Tag Archives: shanghai street food

Bào Chǎo Mǐ Huā – Puffed Rice – 爆炒米花

Puffed rice is a typical Shanghai snack and a part of old Shanghai memory. Usually, the vendor places a bag of rice and the shaking furnace on a tricycle. In the afternoon, he will rides to the head of the “lòng táng (弄堂)“, which is a typical Shanghai alley, and start to peddle. They have their special tune, which goes as “bào–chǎo-mǐ-huā–lou—.” in Shanghai dialect. The end “lou” is a necessary modal particle and it has to last long enough. However, the huge sound of the puffering is always the best advertisement. When children hear the sound, they will carry a small bag of rice and a spoon of cooking oil to find the vendor. When the pressure is ready, the vendor will notice everyone. He shouts, “Coming!” Then everyone covers their ears and retreat a few steps away. The sound is like having a tire punctured. Nowadays, the peddle of the vendor cannot be heard anymore, but the huge sound remains. You can still find the vendors of the puffed rice in the street especially at night. Just follow the sound.

You only need a small bag of rice, sugar and a spoon of oil for a big bag of puffed rice. However, the machine for the puffed rice can also be used to puff other things. Some vendor also puffs beans, corns and rice cakes. You can also require the vendors to add your spices into it. The recipe can be creative according to you.

Cooking Method:
The mechanism of making the puffed rice is quite simple. First you open the container and pour the rice and oil into it. If you like sweet puffed rice, you can also add more sugar into it. Then you seal the container and start to heat it. The vendor controls the air bellow by one hand and shakes the iron furnace by the other hand. You can tell the pressure by the piezometer attached to the furnace. When the pointer arrives at the high pressure area, the vendor will notify everybody to get ready. You need to cover the two endings tightly with bags as soon as possible. Finally the show ends with the huge sound and white appetizing puffed rice.

Puffed Rice was invented in Wu prefecture (now western Zhejiang Province) in the Song Dynasty. The earliest record of the puffed rice is written in the book “Record of Wu Prefecture” by Chengda Fan. Originally, this kind of food was especially cooked during the Spring Festival for divination purpose. In Song Dynasty, it was made on the day of the Lantern Festival. Because the utensil for the puffed rice at that time was not sealed and weather you could get the rice puff was all by chances. The utensil is called “fǔ (釜)”, which is the origin of the cauldron. It was placed on the stove and heated with wood fire. Thus, the one who got more puffed rice was regarded as the luckiest one. After the westernization and modernization, people invented the sealed iron shaking furnace to make puffed rice. It is also said that the British invented the similar machine to make popcorn and then they brought it to China by the merchants later. Before the Open and Reform, when Chinese people still live a poor life, people buy rice according to food coupon so they do not own much rice for snack. Puffed rice is still a snack only for the Spring Festival. The great sound made by the puffing is the happiest thing for the children. With the development of Shanghai, more and more people are able to enjoy puffed rice at any time. However, fewer people are making puffed rice and it becomes a part of the memory for old Shanghai people.

Photo Credit to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/shizhao/6779948306

Luóbosī bǐng – Turnip Strips Cake – 萝卜丝饼

Luó bo sī bǐng–Turnip strips cake (萝卜丝饼) is originated in Jiangsu Province, which is a popular pastry near the area around Suzhou, Wuxi and Jiangyin. The recipe of turnip strip cake varies due to different place and time period. People usually eat turnip strip cakes for breakfast since it provides both pastry and vegetable, which is healthier than the deep fried pastries. Turnip strips cake are can be easily find at the breakfast vendors, as well as in some traditional eateries. The most traditional way to bake the turnip strips cake is to put it in a coal stove. When the vendor picks out a piece with the long “pliers,” you will definitely be appealed by the smell of the turnip strips cakes. With the development of the cooking supplies, more and more eateries choose to use electronic oven for convenience, but most vendors on street still keep the coal stove. The common price for a turnip strip cake is about 1.5 kuai to 3.5 kuai.

Stuffing part:
Turnip, ham (preferred, or salted meat or fresh meat), spring onion;
lard oil, vegetable oil, salt, sugar, white pepper powder, spring onion.
Pastry part:
Flour, sesame, lard oil, vegetable oil, salt, water, yeast powder.

