We've all had those moments at one point or another: you're out and about in the city, and suddenly, your nose is engulfed by the gastronomical smells of the night. Your tummy grumbles, and you know that you can hardly survive without satisfying the munchies. What to do? What to eat? The options are plenty; here are a few good ones.
1) Chuanr 串儿
The mainstay of street food anywhere in China is chuanr (串儿). Most people, Chinese and foreigners alike, cannot resist the smell of cumin and coriander in the air as it leads them from the bar to the streets – you may as well call the vendor the Pied Piper! One of the most popular types of this delicacy with foreigners is definitely yang rou chuanr (羊肉串儿), but the stands usually have different varieties of meat and vegetables – including fish, octopus, chicken gristle and chicken wings, kidneys, shrimp, mantou (steamed bread), green beans, cauliflower, eggplant and numerous other options. This staple of Chinese food is most often masterfully prepared by people from the Uyghur ethnic group from Xinjiang, who always know just the right balance of spices and lajiao (辣椒) to add to your kebab of this legendary street food. It goes down really well with an ice cold beer!
Image source: chinatravel20.com
It's summer. School's out, foreign students are arriving for summer programs and tourists are plenty. With the nights long and balmy, the munchies are guaranteed to kick in at some point. Crayfish (xiao long xia 小龙虾) is a great summertime snack and it's enjoyed in many Chinese cities – particularly those close to rivers or the ocean. In these cities, it's not hard to find restaurants specializing in crayfish, crabs and many open until the early hours of the morning to accommodate the hungry masses. There are many ways to cook them – ranging from gan bian (stir fry), jiao yan (spicy salt), xiang la (fragrant and spicy) and hong shao (braised) – it really depends on the restaurant and of course, your own preferences.
These kinds of restaurants also often serve decently priced crabs, spicy squilla (a weird looking but very delicious cousin of the prawn), grilled oysters, mussels, scallops and abalone at great prices. Naturally, every restaurant has its own special take and own “secret recipes”, but they are most often doused in oil, chili and garlic or black bean sauce and garlic. Personally, the idea of baskets of spicy xiao long xia, grilled garlic filled oysters and a couple of cold ones on a balmy Shanghai night fills me up with enough excitement to get together with some friends, and head over to a restaurant now!
3) Lanzhou La Mian 兰州拉面
These popular noodles can be found in the halaal restaurants run by Lanzhou natives across China. If you've seen the noodle-maker in action as they pull, stretch and twist these noodles, you appreciate the art and dedication that goes into each bowl of hearty goodness. These noodles are most often served with beef or mutton – stir fried or as a soup and are always a great late night munchies go-to for the not-so-sober revelers of China.
4) Rou Jia Mo 肉夹馍
The Chinese take on Shawarma is pretty awesome. The freshly made pita bread is filled with saucy pork or lamb, chopped and mixed with coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper (and sometimes lettuce), and is guaranteed to satisfy the biggest munchies. Ok, I kid – this snack is known to have even the drunkest party animals coming back for more.
5) Jian Bing Guo Zi 煎饼馃子
If you get kicked out of stumble out of the bar late enough/early enough (depending on which way you look at it), you will be lucky enough to catch the city's breakfast vendors plying their trade. These savory crepes are cooked on a griddle, an egg is added to it and fried, then some chives, onions and sauce are added and topped with a crispy fried dough stick – the guozi – before it's delicately folded for your enjoyment. Jian bing guozi have the perfect level of grease to carry the average late night/early morning reveler into the morning.
While snacks are delicious, plenty and cheap in China, one should always remember that many of the snacks or street foods are considered junk foods. In addition to the various food scandals that we often become numb to, it is important to remember that eating junk food comes at a price; whether the oil it's fried in is new or old, the fact is that it's still fried, so it's important to remember not to overindulge – as tempting as it often is – regardless of what kind of food you're eating.
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Keywords: late night snacks China what to eat in China food safety in China chuanr in China Chinese street food
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Chuanr? Never heard kaurou called that before and I live in Xinjiang. My fave kaorou is yang pai. They reckon it's from the rib but I'm certain it's from the spine. The Hui joint near my place has cold beer...I wouldn't go so far as to say it's 'ice cold' but compared to what's on in the rest of China it's a winner. Going there this arvy, after the footy's over. We'll sit outside and drink beer and eat kaorou. Why not!
Jun 29, 2014 15:04 Report Abuse
I just had to laugh at one of the comments of how "it goes down really well with an ice cold beer!", really, what street vender do you get your ice cold beer from? Hell when can you even buy ICE COLD any type of drink in China? Oh and I'm Living in Nanning and for me that's the hardest for me to get is ICE COLD! ? OK I just had to laugh!
Oct 23, 2012 03:27 Report Abuse