China vacation is The Bird's Nest Stadium perhaps the best known of all China's modern buildings. Here's what you need to know before you travel:

About The Bird's Nest

The stadium cost over $400 million to build. It was designed by a Swiss firm of architects which won the right to build the stadium in a competitive tender with 12 other world-renowned architects. As you'll find out during your China tour the bird's nest is considered to be an incredible delicacy in Chinese cookery. That means it's an expensive delicacy and, as you'll also see as you travel round China, that means it's considered something of a national symbol.

Interestingly the world famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was employed as a consultant on the project. It's thus the largest piece of art he's been involved with.

There was another reason for the bird's nest design; the idea was to use the ceramic beams that form the nest to mask the infrastructure necessary for a retractable roof on the stadium. In the end the roof was abandoned as impractical during the construction phase but by then the design was set in stone.

One interesting thing about the design of the stadium is that the majority of water, used to heat the playing surfaces or to cool the stadium in the hot, sticky Beijing summer, is recycled rain water. It's a very green solution and is a testament to the efforts that China is putting into environmentally friendly research. It's easy to see the effects of industrialization in Beijing but much harder to spot behind the scenes efforts to clean up the problems that industrialization has caused.

What Goes on at the Bird's Nest?

At the moment the Bird's Nest is somewhat under-utilized. If you're lucky your China vacation may coincide with one of the concerts or events run at the stadium but it's unlikely there is perhaps only one brief event held there each month.

However, if your China tour is in winter you may be able to skate inside the Bird's Nest when the entire stadium is filled with water and left to freeze in Beijing's harsh winter conditions. It's a lot of fun but watch out for errant skaters – health and safety are not a number one priority anywhere in China and you don't want to have to end the day taking a trip round a Chinese hospital.

There are plans for a shopping mall at the site but developers have been somewhat reluctant to commit to the project and you shouldn't delay your China vacation in the hopes that you might be able to shop until you drop next door. It seems unlikely that the mall will be ready anytime soon.

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