“The one thing I know for sure about China is I will never know China. It’s too big, too old, too diverse, too deep. There’s simply not enough time,” said Anthony Bourdain during his 2014 visit to Shanghai. “That’s for me the joy of China, facing a learning curve that impossibly steep.”
If you’ve ever been to China, you know this to be true: there’s nowhere like China, nowhere as big or diverse or different as China – especially if you’re traveling to the East from the Western world for the first time. But the reality is that China has shaped the world throughout history, and will shape the future too. Chinese culture and cuisine are part of our human heritage and offer an endless menu to choose from.
Anthony Bourdain visited China many times, nine times in total across three of his four shows. In addition to visiting several different provinces, he also made trips to Hong Kong and Macau, two special administrative regions.
If you want to know everywhere visited by Anthony Bourdain in China and every restaurant he ate at which is still open today, read on: this guide covers it all – from bustling Beijing to spicy Sichuan and many places in between.
Anthony Bourdain made only one trip to Beijing during his many China travels, and it was during his first trip to the country. He didn’t eat many places but had a chance to sample a variety of dishes that define Chinese cuisine. Here’s where he ate:
For details on what he ate, check out my guide to spots Bourdain visited in Beijing.
During his first visit to China, Bourdain also visited Chengdu, the largest city in the Sichuan province. It seems to have become his favorite destination thanks to the region’s incredible high-spice cuisine, and he brought back Eric Ripert for a second visit late in his career. Here’s a list of places he ate in Chengdu:
- Dave’s Oasis Expat Bar
- People’s Park Teahouse
- Huang Chen Lao Ma
- Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian
- Tian Tian Fan Dian
- Liang Lukou Hot Pot
- Yu Zhi Lan
- Shui Jing Fang Distillery
See my full list of places Bourdain (and Ripert) ate in Sichuan if you’re sold on seeking out the spice too.
Dali City (Yunnan)
On another trip, Anthony Bourdain journeyed from “Shanghai to Shangri-La;” this trip included visits to several different, smaller cities – or at least smaller by Chinese standards. One of those destinations was Dali City, where the Bai ethnic group is primarily located in China.
Here Bourdain has a few different experiences than in other cities: he sees the traditional style of fishing using cormorant birds, and explores the market, trying rice candy and chili pepper chicken soup from a street vendor. Then he has a traditional meal of ingredients from the market with his local guide; there he enjoys raw pork, fried pork nuggets, steamed pork with rice flour, barbeque style pork, and many more traditional dishes including a fish dish with hot chili sauce.
One city where Anthony Bourdain spent a lot of time – an entire episode, in fact – that might surprise visitors, is the northern city of Harbin. He visits in the winter and explores a lot of the surrounding region too, trying cuisines that aren’t as common as in other parts of this vast country. Here’s a full list of the places Bourdain ate in Harbin:
- Fox Pub
- Zhang Fei Pa Rou
- Zhao Ji Lao Pu
- USA Bucks Bar
- Sun Mountain Yabuli Resort
- Mobile Chef in Yabuli Town
- Da Song Shui Jiao
- Around the World Restaurant
- Old Liu’s Kill Pig Cuisine
For details on what he ate at each of these spots, check out my guide to places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Harbin.
Anthony Bourdain ate at a lot of places in Hong Kong over the course of his three visits; that makes it his most-visited Chinese destination. Instead of listing all 30+ places he ate, here are 5 of the restaurants I think everyone should eat for foods Tony said were essential to try:
- Joy Hing Roasted Meat (for char siu – roast goose)
- Lau Sum Kee Noodles (for bamboo noodles)
- Leaf Dessert (for wonton noodles)
- Tim Ho Wan (for dim sum)
- Tung Po Kitchen (for other Cantonese classics)
As I said, there are lots of other places Tony ate though, so you should definitely check out my entire guide to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Hong Kong if you’re planning a trip.
Huanglongxi is another spot Bourdain visits in the Sichuan province during his visits. In addition to visiting the local temple and walking around, he enjoys a local meal in a 200-year-old farmhouse. The menu includes stir-fried red onion with spring pepper, fresh corn stir-fried with chilis, preserved chili peppers, preserved rabbit, and chicken – these are more traditional dishes than he has in some of the bigger cities, but appropriately match the historic nature of this historic town.
During their visit to Chengdu, Bourdain and Ripert set out to Leshan, known for its beautiful Buddhist statue (Ripert being a practicing Buddhist). After a cruise to admire it from the river, they climb to the top and enjoy an unusual treat. The snack bar at the top serves spicy rabbit heads – it’s apparently something Tony is aware of as he talks them up with enthusiasm and teaches Eric how to eat them.
At another spot he visited between Shanghai and Shangri-la during that visit, Anthony Bourdain braves a vegetarian meal at a local Monastery. As you well know, he isn’t typically enthusiastic about non-meat cuisine, but still gives it a try. I won’t say he enjoys it, but with an anthropological attitude, Tony eats fermented and fried bean curd and other bean curd preparations, along with pickled and spicy vegetables he finds quite agreeable.
Macau is the other special administrative region that Anthony Bourdain visited; he made his way there later in filming No Reservations, so about halfway through his television career. Here are the places he visited and ate:
If you’re planning a trip to Macau and want more details on what he ate in each place, check out my guide where Tony ate in Macau.
Shanghai seems to hold a second place among Bourdain’s favorite spots in China. After his first trip to the city, he returned again for a second time focusing exclusively on the food and culture the city has to offer. Here are the places Anthony Bourdain ate in Shanghai:
- NanXiang Steamed Bun Restaurant
- Yang’s Fried Dumplings
- Wuzhong Road
- FuChun XiaoLong
- Chun Restaurant
- Roosevelt Sky Bar
- Bund 27/House of Roosevelt
- Er Guang Wonton
- Di Shui Dong
- Bar Constellation
If you’re sold on visiting and all the opportunities to eat xiao long bao soup dumplings during your trip, be sure to check out my complete guide to where Anthony Bourdain ate in Shanghai.
Shangri-La City (Yunnan)
As you might expect, Anthony Bourdain does visit Shangri-La as part of the episode named for that city. Formerly known as Zhongdian, Shangri-La is now a major city for people of ethnic Nepalese origin who live in China.
During his visit, he enjoys a local dinner of yak dishes including yak cheese, yak meat, steamed bun-like bread, and yak butter tea; comparing this to yak he tried in Shanghai, he says it’s much more enjoyable.
Yangcheng Lake (Jiangsu)
As another part of his “Shanghai to Shangri-La” episode, Bourdain visits Yangcheng Lake in the Jiangsu province for one specific food: Shanghai hairy crab. This particular dish sells for exorbitant prices – up to $400 for a box of eight crabs (source)!
First, Bourdain goes out to see the crabbing in progress, then has a meal with some lucky patrons who enjoy the chance to dine on this splurge dish.
That wraps up the many places visited by Anthony Bourdain in China – and provides you with inspiration for where you could plan a trip too! Have any questions about where Tony went in China? Let me know in the comments!