Cooking Method:
Stuffing Part:
1. Chop turnip into thin strips, put some salt into the turnip strips and wait for 10 mins to squeeze the water out.
2. Boil the vegetable oil and pour the hot oil on the chopped spring onion to make the spring onion oil.
3. Chop ham/salted meat/fresh meat into small granule, seasoning with a little cooking wine.
4. Mix the turnip strips, chopped ham or meat, spring onion oil and the lard oil, seasoning the mixture with salt, sugar and white pepper powder.
Pastry part:
1. Mix half of the flour with yeast powder and warm water. Let the dough rest for 30 mins.
2. Mix another half of the flour with the vegetable oil and the lard oil to make the oil pastry.
3. Make both of the dough and the oil pastry into thin pieces. The size of the dough should be twice larger than the oil pastry. Put the oil pastry in the middle, fold the two sides of the dough and then use the stick to roll the mixed dough into the original size.
4. Fold the mixed dough, and use the stick to roll it into the original size. Repeat at least three times.
5. Use the pastry to wrap the stuffing. Put some sesame on the top. Bake the raw turnip strip cakes in the coal stove or oven for 10-12mins.
* Lard oil is essential in this street food and most lard oil is hand-made by the vendors. They chop the raw leaf lard into small pieces and then boil that in water; when water get evaporated, the lard oil comes out and eventually it would become pure lard oil. People usually store lard oil just in bottle or bowl because it would be concrete so that it’s hard to go bad. The left cracklings, for some people, could be their favorite snake. Many of the famous food in Shanghai, like wonton(馄饨), bā bǎo fàn–Eight Treasures Rice(八宝饭)and etc. It’s also popular among southern China. Scientific research shows that lard oil contains high content of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol, which is good for health.

Recommended Place to Go:
East Gate Eatery 东门餐厅
Address: No. 2 Kangjia Lane, by Zhonghua Road, Huangpu district.
*Please notice that if the boss is not in a good mood or not satisfied with the quality of the ingredients, chances are that you might not get a turnip strip cake from him

Nowadays in Shanghai, the turnip strips cake is not the same as what people in Suzhou eat. The earliest version is to put the wet pastry in a small mould with the turnip strips, pour another layer of wet pastry on the top and then fry it, which is now called yóu dūn zǐ油墩子in Shanghai. Shanghai style turnip strips cake is a combination of the turnip stuffing with huáng qiáo shāo bǐng– Huangqiao sesame cake(黄桥烧饼), which is originated in Suqian, Jiangsu, so the Shanghai style turnip cake can keep both the golden brown flaky pastry and the juicy and tasty turnip stuffing. The turnip strips cake has been in fusion since it is introduced in Shanghai. One example is the fusion with the fried egg pancake from northeastern part of China, where people prefer to put stuffing like leek in the pastry. Instead of the flaky pastry, this type of turnip strips cake is thinner and crispier, because the plain pastry is fried. People first put a piece of pastry on the pan, then the turnip strips and the egg, and finally fold everything into a rectangle piece. Usually this kind of fried turnip strip are served with a special sauce.


Possible Variations:
luó bo sī jī dàn guàn bǐng–fried egg pancake with turnip strips stuffing
luó bo sī sū—turnip stirps puff, in Cantonese Dim Sum

Related Cuisine:
Jiangsu Cuisine, Shanghai Cuisine

Street Peddler Beaten and Paralyzed By Shanghai Chengguan

A street food vendor in Sanya, Hainan was beaten by a chengguan after an argument broke out over the position of her cart and its obstruction of traffic.

It is controversial videos and photos like this that inform netizens of the underlying issues and rising tensions between the authoritative forces and street vendors.They are forced to defend themselves against officials while trying to survive in an environment that no longer sustains them.



French Students Sell Crepes In Shanghai, Flee From Chengguan

Two French study abroad students of Tongji University  set up a cart selling crepes near their campus in 2011. Their stand gained attention from both bloggers and chengguan authorities, and quickly got banned from conducting any business in China. After their story went viral, the French students became a lasting example for future expat street stands.


Discarded Food Waste Slop Recycled Into Cheap Cooking Oil

China Smack posted repulsive images of gutter oil that had been ‘refined’ to be reused and resold as cheap cooking oil for restaurants that were trying to cut costs. Street food vendors have been notoriously known to use this oil, posing a danger especially because the majority of street food is deep-fried.


