Street Food: The #1 Reason to Visit China

I’m working on putting together an epic post about my recent trip to Beijing with Matt, and in the meantime, I’d like to follow up our engagement post with- what else?- a tour of the street food that I love so well in China.  (I’m so romantic.)  This is also a bit of a Beijing preview since some of these pictures come from Wangfujing Snack Street, a place you must absolutely visit if you find yourself in China’s capital city.
I’ll start with breakfast.  On many mornings, Trisha and I (and now Matt) enjoy baozi, or steamed stuffed buns.  You can find these in many varieties: stuffed with tofu, mushrooms, and spinach, or spicy noodles, or pork and celery, or pickles, or sweet red bean paste.  All of them are pretty awesome, and even better, dirt cheap.
I must pay homage to my favorite milk tea stand.  Sometimes a breakfast drink, you can enjoy milk teas at any time of the day or night.  Interesting sidebar: it’s very, very difficult to find a milk tea in Beijing.  Every time I turn around in Hangzhou, I’m facing a milk tea stand, but in Beijing, it’s a rarity.  Those northerners don’t know what they’re missing.

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Sometimes for lunch on the weekends, I stop by this man’s stand to buy this fried sort of wrap thing.  It involves a bit of dough, a hot griddle, an egg, some lettuce, a big fat piece of bacon, and some unnamed sauces.  I heart these.  This guy is super friendly too.
These little pancakes are filled with green onions, and they’re a common afternoon snack.  This lady makes the best, in my opinion.  While others lay the onions lengthwise in the pancake, she cuts them into little circles, guaranteeing that oniony zing in every bite.
These banana leaves are stuffed with rice and steamed.  I don’t often get these, but we tried one in Suzhou, and it was pretty tasty.
Down by campus, there’s an area we commonly refer to as The Corner, or University Corner.  It’s this great little conglomeration of shops and street food stands.  For 5 RMB, I can get a big bowl of fried noodles and veggies for lunch.

While the location of our apartment is pretty sweet for its proximity to the lake and great restaurants, it’s also really close to what must be the most popular steamed bun place in the whole city.  These buns are special for a few reasons: 1) they’re made of corn; 2) they’re kind of sweet; and 3) they have crunchy bottoms.  There is always, always, always a line to get these, and lots of people walk away with big bags of 30 or 40 of them.

The buns steam in these big circular tins while spinning around.  People will wait for up to an hour to get their hands on a few, depending on how long the line is.

Worth every minute in line.
Hangzhou is a great place for street food, but so is Beijing.  The following pictures were all taken on the Snack Street part of Wangfujing Dajie.  This was our first day in Beijing, and we kicked it off right.
These are called tang hu lu, and I love them.  Hawthorne berries with a light coating of caramelized sugar.  One of my favorite snacks in China.

I’ll let the following video introduce the next treat we tried on Wangfujing.  Squirmy little guys.  Tasted like fried fish.
These next pictures are of foods that we didn’t try (for, I think, obvious reasons) but that were too photogenic to pass up.

Baby pigeons.

Big scorpions and beetles and starfish and a lizard (lower left).

Assortment of creepy-crawlies.

Big ol’ bucket of squid tentacles.
Notice the tarantulas in the far left of this picture.
Back to food we did try.

Fried dough with green onions.
Fried squid.  These skewers are favorites of mine back in Hangzhou, too.

By this time, we were pretty full, but there was still a lot to try.  Which means we’ll have to go back to Beijing someday.
Gigantic snails.

Crabs and shrimp.
One of our favorite spots to grab a quick bite in Beijing was this Night Market that ran perpendicular to Wangfujing Street.  Stall after stall after stall of vendors lobby hard for the attention of the passersby.  We tried quite a few dishes here: stir fried noodles, crab steamed buns, fried bananas, beef-marinated noodles.  You could also get snake-on-a-stick here.

By day.
By night.
Matt and I are planning a trip on Thursday to Hangzhou’s own Snack Street, off of Hefang Road, and we’re going to try the Beggar’s Chicken.  This is a bird buried in the ground and cooked by the fire built on top of it.  It’s served in a shell of caked and baked mud.  I can’t wait.  You see now why it’s important in many ways that I’m training for a marathon.  Otherwise, I might need to buy another seat on my flight home.

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