China has many amazing and delicious foods to try. Similar to the US, each region has a distinct way of cooking and is known for its signature dishes. Many people, however, are not aware of the street food culture. Within any given city one can find food stalls selling all kinds of delicious treats. From spicy, full on dinners to light and airy snacks, there’s something for everyone. Upon moving to Xuchang (my Chinese city), I was curious about Chinese street food and wondered if it was anything like famous Thai cuisine. Well, with some trial and error and a little help from my friends, I am slowly but surely plunging into the world of Chinese street food. Here’s a look at some of the local favorites.
Some people like French Fries. Some like Sweet Potato Fries. But how about Chinese Sweet Potato Fries that have been Americanized? A local favorite in Xuchang is Sweet Potato Fries with all the fixings. This includes cinnamon sugar, ketchup, and mayonnaise. When I first arrived, I only knew about the cinnamon sugar sweet potato fries. It wasn’t until I went to snack street near campus that I tried the fries with all the fixings. You don’t have to get the ketchup and mayonnaise, of course. But the flavors of hot fried sugary, salty goodness is to die for.
If you’re looking for something a bit more authentic, you can try a tasty local drink. While I don’t know what this one is called, one could probably find it going off of a description. Vendors put all kinds of earthy goodies into a pink, gooey paste. You can request what goes in the concoction, such as nuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, hawthorn bits, and so on. All of this is mixed into a type of jelly preserve. The result is a smooth, hot drink that warms your bones in the winter time. A delicious drink not to be missed!
Another tasty treat is Kao Leng Mian. This local Xuchang dish is made of a type of flat, fried noodle. It is covered in a moderately spicy sauce with salt, pepper, and cilantro. You can request sausage or bacon if you want meat.
The first time I tried Kao Leng Mian, I was with some local students. A girl came up to me at the bus stop a few days before and started asking me questions about myself. I was surprised at her good English. As I’ve mentioned before, very few people here speak English. Mary was about the 5th person I’d met off campus who could speak decent English in about seven months. We hit it off instantly and before I knew it, she and her friend Sarah were showing me the local cuisine. It never ceases to amaze me how having a little help can make life so much easier!
The street-side snacks that I mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. It seems that each city has its own unique spin on Chinese food and that the breadth and depth of presentation, scents, and flavors are quite varied. For sure, Chinese food in China isn’t your typical American Chinese buffet!