A Guide to Eating Street Food in Hangzhou

Street food | © Markovic Nebojsa
Street food | © Markovic Nebojsa

Sampling street food is a compulsory past time in Hangzhou and is synonymous with strolling along the West Lake, taking selfies, drinking tea, climbing a hill to visit a temple and bike riding through terraced tea fields. With so many tasty snack options to choose from you might just need our guide to get started.

Where and how to find street food in Hangzhou

Street food in Hangzhou is so popular there are entire streets dedicated to snacks. The most popular ones are Wu Shan Lu, Gao Yin Jie and the famous Hefang Street. There is so much variety of choice knowing where to begin or what to choose can be intimidating and confusing for first timers. A useful hint when buying street food is to always look for long lines, the more popular the snack the safer and cleaner the standards. To order; simply point at the pictures posted on the wall or at what others have ordered.

Food Court | ©Markovic Nebojsa

One of the most established and popular food courts in Hangzhou is Xi Le Yuan on Hefang Street with more than 50 stalls and multiple food varieties under one roof! Here are a few favorites dishes not to be missed.

Stinky Tofu

Stinky Tofu is to the Chinese what Stilton is to the British; an acquired taste that some can’t get enough of and some can’t stand. This old fashioned snack made from fermented tofu comes in two varieties of pungent goodness ranging in color from the black to the more attractive golden brown. The sharp, distinct, off putting smell comes from ammonia produced during the fermentation process of the brine.

Stinky Tofu @Markovic Nebojsa

Curly Fries

This fried snack is fun to eat as it consists of one curly spiral of potato on a long stick. You can season it with a variety of spices, a favorite being a smothering of crushed bird’s eye red pepper.

Spicy Curly Fries | ©Markovic Nebojsa

Sticky Glutinous Rice Balls

The rice balls are a mixture of sugar, glutinous rice and coconut powder (optional) mixed together to make a paste then rolled into a ball filled with red bean paste and steamed in a bamboo basket. This sweet snack is a great source of energy on the go and is popular with children.

Glutinous Rice @Markovic Nebojsa

Grilled Eggplant

Topped with rice angel pasta, spring onions, garlic and chillies this delicious snack is not the easiest to eat. It is served piping hot and needs one to sit down so you won’t spill all the delicious toppings. The eggplant flesh is picked off with chopsticks and literally melts in your mouth. Definitely a must try.

Grilled eggplant | ©Markovic Nebojsa

Ice Cream Waffle

The waffle is made using a specially made “bubble” waffle iron, rolled into a cone which is then filled with layers of fresh fruit, red bean sauce, vanilla ice cream, nuts, sprinkles, cookies, jelly beans, the variety is endless. A popular summertime snack, it is both delicious and refreshing. A popular combination is vanilla ice cream with fresh chunks of mango.

Ice cream waffles | © Markovic Nebojsa

Spicy River Snails

These are a provincial delicacy, popular all over Zhejiang. They are dredged from river beds, thoroughly washed, then boiled and seasoned in a spicy both. You will need toothpicks to negotiate the edible parts out of them that are hard to get to. Though they won’t fill you up, they are great for snacking while you await your main dishes at a banqueting table or picking on while watching the sun go down on the West Lake.

Spicy River Snails | ©Markovic Nebojsa

Soft Shell Crab Kebab

This delicious snack is smothered with seasoning, flash fried in hot oil then skewed on a stick for easy handling. Another local favorite, it has a crunchy texture and can be chewed whole because of its soft shell. It’s a great accompaniment to cold beer and is can be found just about anywhere in Hangzhou. The best crabs are brought in from Taihu lake which is also known for the best hairy crabs in the country.

Soft Shell Crabs | ©Markovic Nebojsa

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