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.


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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!

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You can sample stuffed biscuits with a variety of fillings

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

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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

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

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