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

Bāozi – Steamed buns – 包子

Bāozi (Chinese: 包子) is a pillowy-soft, steamed bun that is filled with savory or sweet centers. Although locals prefer to eat them for breakfast, they are sold from the early hours of the morning until late afternoon. Each one is typically 1.5 kuai out of stacks of bamboo steamers alongside shao mai.

The bun’s dough consists of water, dry yeast, sugar, bread flour, baking powder, salt and sesame oil.

Cooking Method:
The yeast and sugar are combined in warm water and allowed to sit. After the flour and sugar are combined, the yeast water is added to the mixing bowl until a ball of dough is formed. The dough is kneaded and allowed to rest in a humid environment. After the dough has risen, baking powder is kneaded into the dough before it is divided into two long rolls and cut into pieces. Each piece of dough is formed into a ball that is rolled into a disk so that the filling can be encased in the center. Each ball of dough is allowed to rise before being placed into bamboo steamers.

History :
During the Three Kingdoms period, Zhuge Liang, a military strategist of the time, was on an expedition to Southern China when he and his army found themselves unable to cross a river because the storm was too violent. He asked Meng Hua why they couldn’t cross, and he stated that the war had caused so many deaths that angry spirits were trapped there, unable to return to their families. The spirits claimed that they needed 49 people to sacrifice themselves in order for Zhuge Liang and his soldiers to cross the river. Zhuge Liang wasn’t willing to allow even more people to die, so he asked his cook to make him 49 buns with dough that resembled skin with beef or mutton fillings so that he could trick the spirits into believing that they were real people.

The street food was originally called mantou, which means “flour head,” but as it gained popularity in the north, people began calling it baozi because bao meant “to wrap.”

Possible Variations:
gancai bao – braised cabbage bun
qingcai bao – bok choy tofu bun
rou bao – pork bun
hua juan – scallion mantou
dabao – large bun


Cí Fàn Gāo – Deep-fried Glutinous Rice Cake – 粢饭糕

Often served alongside various deep-fried bings and youtiao, cí fàn gāo (Chinese: 粢饭糕) is a rectangular block of compressed glutinous rice that is fried until golden brown. It is often eaten as a savory breakfast snack during autumn, when the rice has just been harvested.

Glutinous rice is cooked with water, seasoned with salt and deep-fried in oil.

Cooking Method:
The glutinous rice is steamed and then kneaded and seasoned with salt. The mixture is compressed into cakes and cut into rectangles before being deep-fried.

During the Spring and Autumn Festival, a man named Wu Zi Xu wanted to help people who were suffering from hunger after the war. He shaped sticky rice in the form of a condensed brick and buried it in the ground so that people could eat it in case of emergency. While their city was being invaded by emperor Guo Jian, the trapped inhabitants were able to eat the bricks of glutinous rice that were previously buried into the ground in order to survive. The people dug the bricks of rice out of the ground and deep-fried it before eating it. From that time on, people continued to make this dish during the Autumn Festival in remembrance of their hero.

Possible Variations:
ci fan tuan – Chinese cruller stuffed stuffed in a glutinous rice ball

Related Cuisine:
Shanghai Cuisine

Chòu dòufu – Stinky Tofu – 臭豆腐

Chòu dòufu (Chinese: 臭豆腐 ) is a fermented tofu that is deep fried and topped with fermented bean paste sauce, cilantro and chili. Though its pungent smells may linger everywhere, those that can get past its strong scent can enjoy its soft, silky center. The street food snack is usually sold at night, served out of a small bowl and toothpicks to pierce each cube or served alongside rice congee as a breakfast meal.

The tofu is left to ferment for weeks or months in a brine made from fermented milk, vegetables, and meat. Additional ingredients can be added into this brine, including dried shrimp, amaranth greens, mustard greens, bamboo shoots, and Chinese herbs.

Cooking Method:
The tofu is left to ferment in a brine up to months. After the fermentation process, the tofu is cut into cubes and deep fried. Chou doufu is then topped with a fermented bean paste sauce, cilantro, and chili sauce.

