China A to Z: S is for street food

Street Food

Food is very important in China; I think I mentioned earlier that Chinese people will greet you with “have you eaten?” (ni chi le ma). A wide variety of food is available from vendors on the street, some with just a bicycle that is their little stall. Many offerings are freshly cooked.

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I appreciate that there are often things like fresh fruit, corn on the cob or baked sweet potatoes available instead of just the deep fried and sugary options we get at fairs in the States (they have those as well).

At the vegetable expo this spring we got noodles that were made, by hand, after we ordered. (Yes, this belongs in my “N is for…” but it hadn’t happened yet.)

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It can be a little intimidating to take the plunge and order and I confess that I still prefer to have someone fluent in Chinese with me when I order street food. But, since many stalls just make one thing, one can often just point and shoot. (Although I wouldn’t recommend it if you have food allergies).

Ordering is a good way to interact with Chinese people, both the vendors and the other customers. Choose one or two key phrases to learn when ordering; for example if you’re vegetarian learn to say: wo bu chi rou (woe boo chir row) or, better for understanding, write it out: 我不吃肉. I’ve learned what is for me a key phrase “bu la” (not spicy hot).

Once you’ve learned your phrases go for it!!

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