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Cultural Immersion

Updated: 2013-06-14 17:12
By Katherine Rodriguez (


Nestled in a hutong in Beixinqiao lies a community striving to promote cultural exchange. The Hutong, founded by Australians Stacey Shine and Mark Thirlwall, has everything from cooking lessons to tours of Beijing. Their workshops, courses, and consultations shed light on local culture, and provide a place for expats, foreigners, and locals to meet and exchange ideas and experiences.

Originally from Inner Mongolia, Sophia Du is a chef, nutritionist and programs manager at The Hutong. “We have Chinese, Australians, Americans, British and other Europeans, so for ourselves everything is mixed and we share nearly everything.” said Du. “I want to share my knowledge about my own culture with other people and to learn from other people too.”

The Hutong celebrated the Dragon Boat festival with two cooking workshops on traditional Chinese rice dumplings, or zongzi, traditionally eaten during the festival to commemorate the death of poet Qu Yuan. For 250 RMB, foreigners and locals, young and old, joined in the kitchen and learned the lengthy process of making the zongzi.

The zongzi is made from glutinous rice and stuffed with sweet or savory fillings depending on region. They then are wrapped in bamboo leaves and string and boiled for over two hours. “Its kind of a whole country thing and different areas have different traditions and different ways.” said Du. “They do more savory ones in southern China, more varieties, more fun.”

Sophia has been with The Hutong for over 5 years after being introduced by a Canadian friend. “I have learned and understood my own culture better while I learn the others. I have benefited a lot from my work.” says Du.



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