Chinese street food is an integral part of China’s culinary tapestry. It offers a tempting array of tastes, textures, and aromas, which capture the hearts and palettes of travelers alike. These street foods, which range from bustling streets in the city to tranquil rural markets, offer a glimpse of China’s rich culture and regional cuisines. This article takes you on a journey of discovery to discover some of the most popular and sought-after Chinese street foods that have endured the test of time.
What are the most popular Chinese street foods?
China is home to a diverse and rich street food culture that offers a variety of flavors and textures. The most popular Chinese street food includes:
- Baozi is a bun that can be steamed, baked, and filled with a variety of fillings, such as meat, vegetables, or sweet fillings.
- Jianbing is a type of Crepe made with wheat and grain flour. It’s usually filled with eggs, scallions, and sauces.
- Sichuan-style Skewers is a skewer of different meats and vegetables and is often spiced with spicy and numbing Sichuan Pepper.
- Tanghulu: Candied fruits or berries, usually hawthorn, covered in a sugar glaze.
- Stinky Tofu: Tofu fermented with a strong smell, usually deep-fried with a spicy or savory topping.
- Street vendors sell fresh-made dumplings with meat, vegetables, seafood, or other ingredients.
- Roujiamo (sometimes called “Chinese Hamburger”): A sandwich with a meat-filled flatbread, usually braised pork.
- Liangpi: Cold rice or wheat noodle sheets served with a spicy, tangy sauce. Often mixed with cucumbers, peanuts, and other ingredients.
- Pancakes with Stuffed Ingredients (Jianbing): These are similar to jianbing and can be filled up with eggs, meats, or vegetables.
- Zongzi is a glutinous rice-filled dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves. It’s usually filled with meats, nuts, and beans.
- Malatang is a type of spicy hotpot where the customer selects various ingredients on skewers and has them cooked in a fiery broth.
- Youtiao: Dough sticks are deep-fried and often eaten as breakfast, sometimes with soymilk.
- Fried Noodles: Stir-fried noodles, usually with meats and vegetables. Often cooked on large flat griddles.
- Bubble Tea Bubble tea is also known as boba. This beverage was invented in Taiwan, but it has gained popularity worldwide. It is a tea-based beverage with different flavors. It often contains tapioca or chewy toppings.
- Guabao (): A steamed bun that is folded in half and filled with braised pork belly and pickled vegetables. It also contains ground peanuts.
Street food popularity can vary by region in China. Different areas have their culinary specialties and traditions.
Recipes for Savoury Chinese Street Food
Here are some recipes to make popular Chinese street foods at your home:
Jianbing, Chinese Savoury Crepe
For the batter :
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- You can substitute cornstarch for 1/4 cup of mung bean powder
- One cup of water
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
Fillings and toppings:
- Two large eggs
- Sweet bean sauce, two tablespoons
- Chili sauce or Sriracha, two tablespoons
- Soy sauce, one tablespoon
- Half a cup of chopped scallions
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Optional: 1/4 cup crispy fried wonton wrappings (optional).
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (optional)
- Optional: Thinly sliced cooked chicken, ham, or roast pork.
- You can choose to have thin, crispy fried sticks of dough (youtiao).
- Prepare the Batter. Mix the all-purpose mung bean (or cornstarch) and water to form a smooth batter. Let it rest in a bowl for 15-20 minutes.
- The Crepe is cooked by heating a nonstick pan or crepe pan on medium heat. Brush a thin coating of oil over the pan. Pour the batter into the pan, swirling it quickly to create a thin layer. Crack an egg on top and spread it with a spatula.
- Add Sauces and Toppers: Drizzle the hoisin, chili, and soy over the egg.
- Sprinkle chopped scallions, cilantro, and chives on top.
- Fold and serve: Carefully fold each side of the Crepe to create a square. For crunch and flavor, add toasted sesame seeds and crispy wonton wrappers.