History :
According to legends, chou doufu was invented by a man named Wang Zhi He during the Qing Dynasty. He studied to become a civil servant to emperor Kang Xi, but tried and failed many times. Every time he would leave his hometown to take the exam at the capital city, he would end up using all of his money for transportation and be left with nothing to purchase food. To save himself the cost and time, he decided to make a living in the capital city while he prepared for the next year’s exam. His family back home was wealthy from their tofu factory business, where he learned how to make it at a young age. He rented a few stores in the capital city and bought some simple tools to make it in order to sell it on the street. During that time, the summer heat was causing the fresh tofu that he didn’t sell to become moldy. He didn’t want to waste his food so he came up with a way to preserve it. He decided to cut the tofu into smaller pieces, sun-cure them, then pickle them with salt. They were left storing in a jar until autumn came and he remembered that he had left his pickling tofu. The moment he opened the jar, he was hit with the sharp stench of fermented tofu that had become grey and cinereous. He tried one and didn’t think its taste was terrible, so he sent them to the neighborhood who found that they, too, enjoyed the dish.

Related Cuisine: 
Zhejiang, Hunan cuisine

Chǎo Lìzi – Sugar chestnuts – 炒栗子

Chǎo lìzi (Chinese: 炒栗子) can be found churning in large cauldrons on the street emitting sweet, nutty flavors into the air. Chestnuts are roasted and seasoned with coarse sand, syrup and osmanthus essence. Once they’ve been evenly roasted, the sugary chestnuts appear glossy. The shells should fall away easily–an indication of the quality of the chestnuts–revealing the “meat” which should be golden, soft and tasty. They are best eaten immediately after they have been taken from the wok. Once cooled, they are no longer as sweet or fragrant.

Sugar-roasted chestnuts from the Xin Chang Fa Food Store chain are regarded as the best in Shanghai. This street food treat is popularly eaten among locals during the colder months of the year, usually selling for 16 yuan to 32 yuan per kilo.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, chestnuts are regarded as “fruit for the kitney and patients with renal diseases.” It is a warming food that is said to nourish the qi of the gastrointestinal system, spleen and kidneys. Chestnuts are also used to improve circulation, and are eaten daily by elderly Chinese people to prevent and treat high blood pressure, heart disease, hardening of the arteries and osteoporosis. They are especially eaten during the autumn and winter because their high carbohydrate content provides a warming quality that is good for suppressing and combating colds.

Chestnuts are soaked in rock sugar, molasses, and water. They are then fried in oil until golden.

Cooking Method:
Chestnuts are first boiled until tender. Sugar and molasses are boiled before the chestnuts are added and cooked at a simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed. The chestnuts are drained and then added to an oiled cauldron. They are churned by a rotating shovel inside the heated cauldron filled with coarse sand. The purpose of the sand is to heat them evenly and retain their inherent sweetness.

Chestnuts have been apart of Chinese cuisine since neolithic times. Remains of a chestnut species named Castanea vulgaris, have been found earlier than the Han Dynasty. Chestnuts were one of the many food items found in tombs in Hubei. Chestnut trees were indigenous in the Hubei Province as well as other northern, western, and some southern areas too. Traces of its existence in such an exceptionally early part of China’s food culture proves that it is one of the earliest nuts used in antiquity. They were given to emperors as tribute, using them as gifts for his noble lords. Their trees were considered a good omen, so they were often planted near court mansions or alters at temples dedicated to earthly spirits. In ancient times, chestnuts were stored sun-dried and sand-covered under a pottery dome.

Chestnuts have also been prevalent in ancient texts such as early writings from the Zhou Dynasty through the Han Dynasty. They have been recorded in the Shih Ching “Book of Odes” and in the Li Chi “Book of Rites.”

Related Cuisine:
Hunan, Zhejiang cuisine

Liángpí – Cold Jelly Noodles – 凉皮

Liángpí (Chinese: 凉皮) is a cold noodle dish tossed with peanut sauce, chili oil, and vinegar and garnished with refreshing garnishes such as julienned cucumbers, cilantro and bean sprouts. When the weather gets warmer, liang pi vendors can be found making this dish out of a glass box perched on top of a tricycle. Customers are given the option of rice or wheat flour or a combination of both to be tossed in with other components of the dish. Liangpi is typically sold for 6 to 7 kuai.

Different types of liangpi can range in ingredients. Its noodles are either made from rice or wheat flour. The sauce combinations consist of salt, vinegar, chili oil, black sesame paste and garlic. Garnishes can include wheat gluten, julienned cucumbers, bean sprouts, cilantro and scallions.

