Living in China 101: Streetfood

Note: This post was ported over from an old blog and originally written in September 2013, when I  was living in the bonafide sticks in Hunan Province, China.

Once you’ve been in China for a while, and you’ve hardened your stomach a little, you soon realise that streetfood is one of the best things about the country. You know what I’m talking about; those food carts that line the streets selling an assortment of “fast food”, fruits, desserts and anything else your tastebuds may like. They’re pretty much found in every Asian country, although more ubiquitous in some than others.

For obvious reasons, some of their sanitary standards are questionable – the most prevalent in China being the use of “gutter oil” – reusing the oil to cook the food….yeah I try not to think about it too much.

Anyway, streetfood vendors are often found clumped around certain pedestrian-heavy areas, including schools and universities. The university I work at is no different – streetfood vendors line the streets near the entrance from morning to night. And I personally love them – they are a cheap, convenient, and delicious way to satisfy any meal when I don’t feel like cooking and/or have run out of ingredients for the week. Especially if you are strolling about alone, and can’t be bothered going into a restaurant/eatery and sitting down, you can grab something very decent in 5 mins from one of the streetfood carts for between AUD$0.50c ~ $2.

Furthermore, you don’t even have to know any Chinese to order! No strange kanji-filled menus to plow through, no waitress hovering above you impatiently. Just point and pay. Although they often ask if you want chilli, so you should learn that much at least.    

Now, two of the absolute favourite things I like to order are:

1. 煎饼: the closest thing you can get to a crepe in China

煎饼 Chinese version of crepe
A regular guilty pleasure.

This thing is so good. They make it in front of you too, so it’s guaranteed to be hot and fresh (well the crepe itself is, can’t say much for the ingredients wrapped inside). It’s basically a crepe with egg, spring onion, lettuce, some gravy, some crispy thing, and pickled carrot/radish mix. You can add additional things like sausage and/or chicken, but I feel the standard suffices. Best of all, it’s only 3.5 RMB. That’s about 60 cents AUD.

2. 铁板烧 – Chinese-styled teppanyaki

铁板烧 Chinese-styled teppanyaki noodles
Spicy enough that it burns to go to the toilet the next day.

Basically you pick whatever base you want (rice, bee hoon, flat white noodles) and they will stir fry it with an egg, vegetables, chilli and other condiments in front of you to produce a fried rice/fried noodle mix. Although, I think the guy put too much chilli the previous time I ordered, because…let’s just say going to the toilet later was not so pleasant. XD Anyway, it’s really tasty and filling, and it costs only 5 RMB (~AUD$1). 

That’s what I’ve tried and really liked so far. I’ll be sure to update if I discover any other tantalizing streetfood. Of course, the fruit is always good, especially in summer!

All this food talk is making me hungry….time to head out and see what’s appetising tonight!

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