Chinese Street Food

The 3 Most Popular Street Food in China

If you are looking for delicious Chinese food. This article is for you!

In this blog post, I’m going to introduce you to the 3 most popular street food in China.

Chinese Barbecue (Shaokao)

From a foodie’s perspective, Shanghai begins and ends on the street of Nanchang Lu. Everything in the world of food is there. Row upon row of tightly packed street vendors selling everything from roasted scorpions, caramelized fruit, dumplings, noodles, sticky rice and 24-herb tea to these shaokao. You can have breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and drinks as you walk along. The shaokao stand is heaving with hungry people who’ve made a detour to pick up some Chinese barbecue. Rows of bamboo skewers threaded with various meats and vegetables are thrown onto the charcoal grill, glistening with oil as the chilli powder glows bright red and wafts of Sichuan peppercorns makes someone sneeze a few stalls down.

My first hour in Shanghai was spent walking around this foodie paradise, each stand more seductive than the last. A man with piereing grey eyes smiled at me, coaxing me to try his food. He called out, ‘Pretty gitl, come and eat with me. These shabkao are the best’.How could I resist, despite already having eaten my fir share of haokao farthe up the road?

‘Give me one,then,’ I replied, and handed over a yuan. I wan’t disppointed. The chicken was sweet and tender with a hint of cumin.He raised his eyebrows expectantly, waiting for my verdict

‘I’ve travelled all the way from the UK for shaokao and yours are the best.’



500g/11b 2oz skinless, boneless chicken thighs

1 tsp salt

5 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp chilli oil(optional)

Spice mix

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tsp caster(superfine)sugar

1/2 tsp salt

Chinese Barbecue (Shaokao) Recipe

Soak 10 wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes.

Butterfly each chicken thigh and slice into 2cm wide x 6cm long strips. Season the chicken with the salt. Thread two chicken strips concertina-style onto each skewer, leaving the bottom of the skewer clear. Brush about half of the vegetable oil and sesame oil over the chicken.

Mix together all the ingredients for the spice mix.

Heat a griddle pan or heavy frying pan until it is very hot. Place the skewers on the griddle and cook for about 4-6 minutes, sprinkling about half the spice mix over them as they cook. Turn the skewers, sprinkle with the remaining spice mix and brush with the remaining vegetable oil-or with chilli oil for a spicier result-and cook for another 4-6 minutes. When the chicken is cooked through, serve hot.


If you like, garnish by sprinkling some toasted sesame seeds over the cooked chicken. I prefer to use chicken thigh because it has a deeper flavour and chewier texture, but you could use chicken breast meat. Alternatively, use rump steak or pork loin. As a vegetarian option try skewers of courgettes, aubergines, peppers, mushrooms and pressed tofu, either individually or mixed.


Sweet Patato (Hong shu)

I’ve learnt never to haggle with a street vendor in Beijing unless you intend to buy. To ask ‘How much?” is essentially committing to  the deal – which I learnt the hard way when I asked a sweet potato seller how much was one sweet potato. The air was freezing and we’d just finished traipsing around the Forbidden City. He immediately threw about six sweet potatoes into a bag and put out his hand to receive the money – 30 yuan! I said I only wanted one but he was adamant on selling me the entire bag. So I walked off. The vendor followed me down the street, swinging a boiling hot bag of freshly steamed sweet potatoes and at one point almost hitting my head in his enthusiasm. I began to run. He chased me down,leaving his cart  – and probably his day’s takings  – unattended, just to get me to buy this bag of sweet potatoes. I was horrified and ran as fast as I could. I jumped over a parked bike which fell into his path and stopped him in his tracks. He gave up the chase. I could still hear him shouting at me angrily. I didn’t look back and just kept running. I only wanted one sweet potato as a snack. When I make this dish, I can now chuckle at this memory.



4 large sweet potatoes,peeled

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder

Sweet Patato (Hong shu) Recipe

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.

Cook the sweet potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling water for 20 minutes until completely soft. Drain and pat dry.

Coat in the vegetable oil and place on a non-stick baking dish. Sprinkle with the salt and five-spice powder and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. Serve hot.


Instead of boiling and baking, you can slice the peeled sweet potatoes very thinly and then deep-fry them in a wok of hot oil for 2-3 minutes to make sweet potato crisps.


Youtiao(Deep-Fried Dough Sticks)

I remember in Hong Kong having you tiao with our congee(rice porridge). It consists of two pieces of dough joined together side by side, and as kids we loved them. Mum used to buy us one to share and we’d tear it down the middle and like magic there were two deliciously crunchy you tiao – one each, so no fighting! They were crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside – a perfect contrast in texture to the porridge- like congee. We nicknamed them Chinese-style doughnuts, but they’re salty to taste, not sweet.



1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

200ml/7fl oz/generous 3/4 cup water

300g/10 1/2 oz/scant 2 1/2 cups plain (all-purpose)flour, plus extra for dusting

3 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for deep-frying

Youtiao(Deep-Fried Dough Sticks)Recipe

In a bowl mix the baking powder, salt and water until dissolved. Sift the flour into the bowl and mix until it forms a sticky dough. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Fold and knead the dough until it feels elastic. Shape into a ball and place in a bowl, cover with the vegetable oil,cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in a warmplace for 1 1/2 hours.

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and use a rolling pin to roll into a long rectangle, about 20x30cm. Fold the dough over from top to bottom and cut into double-layered strips approx.2cm wide. Use a chopstick to imprint a groove along the centre of each strip. Stretch them out slightly by pulling on both ends. They will spring back as they cook.

Half-fill a wok with vegetable oil. Heat the oil to 180°C/350°F; if you don’t have a cooking thermometer, test by dipping a wooden chopstick or wooden spoon into the oil – if bubbles immediately form around the chopstick the oil is hot enough. Gently place the dough strips into the oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Cook in batches to prevent the oil dropping in temperature. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm.


If you want a richer taste, replace the water with milk; warm the milk in the microwave before adding to the dough mixture.


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