Breaking Down the Best of Chinese Street Food
While China is known for producing some of the most flavorful full-scale meals, its citizens and visitors seem to appreciate food they can buy from street vendors just as much. The diversity of food served throughout China is still evident in the quick to-go items that people buy from the street vendors. Below are brief highlights of some of the best street food in China.
There’s no shortage of street vendors selling dumplings in China. From the public square to train stations, dumplings seem to be everywhere. They require chopsticks to eat properly, which the hungry local or traveler should pinch tightly over each piece of the dumpling before biting into the thin dough surrounding the vegetables and meat inside.
Here in the United States, street vendors have created a variation of the original Chinese pancake that traces its origins back to the third century. In addition to the traditional fillings of egg, lettuce, hoisin sauce, and chili paste, a modern twist on an old favorite is to replace the egg filling with beef for a snack that fills people up just a little bit faster.
Americans who assume that a hamburger is just a hamburger have never tried the Chinese variety. Chefs prepare the Chinese hamburger by gathering meat they have chopped and stewed, placing it in a pita bun, and adding chili paste and meat gravy.
Each street vendor in China blends his or her own version of the stew that goes into the hamburger, which means people can have very different taste experiences depending on the vendor they visit. Some other popular ingredients include Sichuan peppers, cumin, chili, and spice mix.
Chinese Bread Buns
Also known as baozi, Chinese bread buns are doughy and filled with barbequed meat or other juicy meat and sometimes vegetables. The chef prepares the bread, meat, and vegetables in a steaming bamboo tray and the dough comes out quite thick. People can buy baozi from street vendors in two sizes. These include Dabao, which stands for big buns and Xiabao, which means small buns.
Candied Fruit on a Stick
Tanghulu, the Chinese name for candied fruit on a stick, is a popular after-dinner snack. It contains fruits such as strawberries, hawthorns, and grapes with sweet syrup poured on top. The syrup crystallizes and hardens so the treat is not too messy to eat on a stick. The first bite produces a hard coating of sugar and leads to the sweet fruit inside.
Glutinous Rice Balls
Rice balls sold by Chinese vendors, which the vendors and locals refer to as cifatuan or sometimes ci faan, contain a wide variety of flavorful and locally-grown ingredients. Some of these include deep-fried dough in long golden brown strips, pickled vegetables, and pork floss. Some vendors sell sweeter versions of rice balls by adding sugar or sesame to the ingredients.
Many More Options for Street Food
The above are just a half-dozen of the hundreds of types of unique and flavorful food that people can purchase from the street vendors of China. People can also experience their favorites in a variety of flavors and serving styles due to the differences between vendors.