The real taste of China: TV chef and food writer Ching-He Huang handpicks her favourite foodie destinations
She is the Taiwanese-born British food writer and chef who has brought Chinese food to the masses with appearances on Saturday Kitchen, Daily Cooks and Ready Steady Cook.
And Ching-He Huang is also the author of five best-selling cookbooks.
Encouraging the British public to try making their own Chinese-inspired dishes is one of the thirty-five-year-old’s key aims and she has even signed up with operator Wendy Wu Tours to offer guided culinary trips to China.
She talks to MailOnline Travel about the best places to visit in China, what food to try and why the experience is not as scary as we think…
You’re based in London, but how often do you get to travel to China?
I love travelling to China. Every time I go, I learn some new culinary delights.
I get to travel to China at least once a year as my family love to spend holidays in China.
So we tend to go to Shanghai and Sanya. Sanya is beautiful, the beaches are incredible, the coconuts are fresh and the Hainan chicken rice is the best of course.
Do you have a favourite part? Where is your family from?
My favourite for culture and sights has to be Beijing because I love art and will always try stop by at 798 – a centre for contemporary art exhibitions.
I love Chengdu as the food there is out of this world and I love the people there – so full of energy and passion for their cuisine. My family are from Taiwan, but I believe our ancestors come from the Fujian region which I haven’t visited yet but would love to go.
In the Wendy Wu series you focus on four main areas of China (Bejing, Xian, Chengdu and Shanghai) What was the most breathtaking sight while on the tour?
All the sights were spectacular. The view at the top of the Great Wall was stunning and I was speechless when I saw the large ‘halls’ filled with the Terracotta warriors in Xian. But of course there were the baby pandas and I got up close with one panda and got to ‘hug’ it while it was pre-occupied with licking honey off its paws.
Finger-licking good: Lamb skewers in Xian
And the most delicious food you tried? The street food in Xian looked like a favourite – how does it differ to ‘mainstream’ Chinese food?
On this particular trip, I think the most delicious food was the ‘Dong Po Rou’ – braised pork belly with steamed buns in Shanghai, the meat was melt in the mouth tender and delicious. The street food in Xian was fantastic – there was a worker’s breakfast streetfood area and I had the softest freshest ‘Dou Hua’ – Silken fresh beancurd in hot cane sugar syrup, it reminded me of my childhood in Taiwan so much.
The streetfood area in Xian is also brilliant for unusual fare, because of the muslim Chinese influence, you can experience dishes like ‘Yang Rou Chuanr’ – spiced mutton/lamb skewers and delicacies that are not your mainstream Chinese dishes. The culinary aspect of the tour for me is like the sights, steeped in culture and history, varied, and spectacular with something for everyone. If the sight is a feast for the eyes, then the food is a spectacle for the palate.
British travellers are often worried about eating local food in China, what dishes do you recommend that people try to give them a gentle introduction to Chinese food?
Travelling is an adventure and so are food experiences. I say try everything once! And if you have tried it and don’t like it then fair enough but don’t let the mind make a judgement before the taste-buds do because you may be pleasantly surprised. I find surprises so enriching.
Dim Sum: Traditional Chinese treats from Ching-He Huang
Do you have any favourite eateries in the main cities that you would recommend?
Too many to mention. I like Liqun for traditional Peking Duck, Da dong for a modern Beijing feast, Shujiuxiang for hotpot and Yu’s family for modern Sichuan cuisine, Din Tai Fung and Jesse in Shanghai….these are just a few….to sample them all you will have to come with me on the trip.
If tourists wanted to try one ‘unusual/bizarre’ dish in China, what should it be?
Sichuan Crunchy Pig’s ears – its not that unsual because culturally Brits have had a revival of nose to tail eating so this is more”unusual” for non-foodies but is delicious – crunchy, spicey and moreish and is one of my favourites.
Delicious dumplings: Ching-He Huang shares her favourite Chinese specialities
For those who want to try something more bizarre, ‘Dong Hua Men’ night market in Beijing has lots of stalls for the adventurous from Chinese scorpions, cicada, seahorse, cricket, spiders anyone?
What will you be doing on the Wendy Wu tours with guests?
I will be accompanying them to markets, restaurants, eateries, cooking schools and teaching. It’s going to be a fun packed (trip of a lifetime) adventure. Perfect for adventurous foodies.
The fourteen day Taste of China with Ching He Huang departing on September 1 costs from £4,990 per person. Eleven days is from £3,490pp. See Wendy Wu Tours for details.