China is popularly known for its food just the way it is popular for its rich culture, historical sites clothing and business. Food establishments are accessible almost anywhere in the country.
From hotels, motels, restaurants cafes to street establishments. While street foods are famous among the locals, they are slowly being embraced by tourists visiting China.
If you don’t mind trying out different meals and are not local, go try out the street food because they are not only delicious and cheap but also a replica of the authentic Chinese cultural cuisine.
This is one Chinese most common street breakfast snack. I love its crispy nature, bold flavor and texture. It’s a made batter of wheat and grain flour, savory, umami flavors, eggs and other crisp textures. It’s a Northeast China Native dish.
It is prepared by thinly spreading the batter on the hotplate, placing the various toppings on the crunching batter and then another smaller sheet of crispy batter is placed on top. Finally, you fold the Jianbing up and serve.
The Chinese tea egg is another famous street food which is called marble eggs. We describe it as an egg that is braised with spices and Chinese teas thereby developing an exclusive flavor. The tea egg is not only a featured snack in China but also in Taiwan. You will find it from street vendors and restaurants in the country.
There are different flavors of Chinese tea eggs, it all depends on the spices you use which include Tieguanyin, red tea or black tea.
3. FRIED RICE
This is one of the famous dishes in China. It includes the cracking of an egg in a wok then adding the rice followed by the spring onions. Go ahead and add a piece of meat, pork or chicken. Toss it and serve it hot. Although it can be found on your streets it is also a loved home snack.
Want to make your own fried rice?
This is a common breakfast dish in Guangdong and beyond. The vendors use sticky rice and sesame seeds coating. You may choose to use fillings of meat, bean paste or not use any fillings. The outer skin should be crispy regardless of whether it is filled or not.
5. STINKY TOFU
This is a fermented version of tofu that has a strong odor. Like most street foods, it is mostly found in lunch bars, night markets and roadside stand. It’s made from soybeans and is grey in color but as it ferments, white foam is formed which slowly changes its color. You can spice it up by adding garlic paste pepper and sesame oil.
Although it’s a traditional snack that most people are not willing to try because of its odor, once you try it and love it, you will never be satisfied. The dish is popular in Changsha, Hanan and is best served in paper towels with a brown sauce that is spicy and salty and is supplemented with the green onions and parsley.
6. COLD RICE NOODLES-LIANGPI
It is a popular summer street dish that you can heat and serve during winter. I enjoy spicy meals and since this has a spicy sauce, it is a dish that I never get enough of. It’s common in Shaanxi province China. It’s made using rice noodles, spicy sauces bean sprouts as side dishes and soy sauce.
7. BAOZI (CHINESE BREAD BUNS)
This is a type of filling bread-dumplings in China. Although the dumplings are common in Chengdu-western China they are also found in most other parts of this county. Depending on the part of China that you are at baozi is used either as a main meal or for breakfast. This dough buns are often stuffed with meat which is mostly pork meat or veggies.
While the baozi is mostly prepped by steaming, you can also pan fry it. If you are familiar with jiaozi dumplings you should note that the preparation procedure is almost the same although the baozi dough is thicker and baozi has more fillings.
Want Baozi Recipes?
8. JIAOZI -DUMPLINGS
The dumplings are as common as rice dishes in the country. You will find them in almost every part of the country. They are a bite size and crescent-shaped dumplings. Some hotels serve the dumplings to the travelers but the best place to try out the dumplings is in a homestay.
In my town, the dumplings are used during the Chinese spring festivals among other festivals like the new year. Jiaozi being a traditional delicacy, it’s preparation insinuates family bonding time. It may have meat and vegetables for the fillings but its dough is usually thinner. You eat the jiaozi by picking them and dipping into soy/chili sauce then put into your mouth.
9. XI’AN PANCAKE
This is another crispy treat that is more like a stuffed pancake. To be specific, it is a layered, rolled crispy pancake that has spiced pork and cabbage in the middle. This is a Chinese-Islamic snack that is native to Xi’an – central China.
To enhance its flavor, use fresh ginger, diced onions, chilly oil and a splash of Shaoxing rice wine. Like other street food, you will find it at the vendor stalls.
10. CANDIED HAWS (TANGHULU)
It originated from Northern China although it’s now available in most of the cities in the country. It’s a Chinese Hawthorn skewered that you dip in a sugar syrup then let it cool and create a crystalizing coat. Here is something for those with a sweet tooth. They are mini candy apples that have a sharp sour bite.
This northern china winter snack is made using yellow or red Haws, other kinds of berries like strawberries and sometimes nuts. The taste is something close to the sweet and tart flavors. This is from the glazing sugar and the sour berries.
Check out my Bing Tanghulu recipe.
11. HOT PEAR AND JUJUBE JUICE
This is your necessary juice when the cold season docks in. it is going to warm your hands because of the hot plastic glass used. It is made using the Asian pear, jujube and rock sugar. It is another common street drink during cold seasons.
12. DONKEY MEAT SANDWICH
Historically, since the Ming dynasty, Donkey meat has been a Chinese delicacy. The military was the first to eat donkey meat for survival but today, the meat is readily available on your streets. The meat is commonly used in Baoding and Hejian in Hebei province.