Cooking Method:
To make the noodles, the wheat or rice flour is turned into a soft dough by adding a bit of water and salt. The dough is “rinsed” until the water is saturated with starch from the dough. The remainder of the dough is then removed and the bowl is left to rest overnight in order to allow the dissolved starch to precipitate. The following day, a residue of starchy paste that sits at the bottom of the bowl is drained of the liquid that sits above it. A small amount of that paste is then spread out into a thin layer and steamed in order to make a “pancake” that is cut into long pieces resembling noodles. These noodles are placed into a bowl and tossed with various sauces and garnishes before being served.

A folk story is told that takes place during the Qing Dynasty where ten acres of rice fields spanned Nanzheng County beside the Feng River. One year, the river had dried up due to the drought and the rice was poor in quality. People became distraught because they didn’t know how to pay their annual tribute to the emperor Qing Shi Huan. A man named Li Shi Er decided to grain the rice into a paste, steam it and cut it into strips. He then added some spicy sauce and vinegar to create Da Mi Mian Pi Zi, the original form of Liangpi. The people all made this dish for the emperor, expecting that he wouldn’t enjoy it. Everyone was pleasantly surprised when the emperor stated that everyone was exempt from the tax that year because he loved the dish so much. The preparation of liangpi became an annual tradition in that town since then.

Possible Variations:
Hanzhong Liangpi – with steamed garlic and hot chili oil
Majiang Liangpi – with julienned cucumber and a sauce made from salt, vinegar, chili oil, and black sesame paste
Shan Xin Gan Mianpi – with wheat gluten, vinegar, chili oil, salt, mashed garlic, and bean sprouts

Related Cuisine:
Shaanxi Cuisine


Dòu Huā – Tofu Soup – 豆花

Dòu Huā (Chinese: 豆花) is a street food commonly eaten as breakfast or a late night treat alongside a crispy youtiao. In Shanghai, it is usually served with savory flavors and garnishes such as soy sauce, salt, cilantro, chili oil, pickled mustard tuber, and sliced pieces of youtiao.

The tofu curd is made from dried soybeans, water, gypsum powder and cornflour. The dessert version adds a dark syrup infused with ginger. The salty version adds a dash of soy sauce, chili oil, and salt and garnishes with cilantro and minced pieces of pickled mustard tuber.

Cooking Method:
The soy milk is first made by soaking pulverized soybeans with water and straining it, repeating this process multiple times. Once the soy milk is made, it is left to simmer as a mixture of gypsum powder, corn flour and water are slowly added in. After the curd has set, it can be spooned into a bowl and topped with whatever sweet or salty dressings desired.

According to legends, tofu originated in China over 2,000 years ago. It is believed that its production began during the Han Dynasty when a cook decided to experiment by flavoring a batch of cooked soybeans with the compound nagari. Instead of getting flavored soybeans, he ended up with bean curd.

Possible Variations:
dòufurǔ – fermented tofu
chòudòufu – stinky tofu
dòupào – fried tofu
dòngdòufu – thousand layer tofu

Related Cuisine:
Sichuan, Hubei cuisine


Yóu Tiáo – Chinese Cruller – 油条

Yóu Tiáo (Chinese: 油条), also known as Chinese cruller, oil stick, doughnut, and breadstick, is a trip of fried dough that is typically eaten for breakfast. It usually is served as an accompaniment with rice congee, soy milk, or tofu soup where they are either served whole to be dipped into the liquid or cut into smaller pieces to be sprinkled on top. They are lightly salted and fried in pairs with the center attached so that the dough becomes puffy and crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. You tiao is best eaten immediately after it is fried because of its tendency to become tough or elastic-y if left out for too long. At breakfast, you tiao, can be stuffed inside various carbohydrates such as roasted flatbread (shaobing), rice noodle (zhaliang), or glutinous rice (cifan). Its sweet version is named tang gao, which is similar in appearance to youtiao but shorter in length.

You tiao contains flour, water, sugar, salt, baking soda and vegetable oil. Street vendors usually add alum, potassium aluminum sulfate crystals, to recipes in order to increase the puffy, crispy exterior of their bread.

Cooking Method:
All ingredients are combined to form a soft dough, which is kneaded and left to rest two to three times. The dough is brushed with oil and folded then cut into smaller pieces to be stretched out and twisted together into pairs. A wok of oil is heated before the strips of dough are deep-fried till golden.

You tiao is nicknamed you zha gui, or deep fried ghost, which stems from a story told long ago during about a public protest that took place during a rather heavy and serious part of Chinese history. The protest involved a famous and well-respected General, Yue Fei, who was appraised by the people for his loyalty towards the Song Dynasty and his Emperor during his time at war defending the kingdom from outer invasions, particularly the Jin Dynasty.

