While eating street food here, you might think that eating the street food in China is a bad idea and say, “Never will I eat that!” However, I can tell you that soon you’ll be saying “Daily!”
Spit it Out, This Isn’t Food!
At least that is what the small Western voice in your head is saying, annoying you while you are chewing on things that you never would have dreamed of eating before coming to China.
Sadly, you won’t see me eating a scorpion on a stick. If I dared to eat that, I would be grinning in the camera saying “yes, I am a badass!”
I also don’t want to tell you about what you should or shouldn’t try, but I will give advice to help prepare you for the wonders of Chinese street food- especially in Qingdao.
One of the best “pancakes” (jiānbǐng) in Qingdao in process
First Things First
If you want a nice tidy kitchen, then you better stay at home where you will not have to look at messy street food stalls- but you also will miss some of the best food out there. I had my first encounter with street food on the street right behind the University.
Variety of Food
The difference between Chinese and Western street food, that I have seen, is obviously the variety and amount of food offered.
On one stand you will find a type of pancake, “jiānbǐng” (煎饼), which can be filled with vegetables, crispy wonton or meat.
The always grinning guy from the other stand will give you some spicy chicken meat in a tasty sauce on potatoes, and with an even broader grin he will ask if you want an egg with it.
You will also find the so called Chinese hamburger, or “rou jia mo” (肉夹馍), so called because they both have meat and bread! You will find a guy using a scraper, normally used for plaster, to create flatbread. You will see another guy, with his mouth covered by a mask, mixing the cold ingredients you choose by yourself, such as peanuts, noodles, peppers, ginger, salad, tofu, seaweed and so on, in a bowl, and he will then give you your food directly in a plastic bag.
You will have the agile couple trying to break a record in preparing your meal as fast as possible. Him, hammering around like a lunatic on his iron hot plate, her, throwing the ingredients for fried noodles directly in front of his constantly moving spatula. You will find a competing couple selling chicken kebab with rice. Their arms and hands, heads, legs, knees and toes will be covered, to prevent them getting brown skin from the sun, while you will stand there, wearing a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, sweating.
But If you are hungry after a long day of travelling or sightseeing, no need to worry. Qingdao can help you out with BBQ on the streets, so search for what you want, sit down and wait for your meal to be prepared over charcoal fire.
Long story short, it is crazy the variety you have with street food, and you can go every day and eat something different. And the best thing is, as far as I got to know, it is the same everywhere! The people and ingredients may vary but the system is the same.
One of the best things to add, street food is there for you night and day!
What Street Food to Eat
So, what should you pay attention to?
First, you should apply one rule to all the food you eat, if you eat it and it tastes bad or unusual in a way, then follow your inner voice- spit it out! This may sound hard but believe me, if you don’t want to know what “la duzi” is, follow this advice! You wouldn’t eat bad food at home, so don’t do it in China.
Don’t hesitate to push your way to the front- “active-queuing” is a very popular sport in China! Be prepared to stand your ground and be firm, or you may lose your spot to an old lady who took advantage of the space you left.
When you find yourself standing in front of a vendor, you’ll be asked, “What? How much? Spicy?” You will have a hard time answering in English, but if you have an index-finger attached to your arm you will get what you want with pointing. Nodding and shaking your head is also optional!
Last but not least, for your own health follow some simple rules; go to the stalls that have people queuing up, and to those who are there every day. You can be sure their food is good!
After my visit to Jiuzhai Gou National Park a couple of weeks ago, I took the train directly to Chongqing and traveled for about 3.5 hours. The high-speed train takes only 2 hours, but since April 4 is “Tomb Sweeping Day”, many people travel around and I was not able to buy a high speed train ticket.
Chongqing is a large and flourishing mountain city. I stayed for three nights at the home of a friend I met online. She took me for a lot of great local food and gave me a great introduction to the city in only two days.
The first day, after she took me for some local spicy sweet-potato noodles, I took the metro to Ciqikou Old Town. The tea houses in Ciqikou are very famous in Chongqing so I really wanted to experience the tea lifestyle there. I also found that they have many local snacks and some very special street food. Ciqikou is the best place to try local food and buy gifts for friends.
The second day, I went to meet another friend at the touristic center of Chongqing, Jiefangbei. They have lots of shopping malls around and a very famous food street. After a quick lunch with my friend, I went back to my host’s home. That afternoon, her American flatmate drove me around the city on his motorbike and we even went to the peak of Chongqing.
After such a beautiful day, the fun continued: I went to a BBQ party with my friends, at a house located inside a university campus on the peak of the mountain. This is the best place for a night view of the city. I enjoyed the beautiful night view, drank some Shancheng beer and had some great BBQ. I felt like I didn’t want to leave Chongqing!
I have been to many places in China, but I can honestly say Chongqing is one of my favorite cities. I like the street life, always lively, I never saw an empty street. I also like the friendly people, the great food, the relaxing tea culture and the traditional and internationally mixed city. I hope I can go back soon!