China’s Snack Streets

 

 

By Ernie Diaz

 

There’s so much to see, and eat, in China that it’s a shame to waste too much time in big, fancy restaurants. The fawning wait-staff and death-sentenced fish in their tanks will take the edge off the keenest appetite. Instead, make yours a movable feast, on the snack streets running through any Chinese city that merits a large dot on the map. 

 

 

Beijing – Wangfujing Night Market


Wangfujing Street is a mandatory stop for Beijing visitors, the one place in the city where pedestrians need never fear the blithe, self-entitled motorists who terrorize them. Stick around til the sun sets and the stalls are set up, a city block’s worth. Every niche of China represents at the night market, so in theory you could spend a few nights eating here and have sampled Harbin to Hainan.

 

Newbies are best advised to start out with the fried jiaozi (“Look, pot stickers, honey!”) and various noodle dishes. Many a fried cake and stuffed pastry could delight a gym teacher from Peoria, but just as many have fillings that would make him hear backwards violin music. Unless he has a beer or four, after which frogs on sticks might not seem such a bad idea. Silkworms on a stick? Maybe next time. Fried scorpions? Only on a dare.

 

 

 

Shanghai – Lao Cheng Huang Miao

 

The “Old Town God Temple” snack street is only a ten-minute stroll from the South Bund area, done up in gaudy faux-Qing style that actually provides relief for eyes overwhelmed by early and late 20th century mega-structures.


Light and sweet are the themes of Shanghai snacking, though of course the smorgasbord on OTGT street rivals Wangfujing’s for variety. Fluffy vegetable buns, crab pastries, fragrant rice soup with sesame balls, all will do wonders to quell the shame of that Big Mac you had for lunch, because all the restaurants on the river looked too intimidating.

 

 

 

Guangzhou – Liwan Gourmet Street

Congratulations: you’ve crossed the Rubicon to the land of extreme cuisine. Unless you have a date to impress, you might be better off fasting and just soaking up the sights, sounds, and smells. Let the 99% humidity relieve you of two or three liters of toxic sweat, for even if you play it safe and buy a circlet of shrimp dumplings, a surprise visual may well kill your ability to swallow. Caged dogs, pans full of writhing snakes, four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie, social mores and Jungian archetypes alike take a distant second to the prime Guangdong directive: hack it to bits with a cleaver and wash it down with tea.

 

 

 

Chengdu – Wuhouci Street

Sichuanese don’t feel hunger pangs, so much as their rear ends stop burning, signaling dangerously low blood-levels of red pepper and capsicum. Most of the dainties to be found on Wuhouci Street, from the boiled chicken feet to the lantern-skin beef, will give off vapors of spice, and a fiery sheen. What most foreign-devils don’t know is that the antidote sits on most every table: vinegar. Douse everything with it first; your snacks may taste a trifle tart, but the faces you make will be less disturbing than the scene you’ll create if you get an unadulterated dose of Sichuan pepper, shocking nearby babies into spitting out their chili pacifiers.

 

To be fair, Chengdu does have treats entirely devoid of pepper. The mushroom soup, a stew of fungi at once earthy, pungent, and umami, will make up for a dozen fire eating contests. The braised rabbit heads, not so much.

 

 

 

Wuhan – Hubu Lane

Breakfast is traditionally China’s forgotten meal; deep fried dough and bean juice is usually as good as it gets. Not so in Wuhan, where residents don’t call it “breakfast” but “spending the morning”. For those with a long morning to spend, and a capacious belly, Hubu Lane will leave you fuller, wiser, and not much lighter of pocket. Shipopo hot noodles with sesame paste provide a good base. Wash them down with some Xusao fish soup, then on to some Xieja flour slurry and Liji tofu skin, all as delicious as they are terrible-sounding. Want to play it safe? Very well, you can’t go wrong with some wonton soup ( you want to say “hundun” to the stall vendor, though) or any of the steamed buns, which come in more flavors than ice cream at Baskin Robbins.

 

 

 

Kunming – Green Lake Park

Green Lake Park and its environs are an opium eater’s dream of China, placid waters reflecting blue sky where black-headed gulls dip and dive, willows draping graceful dancers and mellow flute players, ornate pagodas where elders contemplate weiqi boards, and everywhere smiling, light-hearted Yunnan faces. On the peripheries of the park, descendants of the hundred Southwest tribes, subjugated by the Yuan and Ming, cook their native viands, far jollier than those who have inherited the earth.

