There’s little doubt that Chinese people love eating. While “family-style” meals are perhaps the most traditional way of eating in China, there is also a rich tradition of xiǎochī小吃 or“small eats”. These in-between meal bites that can be found on street corners and in night markets. Many of the following items started out as regional specialties but have now gained widespread popularity throughout China. Take a look at our countdown for the top 8 must-try street food snacks in China!
1. Taiwanese Sausage/táishìxiāngcháng台式香肠
Juicy and slightly sweet, these pork sausages are usually grilled and served either on a stick or in a sticky rice “sausage” to make a “big sausage wrap small sausage” (大肠包小肠). Sometimes they’re even paired with a clove of garlic for an extra kick. A Taiwanese night market classic!
2. Egg Bubble Waffle/ jīdànzǎi鸡蛋仔
This iconic snack from Hong Kong gives off a fragrant, egg-y smell and is usually folded and served in a paper bag if you’re on the go. Similar to traditional waffles, they’re made by pouring a batter onto waffle iron before being left to cool on a wire mesh mold. While originally eaten plain, these days they’re often paired with fruit, ice cream and syrups and can even be found with matcha or taro flavored batters.
3. Crispy Pancakes with Egg/ shǒuzhuābǐng手抓饼+ jīdàn鸡蛋
Part pastry, part pancake, this greasy Taiwanese snack is traditionally a breakfast food but can be enjoyed at any time of the day. Usually fried on a flat-top griddle, many vendors will give you the option of adding an egg, lettuce, and bacon.
4. BBQ Lamb Skewers/yángròuchuànér羊肉串儿
Probably the most famous snack from Xinjiang, you can find these succulent, heavily spiced lamb skewers in virtually any region of China. Roasted over a charcoal grill and seasoned with generous portions of cumin and chili, this delicious treat goes down perfectly with an ice cold beer and is a late night favorite.
5. Cold Skin Noodles liángpí凉皮
Cold, thick noodles mixed with fresh, crispy cucumber slices, crunchy peanuts and chewy gluten is topped with garlic, chili sauce and vinegar for this classic summertime dish from Shaanxi that’s bursting with flavor. Equal parts spicy, sour, nutty and refreshing, the “skin” is actually made from a wheat or rice flour that’s steamed before being chopped into “noodles”.
6. Deep Fried Pork Cutlet/ zházhūpái炸猪排
Pre-breaded and pounded flat and then deep fried to order, this Shanghai-style take on the classic deep-fried pork cutlet is comparable to Japanese tonkatsu or European schnitzel. Usually served with sweet hoisin sauce, this crispy treat is chopped into strips prior to serving, making it easy to eat with chopsticks. If you get it from a street-side stall, it’s usually served in a paper bowl with skewers.
7. Hot Dry Noodles /règānmiàn热干面
The most famous snack from central China’s Wuhan, hot dry noodles started life as a cheap breakfast food but can be enjoyed throughout the day. Boiled noodles are tossed with soy sauce, sesame paste, garlic chives and chili oil before being topped with coriander and pickled vegetables and served in a paper bowl. The mixture of sesame paste and soy sauce results in a flavor that is often mistaken for peanut sauce. Wuhan locals will eat theirs with lots of chilies to help combat the humid climate of the middle Yangzte. This unique noodle dish makes a delicious, savory snack that can be had for as little as 5 RMB.
8. Mango Pomelo Sago/ yángzhīgānlù杨枝甘露
This dessert was invented in the 1980s by the head chef of a Hong Kong restaurant that was opening its first branch in Singapore. Wanting a cool, refreshing dish suitable for Singapore’s tropical climate that also took advantage of local ingredients, he came up with the idea of combining sweet mango, chewy sago, coconut milk and condensed milk topped with tangy pomelo. The Chinese name literally means “dropping manna from a willow branch” (a reference from Chinese mythology), meant to describe the refreshing taste.
How many of these delicious snacks have you tried? Which is your favorite? Which did we miss? Let us know in the comments!
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