Best of China: Top 5 street foods in Xiamen (photos)

Today’s guest writer is Mei Yee, of food and travel blog I Am The Witch. Mei Yee entered our radar when she wrote about her honeymoon in the Maldives. Her photos of crystal clear waters and marine life bewitched us!

Mei Yee is based in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia and has traveled throughout Asia. She recently explored local street food in Xiamen, China. Read on for Mei Yee’s top street eats.

You can find her on Twitter (@iamthewitch) and Facebook.


Top 5 Street Foods in Xiamen, China

Xiamen is a coastal city located in Fujian province, in the southeast of China. Facing the Taiwan Strait, this quaint city is reportedly one of the best places to live in China due to its year-round mild weather and amazing landscape.

I had the chance to visit Xiamen recently and was fascinated by the variety of street foods available all day long! The most popular place to find street food from morning until late night is the main commercial street, ZhongShan Lu. It’s situated between the jetty and Siming Street.

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ZhongShan Lu

This street, with its large variety of restaurants, tea shops and hawker stalls, is especially busy towards the evening.

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The heavy crowd at ZhongShan Lu during day time

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The Bustling Zhong Shan Lu Pedestrian street at night

After spending about one week in Xiamen, I fell in love with some of their amazing street food. I even went back for seconds! Here are my top 5 street foods in Xiamen, in no particular order.

#1: Sha Cha Mian (Sand Tea Noodles)

Widely known as 沙茶面 Sha Cha Mian (literally translated as Sand Tea Noodles), this dish is very popular in Xiamen and is sold in almost every noodle shop. The soup has a clay colour due to the addition of pulverised peanuts, which make the dish aromatic. There is also a hint of spiciness to it, although it is not too strong. Overall, the velvety soup is thick and hearty, flavourful and warming to the stomach! One can add various condiments to the bowl of noodles including squid rings, shrimps, pork belly, pork innards and so on.

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Various toppings for noodles

The best part? This bowl of hearty and delicious noodles only costs RMB5 (less than $1)!

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沙茶面 “Sha Cha Mian” – literally Sand Tea Noodles (under $1)

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Noodles served with pork innards

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Noodles with shrimp, squid rings and pork belly

These bowls of noodles are so good we ended up visiting the same shop twice!

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Restaurant 1980 – where we had Sha Cha Mian

#2: Grilled Squid Skewers

Nestled within the busy ZhongShan Lu is a narrow cross road where one can find the best-selling hawker foods. This was where I found my second love – grilled squid skewers. The vendor was very kind and customized the squid according to our taste. I asked for it extra hot and spicy, and he sprinkled in spices and chili while he was grilling the squid.

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Squids grilled to your liking

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Extra spices please!

This stall was quite hard to miss, not because of the seller but because of the smell! It was easily the stall with the most fragrant and unmistakable aroma. The grilled squid was fresh, chewy, spicy and addictive. Again, one was never enough.

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Grilled squid (under $1/each)

#3: Popiah (Vegetable Roll)

Another popular street food is this popiah-like roll, which is filled with chopped vegetables, bean-curd and tea leaves wrapped in a thin flour crepe. Xiamen is famous for its Tie Kuan Yin tea leaves and by adding these leaves, the vegetable roll is instantly elevated from plain to extremely aromatic. Best eaten hot, this snack is popular among the locals during cold nights. They say good things don’t come cheap, but once in a while, you’d find great food like this at only RMB2 (about 30 cents) per roll!

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Preparing the vegetable popiah

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Filled with vegetable shreds, beancurd, radish and tea leaves (RMB2 each)

#4: Stuffed Biscuits

Across the coast of Xiamen there is a small car-free island by the name of Gulangyu. Only about 2km2 in area, it is one of the most scenic places in Fujian province. If you happen to be there, the stuffed biscuit is not to be missed. Also known as ‘xian bing’, this biscuit is made from pork lard and sugar and has a flaky pastry exterior. The fillings include red bean, green bean (my favourite), peanut and strawberry. Word has it that the best stuffed biscuits are from Gulangyu, so don’t give up until you find them. They are perfect as souvenirs too!


