Category Archives: regional specialities

Shāokǎo / Chuàn’r – Barbecued Skewers/Kebabs – 烧烤 / 串儿

Easily found by the billowing smoke and strong smells that trail its coal burners, shāokǎo/chuàn’r  (Chinese: 烧烤 / 串儿) street stands corner nearly every street as soon as the sun begins setting until the early hours the next morning. Whether they’re found inside a hole-in-the-wall or pitched on a wooden tricycle, their stands are always easily spotted for the colorful array of skewers that lay side by side on display. Everything from skewered vegetables, sliced baozis, different types of tofu, chicken gizzards, whole fish or mutton pierced onto bamboo sticks sit in open air or under plastic-wrapped for customers to customize their selection. Skewers are heavily seasoned with a brush of oil and chili sauce and a sprinkle of a variety of spices such as spices like cumin, coriander, cayenne, dried chili pepper, paprika, pepper, and MSG. Locals typically pile on order of shao kao to accompany a beer while playing games of Chinese dice. Prices range per skewer, with vegetables, baozis, and tofu for 1 kuai, meats and poultry from 2-3 kuai, and seafood for up to 8 kuai.

The variety of skewers/kebabs can range from vendor to vendor. It typically includes poultry (gizzards, kidney, hearts, skins, seasoned white and dark meat, and wings), beef chunks (each varying with amount of fat chunks and tendon), pork (seasoned meat, intestine, fat chunks), fish, scallops, octopus, squid, different types of bean curd or tofu, eggplant, sliced potato, broccoli, squash, cauliflower, scallions, chives, shiitake mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, quail eggs, baozi, and korean rice cakes. The skewers are brushed with sesame oil, chili sauce, and sprinkled with a variety of spices such as spices like cumin, coriander, cayenne, dried chili pepper, paprika, pepper, and MSG.

You can usually differentiate shao kao stands to chuanr stands because the latter is usually sold alongside round flatbreads or xiànr bǐng 馅饼 that serve as a mechanism for the kebabs to rest on or placed inside. These breads are also placed onto the grill and seasoned before being served.

Cooking Method:
The skewers/kebabs are lined up over long, narrow charcoal grills, brushed with oil and chili sauce, and seasoned with a variety of spices. They are constantly churned and fanned until cooked and ready to be served.

According to the Chinese classical text, San Zi Jing (Three Character Classic), early ancestors would hunt animals by spearing them. As a means to help his people, emperor Fuxi made a net and taught civilians how to fish and hunt birds and animals. Another issue arose when people were forced to eat their game and catch raw, which not only tasted terrible but also caused people to become sick. To save the day, Fuxi stole fire from the heavens and taught people how to barbecue shaokao so that people could become healthier.

The term chuanr is derived from the Xinjiang province of China, classified as a type of kebab traditionally made from lamb meat. It is a product of the Chinese Islamic cuisine of the Chinese Muslim population, specifically Uyghurs. They are just one of the many different types of food that reflect a deviation from chinese cuisine and a closer resemblance to that of Middle Eastern cuisine, such as halal food, that migrated over to China by the arrival of Islamic heritage.

Related Cuisine:
Xinjiang cuisine

Shāomai – Shanghai glutinous rice dumpling – 烧麦

Typically sold alongside baozi inside stacks of steaming bamboo baskets, shāomai (Chinese: 烧麦) are wonton-skins wrapped around savory glutinous rice with its skin gathered at the top. The street food is typically eaten as a hand-held breakfast staple and sold for 1.5 yuan.

It is a popular street food snack that has been gradually introduced to provinces throughout China, where it has adapted to different regional tastes that have changed its ingredients and forms in various ways. In the southern provinces of Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Jiansu, the radical “mai” in shaomai means to sell, while in Northern provinces of Beijing and Inner Mongolia, the radical “mai” in shaomai means wheat. Regardless of the region’s form of Chinese character, Chinese people know shaomai as a type of dumpling made with flour that is made with baking powder and with a skin that gathers at the top to resemble a pomegranate.

Shaomai consists of glutinous rice balls seasoned with scallions, minced pork, mushrooms, soy sauce, and salt. They are wrapped around thin wonton skins.

Cooking Method:
Ground pork is seasoned with salt and minced scallions and pan-fried. Shiitake mushrooms are minced and slightly cooked. Glutinous rice (nuomi) is first steamed and then combined with the ground pork, mushrooms, and soy sauce until the rice is dyed a light brown color. The seasoned rice is wrapped around a thin wonton skin and cooked in a bamboo steamer for 5 minutes. They are left in the steamer to stay warm, and served directly from it.