Their Chinese burritos, a big, hearty flour bing wrapped around all manner of savory fried vegetables and barbecued meat, will dispel forever the “one-hour” myth about Chinese food. Braised pheasant wings, eight-treasure cakes and cured-ham bread rolls are all more rewarding than Crossing the Bridge; you’ll find naught but mushy noodles covered in scorching oil on the other side.

 

 

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29 Responses to China’s Snack Streets

  1. leo6955 says:

    Wow the food street look amazing during night wish i could be there and enjoy some of there finest food , anyways keep up the good work. 

  2. Cannabis says:

    I love your blog ! Always beautiful pictures and great articles ! I love China, and we can see on your blog that you love china too !

  3. Shrink films says:

    Nice set of pics, and what a wonderful country, China! I will be visiting there soon.

  4. Ernie says:

    Thanks! Wish I could say I loved your stuff too, without incriminating myself.

  5. Autos says:

    Wow, I like your pictures! Green Lake Park is a nice place to visit. Nice people too.

  6. Diet says:

    When I visited Wangfujing Street, it was a fascinating experience. So many different foods and people. and the atmosphere was fantastic.

  7. This is as good as the night streets in Taiwan Shi Lin.

  8. When I visited Wangfujing Street, it was a wonderfull experience.

  9. Those snacks sure look interesting. Do they taste as odd as they look?

  10. Stock Market says:

    Beijing street food is cheap, varied, convenient, and above all great to eat. If you don’t mind abandoning your air conditioned hotel for dusty street corners and crowds of hungry Beijingers then you could end up becoming seriously addicted to it.

  11. faucets says:

    Haha, awesome place! A lot of delicious foods are waiting for you! Thanks to your introduction!

  12. Jim says:

    I went to china once in my life and the snack streets are really loaded with crowd every time. 

  13. HID Lights says:

    China is a great place to visit. You obviously cannot compare it with Singapore, but I know the street you are talking about. The food is different but nice, though many might not relish it. However, the entire experience is completely different.

  14. This reminds me of my wonderful time in China.

  15. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 2.5 billion people eat street food every day!

  16. If you don’t mind abandoning your air conditioned hotel for dusty street corners and crowds of hungry Beijingers then you could end up becoming seriously addicted to it.

  17. Thanks to your introduction!

  18. Chinese food says:

    I really think the most important thing is to try a little bit of everything. The food is the best way to explore China!

  19. China is so great for its noodles. I love the snack streets!

  20. The food is the best way to explore China!

  21. The food is different but nice, though many might not relish it. However, the entire experience is completely different.

  22. More publicity needs to be done on this by the Chinese Tourism authorities.

  23. bcs2000 says:

    if one has walked on Chinese streets they will understand what im talking about. . . when you walk on them you feel a strange sense of belonging , as if you had been there thousands and thousands of years ago . . . 

  24. I agree with this article. It is worth eating on the streets of China instead of going to a big restaurant. Been there twice last year and really enjoyed my trip, and the streets of the Chinese snack

  25. love chinese snacks, Shang Xia Jiu (上下九) has to be another highlight on the Chinese culinary landscape, great food especially squid skewers and xiao wan zi (小丸子). South-China is probably the heartland of Chinese snacks.

  26. I really think the most important thing is to try a little of everything. The food is the best way to explore China!

  27. Discount Shanghai Hotel says:

    Chinese foods are delicious!

  28. RBP Grilles says:

    That is really fantastic and exciting to read your dwI hope you never stop! This is one of the best blogs Ive ever read. Youve got some mad skill here, man. I just hope that you dont lose your style because youre definitely one of the coolest bloggers out there. Please keep it up because the internet needs someone like you spreading the word…..

  29. Paul Mooney says:

    I’m not sure about the quality of the food at night markets in other cities, but I personally find the food at the Beijing Night Market to be disgusting. I know no long-time residents of Beijing, either Chinese or expats, who eats there. A lot of the food–fried scorpion, goat’s testicles, deep fried start fish, etc., have mainly shock value. It’s more of a place to take photos than to eat. I don’t know a single person in Beijing who has ever said to me with excitement, “Hey! Let’s go eat at the night market.” Taipei has wonderful food night markets. There’s not a single thing that I’d eat at the night market adjoining Wangfujing.

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