One of the most memorable meals for those who travel with me to China is one of the first of the trip, in the hutongs of Beijing. Hutongs are little alleyways in the center of the city, some as narrow as six feet across. This is the heart of the city, a place where people have lived the same way for hundreds of years, despite the modernization of this capital city.
Families live in courtyard homes in the hutongs. Each trip to China, I bring travelers to the home of one of the families so that we can learn about their lives and also have a home-cooked meal. Sometimes, we get a dumpling-making lesson, like in the picture to the right, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Wang.