When I first arrived in China, I thought the food was going to be like this:

Donghuamen Market in B

Or like this:

Donghuamen Night Market

Apart from the Donghuamen night market in Beijing and the occasional chicken feet and squid tentacles seen at street vendors, all the Chinese food we tried looked and tasted delicious. Unlike the overly sweet fried chicken and rice we’d usually get at home in the states, authentic Chinese food was savory and flavorful. Here were some of our favorites:

Chinese Stir-Fry in Yangshuo, China


It took us a few days in China before we tried the street food. It wasn’t until someone at our hostel in Yangshuo recommended a place that we finally tried it out. For stir-fry we went to a booth where they handed us a bowl and tongs for us to pick out the veggies and meat for our dish. There were so many options to choose from, but we chose to load our bowls with chicken and veggies like green onions, egg plant, tomatoes, green beans. At only 10 CNY  ($1.60 USD) each, they fried our choices and served it with a bowl of rice. It was a great introduction to Chinese street food.


In Chengdu, we made the mistake of waiting until after 10 p.m. to go out and find dinner. Everything was closed up except for a street vendor on a curbside. With no other option, we gave it a try. A local couple who knew English saw us struggling so they helped us order. The vendor had veggies and meat on skewers so we picked what we wanted and they grilled it for us. My favorites were the mini potatoes, mushrooms, and cauliflower. They charged by the number of skewers, and we picked several skewers each that came out 20 CNY ($3.20 USD) per person.

Leshan Giant Buddha, Chengdu, Leshan, China, Travel, Backpacking, Travel Photography, China

Sweet Dough Balls & Spicy Beef:

Also found on Jinli Street were sweet dough balls seasoned with sesame seeds, and spicy steamed beef served in a bamboo leaf. The sweet dough balls were served with three on a skewer at 10 CNY ($1.60 USD) each, and the steamed beef was 15 CNY ($2.40 USD).

Pineapple Honey Rice Pudding:

Jinli Street in Chengdu features a great deal of food options that are a bit pricier than other street vendors, but are worth the price. A popular choice was the pineapple honey rice pudding bowl. The mini pineapple is sliced in half and filled with a sweet honey rice pudding and steamed hot. It was a delicious treat at 15 CNY ($2.40 USD) each.

Chinese Burger in Xi'An

Chinese Burger:

In the Muslim Quarter of Xi’An was the Beiyuanmen Moslem Street featuring a long street of food vendors. One of the popular choices was the Chinese Burger, which was meat slow-cooked in a CrockPot and stuffed into a sliced pita bread. It also came with a sweet fruit juice for a total of 15 CNY ($2.40 USD.)


Probably the most seen street food are the dumplings. We’d just look for the stacks of round wooden containers and know that there’d be dumplings inside. We loved eating the large ones for breakfast even though we never really knew what would be inside them. Some would have only veggies, others had meat, while sometimes we’d also get a spicy sauce. Regardless of what was in them, they always tasted fresh and were a good way to start out the day. They were also the cheapest at 1.5 CNY (24 cents USD) each.

Seahorse on a Stick:

Before I left my job, my colleagues were really concerned about the food in China and would jokingly say that the only things to eat there are seahorses on a stick. They even made me their version of “seahorses on a stick” that were thankfully made out of white chocolate. Because of their thoughtful concerns I knew I had to try a taste of the real thing. I found them on our last night in China at the Donghuamen Night Market for 20 CNY ($3.20) each. So as a tribute to my co-workers at Thanksgiving Point, I present…Britnee eating a seahorse on a stick.

Our food adventures would then continue in Vietnam.

About The Author

Britnee traveled around the world with her husband on a shoestring budget for a year. A few of her favorite destinations include Scotland's Isle of Skye, Chile's Torres del Paine, Bolivia's Salt Flats and Nepal's Annapurna Circuit.

3 Responses

  1. Charlie

    I thought the exact same as you about Chinese food – I had thought it was all going to be awful and terribly meaty, but actually it was nearly always delicious. I also went to Donghuamen market and I ate a starfish on a stick whilst I was there; it’s actually the only thing in my life I can think off that I regret doing…

    • Britnee Johnston

      Yeah we were pleasantly surprised! I’m impressed, the starfish didn’t look enticing at all. Ha ha.

  2. Wesley Travels

    I thought the same way as you… first I thought it will be awfull, but it wasn´t that bad.