There’s so much to see, and eat, in China that it’s a shame to waste too much time in big, fancy restaurants. And sometimes, the best foods are found on the streets instead of in the fancy restaurants. Here are some snack streets in China worth visiting.
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 till 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 fried cake and stuffed pastry are very recommended too. Feeling adventurous? Frogs on sticks, silkworms on a stick or fried scorpions might not seem such a bad idea.
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
Welcome 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. 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.
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 you can imagine.
Settle Comfortably in China
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