History :
The earliest historical record of shaomai dates back to the 14th century during the late Yuan Dynasty and early Ming Dynasty in a Korean-Chinese textbook called “Pu Tong Yan Jie”, which mentions the street food. It is said that the name comes from having a similar appearanceto taohua, which means peach blossom. During the Qian Long periodof the Qing Dynasty, it also appeared in a line of a poem that stated, “Shao mai huntun lie man pan,” which describes how people ate shaomai alongside dumplings on a plate. Several different fillings are described in the Qingping Shangtang, including vegetable, lamb, chicken, pheasant, sesame, plum, and lamb.

While there are various textual recordings of the street food’s existence, its geographical origins are traced to the Inner Mongolia province, where Qing Dynasty merchants would visit tea houses where they were served and bring them along with them as they traveled throughout the surrounding areas.

Possible Variations:
Siumai – Cantonese pork and mushroom dumpling
Huhhot shaomai – sheep dumpling
Hunan shaomai– chrysanthemum dumpling
Jiangnan shaomai – Jiangnan dumpling
Yifeng shaomai – Jiangxi dumpling

Related Cuisine:
Shanghai cuisine


Guō tiē – Potsticker dumplings – 鍋貼

Typically pan-fried and served alongside sheng jian bao, guō tiē (Chinese: 鍋貼) are a common Shanghai street food snack sold throughout the day. These Northern Chinese style dumplings are larger in size, with thicker, chewier skins and a juicy pork filling. They are typically sold in small bags of four for 3 kuai.

The dough of the dumpling is made from water and flour. Though the fillings can range from vegetables to chicken or beef, the most common street food guo tie are filled with juicy ground pork. The minced pork filling is seasoned with salt, pepper, and minced chives.

Cooking Method:
The Chinese method of preparing dough first pours boiling water onto the flour and allows it to stand for a few minutes before adding a small quantity of cold water. This allows for the gluten to activate in the dough. After the dough of the guo tie is made, smaller balls are individually formed to be rolled out into circles with thinner edges. The ground pork mixture is placed in the center of the dough and folded inside. Once the dumplings are prepared, a shallow, round pan is filled with a bit of water. The dumplings are placed, fold-side up, into the pan usually alongside sheng jian baos. A wooden top is used to cover and steam the dumplings and buns before oil is added in order for one side of the skin to crisp up. The pan is given a shake in order to prevent the dough from sticking to the bottom and the pan is rotated a few times before being opened up again in order to be sprinkled with minced scallions. The dumplings are left in the pan for their bottoms to become a crisp, golden brown and their tops to be steamed and slightly chewy.

History :
The broader term for guotie is jiaozi, which means dumpling. Legends say that during the later years of the Eastern Han Period, one of the most well-known Chinese physicians, Zhang Zhongjing, invented a food to help peasants stay warm during the cold winter. He filled the dumpling with hot pepper and medicinal material as fillings.

Possible Variations:
shuǐjiǎo – boiled dumplings
zhēngjiǎo – steamed dumplings
dànjiǎo – egg wrapped dumplings


Shēng Jiān Bāo – Pan-fried buns – 生煎包

Shēng jiān bāo (Chinese: 生煎包) is one of the most popular street foods found in Shanghai. It is made from semi-leavened dough, wrapped around a ball of seasoned ground pork and a gelatinized soup filling. Minced scallions and sesame seeds are sprinkled onto the buns during the cooking process. The name of the bun comes from its method of cooking, during which the balls of stuffed dough are lined up in a round, shallow pan filled with oil. When the fillings are added, the bottom of the buns form a “knot,” which is the side that faces downwards in direct contact with the oiled pan. This side of the bun becomes golden and crispy during the cooking process, creating a tasty contrast in texture.

After the buns are done cooking, the buns become fluffy and bready on one side and crispy on the other. The proper way to eat the bun is to take a small bite out of the soft side in order to prevent the melted soup from bursting out and to allow the inside to cool down before consuming the entire bun. The buns are sold in groups of four, usually eaten during breakfast time. Traditionally, the buns are eaten alongside a bowl of beef brisket soup and a side of black vinegar to cut the oil. The buns are typically served to-go in a small paper bag for portability. Although they are more commonly sold during early hours of the day, some shops sell them at all hours as a snack.

The flour is made from flour, water, yeast, and salt. Inside, soup gelatin is made from pork skin, garlic, scallions, ginger, water, salt, and pork bone. The minced pork meat filling is seasoned with rice win, finger, scallion, salt, sugar, soy sauce, white pepper, and sesame oil.

Cooking Method:
Flour, water, yeast, and salt are combined together to form a dough. The mixture is left to rise in a warm, humid area. The ingredients for the soup gelatin are all combined in a stock pot and cooked for hours until the pig’s skin dissolves. The meat mixture is combined well before being formed into smaller portions to be filled inside the pieces of dough along with a chunk of jelly. The dough is ticked in tightly with a top knot and the pieces are closely packed into a large shallow griddle, often side by side to guo tie because they’re cooked in the same way. The buns are sprinkled with minced scallions and either white or black sesame seeds. A bit of oil is poured over the top as the skillet is moved around so to prevent the bottoms of the bun from sticking. After a crust has formed on one side, water is added to the pan and a heavy wooden lid is placed over the griddle to steam the soft tops of the buns.

