Of the many things I miss about China, street food culture is at the top of the list.
It’s exciting to visit the many mobile vendors and countertop stores who are experts in their craft.
I’ve never had such a large variety of freshly-made, on-the-go meals anywhere else. If not already prepared, your order is made in less than five minutes.
So here are twelve unique, five-minute eats that I miss most from China.
1 Rice Noodle Roll (肠粉 Chángfěn) & Hot Soy Milk (热豆浆 Rè Dòujiāng)
The rice noodle roll with a cup of hot soy milk is a breakfast staple made for slurping.
The roll is steamed with fillings like egg or pork then covered with seasoned soy sauce.
2 Tea Eggs (茶叶蛋 Cháyè Dàn) & Soy Sauce Braised Eggs (滷蛋 Lǔ Dàn)
You can sum these eggs up in three words: simple, savory and filling.
These two dishes are both hard boiled in a broth of star anise, cinnamon and soy sauce.
The only difference is that tea eggs are boiled with tea bags. Plus, tea eggs are famous for their marbled design, which comes from being marinated and boiled with a cracked shell.
3 Fried Stinky Tofu (长沙臭豆腐 Chǎngshā Chòu Dòufu)
Some people are afraid of this dish because it is charcoal black and called stinky tofu. In reality this savory and filling dish is crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, mildly spicy and only mildly stinky.
Plus, it is good for the gut because it hosts unique probiotics.
Just make sure you get your stinky tofu from a hygienic vendor.
4 Roasted Sweet Potatoes (烤白薯 Kǎo Báishǔ)
You cannot go wrong with warm sweet potatoes on a chilly day. Need I say more?
5 Specialty Roasted Seeds & Nuts (烤坚果仁 Kǎo Jiānguǒ Rén)
Don’t you love the smell of warm roasted nuts? They always taste better when you see them being freshly roasted in front of you.
Street-side vendors have a variety of raw chestnuts, cashews, pine nuts, hazelnuts. almonds and more.
My favorite franchise is 粒上皇 (Lì Shàng Huáng, literally “Grain Heavenly Emperor”) because their quality is amazing.
6 Guōkuī 锅盔
The standard flavors of this crispy clay oven flatbread are mild shrimp, beef, pork and chicken. They also usually have a fish with pickled vegetables.
The wild vegetables with ferns guokui is my favorite flavor. A close second is coconut dessert guokuis.
7 Savory Pancakes (油饼 Yóubǐng)
Literally called “oil pancakes,” these are great for filling you up when you are on a short lunch break.
Scallion pancakes (葱油饼 cōng yóubǐng) are the standard. But I prefer the less oily wild vegetable flavor (野菜油饼 yěcài yóubǐng) because it has green vegetables like spinach mixed in.
8 Breakfast Crepe Wraps（煎饼 Jiānbing）
This definitely falls into the top five most popular breakfast items in China.
These mixed grain crepes are filled with egg, cilantro, wonton crackers and black bean sauce.
9 Freshly Cut Fruit Salads (鲜切水果 Xiān qiè shuǐguǒ) & Pomegranate Juice (石榴汁 Shíliú zhī)
Even though there are fruit vendors on every block you need to find the hidden gems.
They bring next-level freshness and service with their bite-sized fruit to-go boxes. Toothpicks make the fresh-cut fruit easy to share on the go.
The ones with juicers are even better because in three minutes you can have refreshing pomegranate or sugarcane juice.
10 10. Street Skewers（串串 Chuàn Chuàn）
Think of these skewers like on-the-go hotpot cups.
The broth and skewer combo with spicy mala oil is so popular that it’s even served at China’s 7/11 franchises.
Standard skewers include: mini sausages, spice dried tofu, seaweed, shrimp, lotus slices, noodles, eggs, fish tofu, mushrooms, cauliflower, and a variety of tender meats.
11 Pounded Sticky Rice Cake（糯米糍粑 Nuòmǐ Cíbā）
It’s easy to spot this light dessert: just look for the person vigorously pounding rice dough with a large mallet. You can also spot the vendors near schools with mobile metal churns .
The rice cakes are either covered with things like sweet soybean flour, or filled with things like red beans or bananas.
This includes its rolled up cousins: “donkey rolling”( 驴打滚 lǘ dǎgǔn), bean flour cakes( 豆面糕 dòu miàn gāo), and banana rolls (香蕉卷 xiāngjiāo juǎn).
12 Pudding Bowl Skewers (砵仔糕 bōzǐ gāo)
This is what I get when I want something chewy and slightly sweet.
These pudding skewers are most well known in China’s southern region.
Go ahead and note these items for your next street food run.
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