At that time, the Prime Minister, Qin Kuai, and his wife, Wang, grew jealous of him and formed a secret liaison with the invading northern tribe of the Jin Dynasty to frame Yue Fei under accusations of a crime and get him executed. Public civilians were frustrated by their inability to defend their General; so in reaction, a shao bing vendor and ci fan tuan vendor decided that they should devise a way to express their opinions. The pancake vendor decidedly sculpted two miniature people out of dough, representing Qin Kuai and Madam Wang. He then began slashing at their figures with his dough cutter. The other vendor brought his deep-fry wok, twisted the two figures together into one piece of dough with their backs to each other, and threw them into the wok full of searing oil.

While they were frying, the vendors called out for people to see. As a crowd of passer-byers formed to see the two ugly figures sizzling in the hot oil, they immediately called out, “Fried Kuai!” At the same time, Qin Kuai happened to pass this spectacle on his way from the imperial palace and was enraged with disbelief by the mutiny of his edible figure.

In the vendors’ defense, two men stepped up and scooped the fried dough out of the oil to eat it. They exclaimed how delicious and crispy it was, which further infuriated Qin Kuai. The two food vendors combined businesses to continue making the fried Kuai. Soon, their business was so busy that they had to design a simpler version of fried Kuai that was made of two strips of dough twisted together in order to represent Qin Kuai and his wife. The street food sensation quickly spread to other cities of China and eventually given the name, “you tiao.”

During the Cultural Revolution in China, educated youths used food-related propaganda as a way of symbolically addressing issues aimed at the laobaixing. A well-known street food youtiao, a deep-fried cruller that literally translates to “oily strip,” appeared as a political emblem as the cheapest and lowliest form of Shanghai street food. It came to represent the poor economic realities of students receiving government scholarships who could only afford to eat, at most, three youtiao a day. These student activists wanted to motivate the government to fund schools and provide living stipends for intellectuals.

Possible Variations:
ci fan tuan – Chinese cruller stuffed stuffed in a glutinous rice ball
shaobing youtiao – Chinese cruller inside roasted flatbread
zha liang – Chinese cruller inside rice noodle roll
tang gao – Sugar doughnut


Niú Ròu Xiān Bǐng – Pan-fried Beef Pastry – 牛肉餡餅

Niú Ròu Xiān Bǐng (Chinese: 牛肉餡餅) are savory snacks served throughout the day. They have golden, crisp crusts and a juicy, fragrant beef filling.

First, the dough is made from flour, water and salt. The meat filling consists of ground beef, scallions, egg, soy sauce, sesame oil, black pepper and white pepper.

Cooking Method:
The ground beef is marinated with all of the spices, soy sauce, and onions and allowed to sit for the flavors to meld together. The flour, salt, and water are mixed together to form a dough. On a floured surface, the dough is kneaded, rolled out, and divided into circles. The seasoned ground beef is placed in the center of the dough and pinched shut. The pastry is then flattened and fried in a heated and oiled shallow pan on medium-low heat. Once both sides are golden brown, it is ready to be served.

According to legends, niu rou bing originated from the Tang Dynasty during  Xuan Zhong’s reign. The story relates to his discovery of shao bing when he was fleeing with his imperial concubine Yang Gui Fei  and tried one on the street. One day he disguised himself and went to the streets of Xi’an. He saw a small shop lined with hundreds of people waiting with cake in their hands. The emperor was lured into line by the delicious smells, and found out that everyone was waiting in line for niu rou bing. After waiting in line and ordering two, he ate the first one so fast that he didn’t even know what it looked like. He saw the second one and realized that it looked like the moon. After, he couldn’t forget the store or the memory of the food, so he often went back to buy and eat it.

A famous poet named Bai Juyi of the Tang Dynasty also wrote a poem about niu rou bing called “Send the Pancake to Yang Wan Zhou.” In it, he appraises how delicious the pancake tastes when it is freshly made, and sends it to his friend.

Possible Variations:
shao bing – Sesame breakfast pastries
dou sha xian bing – red bean pastry
liu dou xian bing – mung-bean pastry
hei zhi ma xian bing – black sesame filled pastry
hei zhi ma shao bing – black sesame on pastry
sheng jian bao – pan-fried bun
niu rou bao – fried beef buns

Related Cuisine:
Shaanxi Cuisine


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