Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How to Find Street Food

Let's say you are in an unfamiliar city in China and you are hoping to find some street food. Where do you go? Naturally every city is different, so there really isn't a straight answer here. That being said, there are definitely ways you can shorten your search a bit. The following are some tips I have picked up along the way. None of them should be taken as absolute rules--merely suggestions or general guidelines.

1) The bigger the street, the less likely you are to find good street food. In Chinese cities, the main thoroughfares are noisy, bustling affairs full of people, cars, bicycles, and storefronts. Unfortunately, they are usually a bit too busy for street food. You'll have better luck exploring the smaller streets and alleys near the more populated avenues. Sometimes just a block or two off the main strip can make all of the difference.

2) Check the old parts of town. As Chinese cities continue to grow at an astonshing rate, there is a marked difference in atmosphere between the newer, shinier parts of a city and the older, grimier more charming parts of a city. In my experience, you're more likely to find great street food in the more traditional sections of town.

3) It is a truth universally acknowledged that a college student in possession of a poor fortune must be in want of cheap eats. This holds true in the USA, and it holds true in China. Wander around the neighborhood near the gates of a Chinese university and you will almost certainly find some street food.

4) The entrances of bus stations and train stations are always crowded with street food vendors. Personally, I tend to avoid them because they are rarely selling the best local dishes. Usually you'll find pretty generic fare with little variation across the country. That being said, there's nothing inherently wrong with eating this food--it's a cheap and tasty way to fill up before a long train ride.

5) Look for steam. It may sound silly, but it works. If you're hungry and wandering the streets, keep an eye out down every cross street for steam. Steam is often visible from pretty far away, and it can be a good indicator that there is food to be had.

6) Watch what other people are holding. If you see somebody walking down the street with a fresh snack, there's a good chance they bought it nearby. The less they've eaten, the closer the shop is.

7) Leave yourself in the hands of chance. If all else fails, there's nothing wrong with wandering aimlessly for an hour or two until you find something that strikes your fancy. Chances are good that you'll find something interesting to eat.

I've been in a lot of unfamiliar cities lately, and these guidelines have worked resulted in a pretty good success rate. Hopefully they will work equally as well for you. Good luck out there!


Mo Shanley said...

Good tips! I particularly like the Pride & Prejudice reference in this one. :-)

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