- Before folding, add thinly sliced cooked beef (or crispy fried doughsticks (youtiao).
- Serve: The Jianbing can be served immediately folded in half or rolled, as it is done in China. You can also wrap the Jianbing in parchment paper to make eating easier on the move.
Baozi (Steamed Buns)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- Active Dry Yeast, 1 Teaspoon
- Sugar, 1 Tablespoon
- Half a cup of warm water
- One tablespoon of vegetable oil
- You can substitute minced meat with any other minced meat you like.
- Half a cup of chopped cabbage
- 1/4 cup scallions chopped
- Two tablespoons of soy sauce
- One tablespoon of oyster sauce
- Sesame Oil, 1 Teaspoon
- Taste salt and pepper
- Prepare the dough: In a large bowl, dissolve sugar and warm water. Sprinkle yeast on top. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes or until it becomes foamy. Mix the flour with oil to make a dough. Cover it with a cloth and let it sit for about 1-2 hours.
- Filling: Combine the minced pork or other meat/vegetables in a large bowl. Add the scallions and oyster sauce. Also, add sesame oil. Mix well.
- Assemble the Baozi: Punch down the risen dough and divide it into small balls; roll each portion into a flat circle, leaving the center slightly thicker; place a spoonful of the filling onto the center of each dough circle; gather the edges and pleat them together to seal the bun.
- Steam the Baozi: Arrange the filled buns on parchment paper in a steamer basket; let them rest for about 15 minutes. Steam the buns for 15-20 minutes until they are cooked through and the dough is soft.
- Serve: Serve the steamed buns warm as a delightful and filling street food treat.
These recipes will let you recreate the flavors of popular Chinese street foods in your kitchen. Remember, street food is often customizable to personal taste, so feel free to adjust the ingredients and toppings according to your preferences. Enjoy your homemade Jianbing! Enjoy your homemade culinary adventures!
Sweet Chinese Street Food Recipes
Here are some sweet Chinese street food recipes you can make at home:
Tanghulu (Candied Fruit Skewers)
- Fresh fruit (such as strawberries, grapes, kiwi slices, or pineapple chunks)
- Wooden skewers
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- Red food coloring (optional)
- A candy thermometer
- Prepare the Fruit: Wash the fresh fruit. Insert wooden skewers into each piece of fruit.
- Make the Candy Coating: In a saucepan, combine sugar, water, and red food coloring (if using). Heat, stirring to make the sugar completely dissolve.
- Cook the Candy Syrup: Continue to cook the sugar mixture without stirring until it reaches a temperature of around 300degF (150degC) on a candy thermometer. The syrup will turn into a thick and clear liquid.
- Coat the Fruit: Carefully dip each skewered fruit into the hot candy syrup, coating it evenly.
- Serve: Once the candy coating has fully hardened, the tanghulu is ready to be enjoyed as a sweet and crunchy Chinese street snack.
Jian Dui (Sesame Balls)
For the dough:
- 1 cup glutinous rice flour
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- For the filling: Red bean paste, black sesame paste, or lotus seed paste
For frying: Oil for deep frying
For coating: White sesame seeds
- Prepare the filling: If you use store-bought filler, skip this step. If making your filling, prepare red bean, black sesame, or lotus seed paste.
- Make the Dough: In a bowl, mix glutinous rice flour, water, and sugar to form a smooth and slightly sticky dough.
- Assemble the Sesame Balls: Take a small portion of the dough and flatten it in your palm, place a teaspoon of filling in the center, carefully wrap the dough around it, and roll it into a smooth ball.
- Coat with Sesame Seeds: Roll the dough balls in white sesame seeds, ensuring they are coated all over.
- Fry the Sesame Balls: Heat oil in a deep-frying pan or pot to about 350degF (175degC). Carefully add the sesame balls and fry until they are golden brown and crispy on the outside.
- Drain and Serve: Remove the sesame balls from the oil and get rid of the excess fat by placing them on paper towels. Let them cool slightly before serving.