The meat is shredded then combined with different sauces and spices and stewed. This results in a juicy and tasty meat that you then place in a Shao Bing which is a bread/bun pocket. It is best served warm or hot.
13. ROASTED SWEET POTATOES
Also known as kaobaishu. They are common during the winter season. If you walk by the roadsides during winter, you will find some cart of street vendors with small ovens that they use to bake the sweet potatoes and sell.
If you manage to grab a fresh and steaming hot potato you will not only have a healthier, sweet street food but also gain energy to sustain you through the day. The potato will also keep you warm.
Our people enjoy threading/skewing meat pieces on a stick and then grilling it. It is called the yang rou chuanr but some people know it as shish kebab or satay skewers.
The name really doesn’t matter as long as you understand that you only need to skew your meat to a bamboo stick. Next, you can make a mixture of some salt, dry chili flakes and ground cumin and other spices of your choice then coat the skewed meat in the mixture then begin the barbecuing process.
This street dish is influenced by the Islamic people and they prefer the lamb meat although you could also use other kinds of meat.
In fact, you can make Barbecued Lamb Kebabs at home easily.
15. DEEP FRIED SCALLION PANCAKES
This is described as thin flatbread that is layered with a spicy scallion then deep fried in oil. This is a Chinese version of western pancake although it is made with a dough and not batter and it is layered with scallion while the western pancake is not.
It is a common breakfast item that you would find in the streets being deep fried in giant woks.
Check out my pan-fried Scallion Pancakes, you don’t need to use too much oil to make this delicious snack.
16. CHICKEN AND DUCK FEET
The Chinese people love chicken and duck feet. This is something that people visiting the country find very strange especially because you will always find them on the streets. The reason for eating them is something between reducing wastage of food, the love for the meal’s texture and health benefits myths.
If you love it spicy you can enhance it using chili, barbecue sauce and salt.
17. HUO GUO
This is a Sichuan style hot pot cooking. Although it is native to Sichuan province it is also a widely appreciated dish in other parts of the country. The hot pot entails the simmering of different meat kinds, vegetables, condiments, soup bases and sauces.
Depending on the province you are at the spices and method of preparation may vary.
18. CHINESE HAMBURGER
This is also known as Roujiamo that originated from Shaanxi province. This is usually a pork that is placed between buns. It is almost similar to the American hamburger although the bread used is thinner. The Chinese burger also uses a spicy pork with flavored meat gravy and chili paste instead of ketchup.
The different vendors sell the burger with a different kind of filling.
19. GLUTINOUS RICE BALLS-TUNG YUAN
These are rice balls filled with spicy and flavored ingredients. The spicy kinds are the most common types. It is a sweet, runny, nutty filling sealed with a slippery chewy wrapper.
The Tung yuan is like a round dumpling with the dough having been made from glutinous rice flour and water while the filling could contain sugar, lard and groundnuts. For better flavor and taste, use sesame seeds or peanuts for the fillings.
When they turn brown you should know that they are cooked.
20. LANZHOU NOODLE SOUP
This soup is essentially a Chinese-Muslim dish that although it is native to Lanzhou, can be found anywhere in the country today. It consists of clear broth, shaved beef, scallion, cilantro, deep red chili oil and chewy handmade noodles.
The authentic Lanzhou is rich in flavor and readily available on the streets.
21. BANMIAN – CHINESE NOODLE SOUP
This is a dish made of handmade noodles that are served in a flavorful soup which has some form of meat or fish. It basically contains egg noodles, fish stock or anchovy stock. The variation in the taste depends on the vendor preparing the dish they may use additional ingredients or substitutes. If properly prepared it should leave you with the lingering aftertaste
22. CIFANTUAN-THICK RICE BALLS
This is usually served with soy milk and is popular for breakfast meal. it’s common in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taiwan. If you are familiar with sushi rolls then this looks something close to it.
In this situation, the steamed rice is wrapped in a crispy and thin dough. It can be sweet or spicy where the sweet option has sugar and sesame filling while the savory option goes for the flaked pork, vegetable pickles and mushrooms for the fillings.
23. MALATANG-FOOD IN SPICY BOILED WATER
This is a popular meal in the winter season. It’s spicy and hot and usually entails skewed meat or other vegetables similar to the Chinese kebabs with the difference being that you don’t grill it, instead, it is cooked in spicy broth.
The ingredients used include the noodles, meatballs, tofu and vegetables. When you get to the vendor, choose the food you want to be skewed then he or she will boil it for you.
24. DEEP FRIED DOUGH STICKS WITH SOY MILK
Here is another healthy way to start your day off. This is a Shanghai’s favorite street food. These inviting dough sticks look like your regular bread although they are puffier than the normal bread. The sticks are best accompanied by soy milk and rice or bean porridge.
Check out this recipe to make Youtiao at home.
They are small as other dumplings and should be eaten hot. The top is covered with chopped green onions while the bottom is crispy-grilled. The bun should be pan fried to golden brown color. They like all the other street foods are readily accessible from street vendors.