Whenever I travel, I always get excited about the food more than anything. On my recent trip to China, the Great Wall was okay and the Terracotta Warriors were quite interesting. While I was snapping photos of these world-famous attractions; all I could do was think about the street food in China and how much I was looking forward to walking around the Donghuamen Night Market in Wangfujing Street, Beijing.
One of the best places for local food in the city, this night market was truly amazing and gave me the chance to try all kinds of delicious (and not-so-delicious) snacks at super-cheap street food prices. I aimed to try as many weird and wonderful things as I could; so I could pass on the info about what’s definitely worth eating and what definitely isn’t.
With lots of unfamiliar looking food and a distinct lack of any languages other than Chinese; eating in China can be really overwhelming. So if you’re planning a trip to China, then keep these dishes in mind and you’ll be guaranteed of something that not only your palate will love, but your wallet will approve of, too.
Must-Try Street Food in China
A traditional Chinese hamburger (Rou Jia Mo) is so good you can’t even compare it to anything you’d get in a fast food joint. The pillow-soft and doughy bun is the perfect thing to soak up all the gorgeous juices from the shredded pork or lamb that’s stuffed inside. The best part of street food in China? Locals eat these for breakfast and I’d definitely choose one over a bowl of granola any day.
Part omelette and part crepe, the savoury scallion pancake (Cong Hua Bing) is another common breakfast staple in China. You can get the pancake on its own and enjoy the Yorkshire pudding/popover-type batter studded with yummy green onion as it is, or take it up a notch and get a stuffed one. This one was filled with eggs cooked in such a wonderfully magical way that they had the texture of melted cheese and tasted amazing.
Dumplings (Jiaozi) come in all shapes and forms in China, but these mouthfuls of heaven are pan-fried dumplings, stuffed with tiny pieces of minced chicken and doused in some delicious soy-based sauce with a sprinkling of chives and seeds. They might look tiny, but they’re super filling and are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner in China.
Not the type of grab-and-go food like everything else on this list; the Chinese hot pot (Chongqing) still definitely counts as street food in China; because it’s usually eaten in a restaurant, that’s little more than a bunch of tables and chairs laid out on the street. The idea is you pick as many nibbles on sticks as you like, cook them in the boiling stocks and then dig in. The mild cloudy side was pretty flavourless, but the spicy red side was seriously hot and tasty. The rich peanut sauce was a great cooling accompaniment, too.
Almost too beautiful to eat, bubble waffles (Gai Daan Jai) gained popularity in Hong Kong and Macau and have since spread all across the world. They’re made from an ordinary slightly sweet waffle batter cooked in a fun bubbly waffle iron and used as a cone for fruit-based soy frozen yogurt or ice cream. The fresh fruit and chocolate spoons are the icing on the cake and taste just as good as they look!
Crazy things on sticks
They’re definitely not “must-try” unless you like putting terrifying things in your mouth; but I couldn’t miss these monstrous things off the list. Some of the crazy things on sticks I saw in China included scorpions (still alive and wriggling!), grubs, cockroaches, starfish, crabs, lizards and whole quails. My usually adventurous appetite didn’t extend to this kind of cuisine; so I can’t tell you what any of it tasted like. But I’ll hazard a guess and say they don’t come anywhere near a Chinese hamburger or bubble waffle!