Discover the Irresistible Flavors of China: 15 Must-Try Street Foods

Written by Ruru Zhou Updated Apr. 11, 2023

In China, the most authentic local flavors are not found in restaurants, but rather in street food stalls. Street food is an important part of Chinese cuisine culture.  The strange and delicious food sold in the narrow alleys reveals the fascinating eating customs of China. If you are a food lover,  exploring China's street food is an absolute must. 

1. Stinky Tofu

Stinky Tofui in Changsha

Stinky Tofu(臭豆腐 chòu dòu fu) is definitely the most unique street food in China. It is a form of fermented soybean curd with a strong odor. Some people may find it unpleasant while others really enjoy it.  

Although stinky tofu is sold on food streets throughout China, the best place to try it is in Changsha, Hunan province, where it is particularly famous. Changsha Stinky Tofu is renowned throughout China for its unique flavor and texture.

2.  Jianbing Guozi

Jianbing Guozi (煎饼果子 jiān bǐng guǒ zǐ) is a very convenient and famous street breakfast in China. It is a kind of thin pancake seasoned with garlic chili sauce or fried chili pepper, scallions, and eggs. 

It is made by spreading the batter on the heated flat iron plate and then adding other ingredients.   Once cooked, it is rolled up and put into a small bag. 

If you like authentic local dishes, you will definitely need to try this dish. 

3. Steamed Buns

steamed buns, shanghai

Steamed buns are a very common food and one of the most-eaten breakfasts in China. There are various fillings for the buns such as pork, beef, vegetables, and sweet stuffings like red bean paste, and black sesame seed with sugar. 

The buns are usually steamed in a steamer. They are soft and fluffy. Steamed buns are commonly eaten as a snack and breakfast in China.  

5. Stir-Fried Rice Noodles

Stir-Fried Rice Noodleschow mein

Stir-fried rice noodles (炒粉 chǎo fěn) are a traditional Cantonese snack that was first popular in Shahe Town, Guangzhou Province, and later spread to other cities of Guangdong and other provinces in China.

Usually, stir-fried rice noodles are paired with crisp-tender peppers, carrots, onions, and Chinese cabbage.

6. Chinese Pancakes

Chinese pancake(煎饼 jiān bing)is a very famous food for breakfast or as a snack. 

The pancake is thin and round, and it tastes crispy.  When eating, different fillings and sauces can be added according to personal preferences, such as crispy crackers, ham, scallion, and chili sauce. It is usually folded several times before being eaten.

8. Xiaolongbao


Xiaolongbao(小笼包 xiǎo lóng bāo) is the most famous street snack in Shanghai. Nan Xiang xiaolongbao has considered the must-eat local food for all visitors to Shanghai.

Nanxiang xiaolongbao features thin skin, tender meat, and rich soup. The fillings are usually pork. Chicken broth is used to cook the pork skin, which is then mixed into the filling to enhance the flavor

9. Zongzi


Zongzi(粽子 zòng zi)is a popular food in China that is commonly eaten for breakfast or as a snack, not just during the Dragon Boat Festival. Hot zongzi can be found at local markets and food streets in every Chinese city. 

The most common filling for Zongzi is pork, but there are also sweet fillings such as red beans. 

10. Chinese Fried Dough

You tiao sold at a local food street

Chinese Fried Dough(油条 yóu tiáo), also known as Youtiao, is a long, hollow, deep-fried dough with a crispy texture and a chewy center. It is a popular breakfast food in China, often paired with soybean milk.

In the Guangxi province of South China, it is commonly cut into pieces and added to rice noodle soup. For the best taste and texture, it is recommended to eat it hot and fresh.

11. Saokao - Street Barbecue

A stall selling Shaokao

Saokao(烧烤shāo kǎo) is definitely the most popular street food in China. Usually, there are several stalls selling it on every food street in China. 

Meat (pork, beef, or mutton), seafood,  vegetables, and Tofu are skewered in small sticks and then cooked over heated charcoal. Once cooked, it is often sprinkled with pepper powder to enhance its flavor.

12. Sugar-coated Hawthorn

Sugar-coated Hawthorn

Sugar-coated hawthorn(糖葫芦táng hú lu) is originally a popular snack in North China, especially in Beijing, but now you can find it everywhere in China. 

It is usually made by skewering hawthorn and coating it with hardened sugar syrup. The snack has a sour and sweet taste. 

The snack originated in the Southern Song Dynasty over 800 years ago. It was made by skewering wild fruits onto bamboo sticks and coating them with maltose syrup. 

13. Food in Spicy Hot Pot

Ma La tang

Mala Tang (麻辣烫 má là tàng) is a popular Chinese dish that consists of a mini spicy hot pot filled with a variety of fresh ingredients, such as meat and vegetables. 

The dish is cooked on the spot, and the ingredients are typically displayed in front of the stalls for customers to choose from. Simply select your desired ingredients and ask the retailer to boil them in the flavorful broth.

14. Roujiamo

Roujiamo, xian

Roujiamo(肉夹馍rou jia mo) is a very famous snack in Xian. It consists of a baked flatbread with meat stuffed into it. The meat, usually pork and beef,  is thoroughly braised with several spices until it tastes tender.  The meat is then chopped into pieces and mixed with coriander before being stuffed into the flatbread. 

Roujiamo has very good taste and is one of the most beloved foods among foreign travelers to China. 

15. Iron Plate Tofu

Iron Plate Tofu

Whether in a market, night market, or roadside stall, you often see small stalls selling "iron plate tofu". On the iron plate, pieces of tofu are sizzling and frying, with both sides turning crispy and golden brown.

The tofu is brushed with a secret spicy sauce on both sides and finally sprinkled with chopped scallions and cilantro before being served in a disposable paper bowl. When you take a bite, the outside is crispy while the inside is tender, leaving a lingering fragrance in your mouth. 

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