You can sample stuffed biscuits with a variety of fillings


A menu lists varieties of stuffed biscuits and their prices (about $2.25 – $3.75 per box)


One of the shops selling stuffed biscuits in Gulangyu Island

#5: Xiao Long Bao (Mini Steamed Buns)

Last but not least, little gems known as Xiao Long Bao are readily available on the streets of Xiamen. You’ll recognize them by the stacks of bamboo baskets on steamers. Xiao Long Bao (mini steamed buns) are widely popular across China but every province prepares them differently. The most popular ones are soup-filled dumplings from Shanghai. However, the Xiao Long Bao in Xiamen are nothing like that – they have rather thick skin, similar to the texture of bread, and are filled with chunks of delicious marinated meat (usually pork).  This savoury snack is perfect for a quick but filling lunch, and packs a punch when served with spicy chili oil. Get 10 mini buns for only RMB5 (under $1)!

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Xiao Long Bao (mini steamed buns) sell for under $1/basket


For more information visit the Xiamen, China page on Wikipedia.

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About Guest Writer

This guest post was written by a Downtown Traveler contributor. If you are interested in writing for us, visit the "contacts" page.


  1. pork buns… yum!!!

    • The food looks so tasty in Mei Yee’s pics! Thanks for the comment 🙂

  2. This post made me hungry. I love street food and there are no better places in the world for that than Asia. Such a great place for food (and a whole lot more).

    • Seriously– the street food is so cheap and plentiful. I have to get to China to check it out 🙂

  3. Great guest post. I love xiao long bao the most, the soup that’s inside is so delicious. I wish I can visit xiamen too. 🙂

    • I’d love to visit China. The street food looks so interesting!

  4. Grilled Squid and Stuffed biscuits, I remember eating these. So good! The Chinese certainly have a huge variety of food on offer. The fresher food being much better to me than the long shelf life stuff 🙂

    Great to see I am the Witch out and about!!

  5. mmm!! Yes China does have a lot of charming stree foods! The vegetable popiah looks soooo good!! Coincidence, she answer some of my questions about China yesterday. hehe what a world! Great post!

    • Great! Glad Mei Yee’s article was helpful 🙂

  6. Definitely a fan of the steamed pork buns… NOM NOM NOM

    • lol. Don’t they look tasty?!

  7. Love discovering new foods. I love the photos, especially the shop that sells stuffed biscuits.

  8. I’d love to try some of these foods – but not the grilled squid, I’m sorry to say. This is a lovely post. Wonderful photos.

  9. Iamthewitch

    Thank you all of you for the lovely comments!! China indeed is a treasure trove of food just waiting to be discovered! And they are so incredibly cheap, one can’t help but feel like living like a King while being there. 🙂

  10. Maria A

    Very nice photos of the food, made my mouth water. I love the little steam buns, those are the only ones out of all the food listed that I’ve had because they’re readily available in the Chinese restaurants here.

  11. Great list. One that brings back many happy memories of the 6 weeks I spent travelling through China in 2005.

  12. I’m planning to visit Kinmen, the island under Taiwan, which is very close to Xiamen. I would love to hop over to China and see this interesting city. Your post made me curious 🙂

  13. Spencer: Wow, 6 weeks is pretty long! Which part of China did you go to?

    Maria A: Those steam buns are really addictive! One was never enough! LOL!

    Cathy: Oh you don’t like squid? But it’s super yummy! 🙂

    sabtafetrtaveler: Thanks for the compliment! The stuffed biscuits not only looked good but tasted awesome! Perfect as souvenirs! 🙂

  14. a wonderful guestpost! I must admit, I don’t quite fancy a lot of the chinese food in china but XLB (xiao long bao) i LOVE! nice one mei yee and leslie:)

    • Thanks Ciki! Mei’s post peaked my curiosity in China’s street eats. I’d love to visit and try them out if there are any vegetarian picks!)

  15. I love bao. We have a restaurant here in Chicago called Wow bao. Good stuff. The squid satays look interesting.

  16. Tasty article – I’m another Xiao Long Bao addict. For the stuffed biscuits I prefer the savoury options – pork and preserved egg is a favourite.

  17. china’s street is truly the home of great foods and welcoming people. I just can’t resist in going to Asia this year and China is one of my prospect.

  18. Great post and good timing. I am headed to China soon and hope to stop in Xiamen. And I always love to try the street food wherever I go.

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