Over a century ago, shengjianbao were served as snacks to accompany tea as something to enjoy before or after dinner. It soon grew in popularity as a street food because it was both quick and portable. Those who were too impatient to eat were said to be easily “fried” in the hot soup if they took a bite too soon.

Possible Variations:
Niu rou bao – Pan-fried beef buns

Related Cuisine:
Shanghai cuisine


Xiao Long Bao – Soup Dumplings – 小笼包

Xiaolongbao (simplified Chinese: 小笼包; traditional Chinese: 小籠包; pinyin: xiǎolóngbāo) is a type of steamed bun or baozi from the Jiangnan region of China, especially Shanghai and Wuxi. It is traditionally steamed in small bamboo baskets, hence the name (xiaolong is literally small steaming basket). Xiaolongbao are often referred to as soup dumplings or simply dumplings in English.[1]

Xiaolongbao are known as siohlon-meudoe[citation needed] /siɔ33lǫ̃44-mø22dɤ⁺44/ in Shanghainese (simplified Chinese: 小笼馒头; traditional Chinese: 小籠饅頭; pinyin: xiǎolóng mántóu). Mantou describes both filled and unfilled buns in northern China, but only describes unfilled buns in southern China.

The characters that make up “xiaolongbao” translate literally to “small”, “steaming basket” and “steamed buns (baozi)”, and the whole term may be literally translated as “little-basket buns”. The appearance of xiaolongbao and jiaozi (dumpling) has meant that the xiaolongbao is sometimes classified as a dumpling outside of China. It is, however, distinct from both steamed and boiled jiaozi in texture and method of production, and is never regarded as a jiaozi (which is more usually translated as dumpling) inside China. As is traditional for buns of various sizes in the Jiangnan region, xiaolongbao are pinched at the top prior to steaming, so the skin has a circular cascade of ripples around the crown, whereas jiaozi are usually made from a round piece of dough folded in half, and pinched along the semicircle. Instead, xiaolongbao is usually regarded as belonging to a whole family of various steamed buns of various sizes sometimes collectively known as tang bao, literally “soup bun”

more/from wikipedia

Photo Credit to:,_Arcadia.jpg


Rou Jia Mo – Shaan Xi Style Sandwich – 肉夹馍

Rou jia mo, sometimes spelled roujiamo (Chinese: 肉夹馍; pinyin: ròu jīa mó), meaning “meat burger” or “meat sandwich,” is a street food originating from Shaanxi Province and now widely consumed all over China. The meat is most commonly pork, stewed for hours in a soup consisting of over 20 kinds of spices and seasonings. Although it is possible to use only a few spices (which many vendors do), the resulting meat is less flavourful. There are many alternative fillings available, for example in Muslim areas in Xi’an, the meat is usually beef (prepared Kabob style and seasoned with cumin and pepper), and in Gansu it is often lamb. The meat is then minced into fine shreds or chopped, then mixed with coriander and mild peppers, and stuffed in “Mo”, a type of flatbread. An authentic Mo is made from wheat flour which is made into a batter and stirred repeatedly for an extended period of time and then baked in a clay or mud oven, but now in many parts of China, Mo is made in a frying pan or a pressure cooker (some even substitute the real Mo with a steamed bun), and the resulting taste diverges significantly from the authentic clay oven-baked version. Depending on the types of spices used to cook the meat and the way the bread is made, the taste of rou jia mo (roujiamo) can vary greatly from vendor to vendor.

Rou jia mo costs around 6 yuan in most parts of China[citation needed] and is considered China’s answer to the Western hamburger and meat sandwiches. In fact, Rou Jia Mo could be the world’s oldest sandwich or hamburger, since the history of the bread dates back to the Qin Dynasty (221 BC – 206 BC) and that of the meat to the Zhou Dynasty (1045 BC to 256 BC). Contrary to popular misconceptions, rou jia mo is not a street food unique to Muslims. It was invented first by the Han Chinese, while Muslims simply substituted pork with barbecued beef or lamb due to Islamic restrictions on eating pork[citation needed].

Rou jia mo (Roujiamo) can be found in many street food vendor stalls or near Chinese mosques. It is called rou jia mo by some vendors, whereas others might call it la zhi rou jia mo (or lazhi roujiamo, Chinese: 腊汁肉夹馍), which simply means rou jia mo with special gravy; yet some others call it bai ji la zhi rou jia mo (or baiji lazhi roujiamo), which means rou jia mo with special gravy in a bread (bai ji refers to the type of bread).

from wikipedia