One of the things that you must do when traveling to new (or even old) destinations would be to make sure that you have a culinary experience of that country, and not in the Michelin-star hotels, but on the street. This is because, in as much as the hotel foods make you feel safer, especially if you have a sensitive tummy, street foods are some of the yummiest and give you a more realistic feel of the country you are traveling to.
Street food is delicious, and though the idea of eating on the streets may appear strange and sometimes unclean, it offers a great way for you to relax and connect with the locals, even as you relish in new culinary experiences.
In this article, we share with your some of the best street foods that China has to offer. And though some of them are controversial, you will be happy to know that these 10 street foods are among the very best food options that China has to offer.
Top 10 Best Chinese Street Foods
These are some of the best Chinese foods, and you must try them at least once.
- Deep-Fried Dough Sticks
Best enjoyed with soy milk, these slightly salty deep-fried dough sticks made of soda and wheat flour represent one of the best street foods that China has to offer. These dough sticks are known as yóutiáo, which translates to oil strips in Chinese, and they represent the most popular Chinese breakfast street food thanks to their puffy texture. The dough sticks can be enjoyed with soy milk, bean porridge, or rice porridge. It’s common in small eateries.
To enjoy this meal, you will hold the sticks in one hand then eat your porridge with a spoon; on the other hand, taking a mouthful of each in turns. You could also enjoy the dough sticks with noodles or soup.
- Street Crepes
If you are looking for something quick and interesting, go for the street crepes sold in Chinese towns and cities. In Chinese, street crepes of pancake cakes are called jiānbǐng guǒzī. They are quite tasteful and have a characteristic savory saucy taste. These crepes are made of wheat flour, mung bean flour, egg, green onions, and fermented flour sauces.
These crepes make the most popular street food in northern China, and you only need to wait 2 minutes for your serving of the street crepes.
- Steamed Buns
This is an instant warm food, and it’s perfect for cold days. The steamed buns are quite common in China, and they are sold in street stalls and even in the mat restaurants.
They are known as bāozī in Chinese, translating to Wraps, and they have a characteristic sweet/ savory stuffing feeling. These buns are made of flour, pork, sweet bean paste, or vegetables. The buns are cooked in a big steamer or in small bamboo steamers. The stuffing are often sweet flings such as custard, sweet red bean paste, and some sugary black sesame seeds. You just need to ask for your preferred buns depending on the stuffing.
- Chinese Hamburgers
If you are looking for an almost-meal, the Chinese Hamburgers are a great option for you. Known as ròujiāmó that translates to Meat Sandwich bun in Chinese, this savory stuffed meat sandwich or bun made of mutton or pork and flour is a must-have for anyone trying out street foods in China.
You could think of Roujiamo as a hamburger that is made with meat inside a kind of flatbread. It’s quite common in North China and also in Northwest China, as well as Xi’an.
The preparation of Roujiamo starts with stewing of the mutton or pork with numerous spices that leave you with a stew that smells really good. If you want to try the Chinese hamburgers, just ask the person at the stall for the kind of meat you’d like; they’ll pick the meat selected then chop it up with a few veggies before sliding this mix into the side of the cut piece of naan. All the meat stuffing is then placed into the flatbread; then, some gravy is added, making the stuffing even juicier.
- Street Barbecue
Today, the street barbecue sold on Chinese streets is one of the most common street foods you will find. It can be spicy or savory and often made of chicken wings, lamb, corn, oyster, or squid. Barbecue is called shāokǎo in Chinese.
Because of the popularity of this street food, you can find it in just about all cities in China. Today, you will find entire roadsides that are dedicated to the Shaokao stalls. The barbecue is prepared with the meat and vegetables skewed on small sticks that are displayed raw, allowing you to pick what you’d like to eat. Once selected, the peddler then barbecues the meat on a long grill with hot charcoal. The spiciness of the barbecue depends on the level of spicy you can withstand.
- Cold Rice Noodles
Noodles are considered Chinese food, and if you want noodles in summer, try cold rice noodles. The noodles are called cool skin or Liángpí in Chinese, and they are made of rice flour. The cold rice noodles’ sauces are spicy, salty, but maybe a little sour. Though ideal for summer, the noodles could be heated up, turning into a perfect warming meal for winter. This is also a good meal if you want something to whet your appetite thanks to the spicy sauce and a rather smooth taste.
- Stinky Tofu
Though this would be much of an acquired taste, stinky tofu or stinking bean curd tastes like spicy and savory spices. It’s made of fermented soybean curd that is deep-fried. This isn’t the go-to Chinese street food for everyone, and most people can’t stand the first bite, although they still fall in love with it after some time.
- Numbing spicy broth
Also called food in spicy boiled water or spicy broth, this street food makes the perfect warming food in winter. As the name suggests, this numbing spicy broth or malatang is spicy, hot, and savory soup. This food will be skewed up in what looks like broth, and it’s made of tofu, various vegetables, meatballs, and noodles.
- Duck and Chicken Feet
This is a unique Chinese delicacy, and it’s better known as chicken claw duck claw. It is spicy and savory and made of pepper, chicken, or duck feet. For different flavors, the chicken or duck feet could be pickled in barbecue sauce, chili, salted, or just deep-fried. But it’s always spicy.
- Sugarcoated Haws
If you are looking for something tasty and may be healthy to snack on, go for the Chinese toffee apples called sugarcoated haws or sugar bottle gourd (tánghúlu) in Chinese. These are sweet and sour. They are made of haws or a variety of fruits such as strawberries, apples, pineapples, oranges, grapes, or some kiwi fruits. There is also rock candy syrup which is added for a more savory taste.
The other street foods you could add to your list include Jiaozi or Chinese dumplings, Pai gu Nian gao or rice cakes with pork chops, Glutinous rice balls, and Chinese kebabs.