Lost Plate Food Tours are an absolute MUST DO when visiting China.
Several years ago when we were visiting Amsterdam we did another food tour and now look for them everywhere we travel.
The owner is from Chengdu and they have expanded tours to include Xi’an, Beijing and Shanghai ( we’ve also booked one in Shanghai for our last day in China).
They’ve also expanded to include one in Cambodia and Portland Oregon where the owner’s husband is from.
From the beginning of the process they were amazing and responsive. They answered all of my questions and everything was booked and paid for in advance with a discount for multiple tour bookings.
Xi’an was one of the locations where we had a free night, however we were afraid that coming black from our sightseeing we’d cut it close to get to the 6:00 meeting point. It was about 30 minutes from our hotel.
I opted to book a private tour allowing for a 7:00 start time and the opportunity to get some one on one time.
A day before the tour we were emailed our tour guides name, contact information, meeting time and location address. Additionally, they include subway directions and the address in Chinese to show a taxi driver! ( that’s a HUGE help here!!!)
We arrived a little before our start time and shortly after our tour guide Rosemary came bouncing up to us, introduced herself and handed Chuck a piece of chocolate cake she had picked up for his birthday!!! A really sweet (literally) touch.
We chatted a bit and found out about her and what we’d be found and headed off down a side street to find our tuktuk and driver.
She was a beautiful woman from the Muslim Quarter, where a portion of tour would be.
The tuktuk was really cool but tough for Big, long legged Western boys to fit in. It was stocked with beer, a pineapple beverage and bottled water. And the first gift, Lost Plate koozies!
We were also kindly reminded that we could have beer in the tuktuk but not at the stops in the Muslim Quarter.
Which was fine as we were pretty much sticking to water.
The streets we traveled were off the beaten path, packed with locals and were really narrow. Our driver expertly navigated the traffic.
The street where we met our driver was the widest and least congested of the night.
We were immediately off to our first stop in the Muslim Quarter. A family owned Biang Biang Noodle shop. A store front shop where the family lives above it, which is pretty common.
This guy was making these beautiful hand stretched noodles. They get their name from the sound they make when they hit the table.
He then passed them to someone who cooked them and then to the woman who owned the shop who added her seasoning, cooked beef and some cabbage, carrots and potatoes as well as the cilantro and chilis.
The noodles come in two widths, ‘belt’ because they are as thick as a belt and a smaller thickness about the size of a round fettuccine. The flavors were really well balanced and the chilis were hot but not burning.
This was quite possibly my favorite dish of the entire week. Rosemary took the time to show us how to mix everything together from bottom to top to fully coat these delicious noodles.
After having the owners son take some photos with us we were off to our next stop.
The next stop was some of the best bbq in Xi’an. This husband and wife worked on a small grill in front of their home cooking beef skewers on an open grill, seasoning them with cumin and chilis and then brushing them with a secret recipe sauce. The are served with this delicious, thick, dense bread that you make into small sandwiches.
We also shared some plum juice, it was perfect for quenching your thirst. Not too sweet and perfect with the bbq.
We drove through some crowded streets to get to our next stop including one where our driver had to expertly back out of an alley that was blocked by a car!
We went to a place known for their soup dumplings. The place was good sized and pretty packed. It was all locals and we were the only non Asians in the place.
We started with Egg Drop Soup and we realized pretty quickly that the American version in addition to being slightly heavier on the cornstarch typically was missing the spinach and chunks of tomato, but I think it was a splash of black vinegar that made the flavor.
We also shared an Eight Treasures Porridge. A cold porridge with dates, goji berries, nuts and seeds. Slightly sweet with a light taste of what seemed to be rose water.
The big reason for this shop was the INSANE, ah-mazing Soup Dumplings or Xiao Long Bao. Thin dough, filled with beef and steaming hot soup. You grab them by the ‘ear’, hold them on your spoon, and bite a hole in the top to let them cool. You then suck the soup out and eat the dumpling with black vinegar and chilis.
Rosemary expertly showed us how to do this without getting burned as well as how to get three tastes – broth, one bite of the pure dumpling and then one with the sauce.
Next we walked up and around the corner and down an alley to what looked like a dead end. We would have NEVER found this place alone.
At the end of the alley on the right was an arch and beyond that was a beautiful garden with a few tables and then a few more in the back.
We sat and enjoyed some tea and rice wine. The cups had tiny fish painted in the bottom and for a moment we thought there were fish in there.
Rosemary told the history of the chicken dish we were going to try; it was a whole chicken that came out in a covered crock. It was steamed, then baked and then fried so it was moist, tender, flavorful and really crunchy on the outside.
The server took her chopsticks and tore it up for us. It was served with fried dough and a carrot salad tossed in a chili oil. My guess by the numbness in my lips and tongue was that it had Sichuan peppercorns in it as well.
We enjoyed a delicious meal, learned about Rosemary, Xi’an, her family and all of the foods.
The garden was tranquil and relaxing. One interesting piece were the cages with crickets; there is actually gaming associated with them.
We then headed to our last stop. Xi’an Brewery. The place is near the South Gate of the old city. Kind of old world meets new age craft brewery. We tasted a flight and then had a pint of a light tasting beer. Very good and a great way to end the night.
We chatted and got another sweet gift, Rosemary walked us to the Main Street and helped us get a taxi back to our hotel.
We cant say enough good things about Lost Plate Food Tours – the ease of booking, their follow up when we had questions, Rosemary was STELLAR with perfect English, friendly, outgoing and super knowledgeable. The stops were all places we would have NEVER found on our own, delicious food ( and plenty of it!), and a great value.
The ONLY regret was that in talking and eating we never got our picture taken with Rosemary 😍
We can’t wait for Shanghai as we have a morning market tour with them on our last day in China.
We highly, highly recommend them!