Do you love Chinese street food? Because I do. When I studied in Shanghai, my favorite part of every morning was picking up a Jianbing from a food vendor on my way to school.
Sometimes street food can be hard to find at traditional Chinese restaurants, but there are all kinds of recipes to be found online that you can try yourself.
Luckily for you, you don’t have to go through the trial and error of picking recipes yourself, because I decided to try a few out! I’m going to be ranking street food recipes that I found online by three criteria:
1) Easy or hard? 2) Yuck or Yum? 3) Are the ingredients accessible or not to those without an Asian grocery store?
I’m trying out four recipes: Pork buns (baozi), scallion pancakes (congyoubing), biang biang noodles, and brown sugar buns (tangsanjiao). If you want to find out how they ranked on my list of best to worst, keep reading!
1 Pork Buns (Baozi)
First off, I made my favorite Chinese food EVER: pork buns. I used to take these with me on school trips in Shanghai and eat them on the bus ride to wherever we were going. They're a fluffy steamed bun filled with yummy seasoned pork.
This recipe was pretty straightforward to make. I made a yeasted dough, kneaded it for a hundred years, rolled it out, and filled it with a relatively simple pork mixture.
Then I steamed them in my bamboo steamer for twenty minutes, and voila! Pork buns! They were DELICIOUS. I made six and they were gone by the end of the day.
1. Easy or Hard? - EASY. Time-consuming, but you don't have to be a chef by any means to succeed.
2. Yuck or Yum? - YUMMMMM. I could eat these all day, every day.
3. Ingredients Accessible or Not? - Pretty accessible. You do need some specialty sauces, like oyster sauce and sesame oil, but you can get those in the foreign aisle at most Western grocery stores.
Overall, these pork buns rank #1 on my list of street food recipes! I will definitely be making them again, and I suggest you give them a try, too!
If you want to try the recipe I used, find it here.
2 Scallion Pancakes (Congyoubing)
Scallion pancakes are a big street food in Shanghai. They're a simple dough rolled up with scallions and folded up a bunch of times. When you cook them, you get a crispy round pancake with flaky layers inside. So delicious!
Just like the pork buns, this recipe was relatively simple. The longest part was waiting for the dough to rest before assembling them. Just fifteen minutes of hands-on work and I was rewarded with a flaky, salty, scallion-y pancake!
1. Easy or Hard? - Pretty easy! The rolling of the dough was kind of difficult, but someone with more skill with a rolling pin would have a better time.
2. Yuck or Yum? - Yum yum yum. You could definitely eat them on their own, but I had them with a soy sauce based dipping sauce. The only issue was that they were a little bit doughy on the inside. But still tasty!
3. Ingredients Accessible or Not? - Super accessible! This recipe has six ingredients at all, which you can find at any kind of grocery store! This is the perfect street food recipe for someone who doesn't have an Asian grocery store nearby.
Find the recipe here!
3 Brown Sugar Buns (Tangsanjiao)
To be accurate, brown sugar buns are more of a Dim Sum treat than a street food. Still, they're a delicious and easy treat to make at home.
They're a soft dough filled with a brown sugar and sesame seed mixture, then steamed to make them nice and gooey.
This recipe was fun to make. I used my leftover dough from my pork buns and filled it with a mixture of brown sugar, sesame seeds, and flour. Then I steamed them.
I was worried that as the sugar melted it would run out, but it didn't. My biggest issue was that I messed up the ratio of brown sugar to bun, as you can see in the photo! So the buns were a little dry.
1. Easy or Hard? - Pretty easy! I'd say this is a foolproof recipe, and a great way to use up extra bun dough.
2. Yuck or Yum? - Meh. The recipe calls for adding flour to the sugar to make it less runny when it melts, but I found it made the buns taste slightly bitter. They were okay, but I'd rather eat other things.
3. Ingredients Accessible or Not? - Very accessible! All you need are basic dough ingredients, sesame seeds, and sugar!
Try the recipe here.
4 Biang Biang Noodles
Biang Biang noodles are a type of noodles from Xi'an. They're named for the sound the dough makes as you slap it against a surface to stretch it into noodles. It's an increasingly popular dish in America lately for its delicious salty, sour, spicy taste.
Guys... this was a disaster. Everything went wrong. I followed the recipe exactly, but one disaster after another happened.
My noodles broke when I tried to 'biang' them. My sauce came out so salty that it hurt to eat. And to top it all off, it looked nothing like the pretty pictures in the recipe. HUGE FAIL.
1. Easy or Hard? - So hard. So so hard. It looks simple on the surface, but actually hand-stretching the noodles just didn't work out for me.
2. Yuck or Yum? - So salty that I couldn't eat it. I'm sure it would have been yummy otherwise. I'm not sure where I went wrong! Maybe too much soy sauce.
3. Ingredients Accessible or Not? - Not that accessible. You need ingredients like Sichuan peppercorns and Chinese black vinegar.
I was able to find them at a Korean grocery store, but not everyone has one of those near them. You might have to order some ingredients online for this recipe.
Try the recipe (if you dare) here!