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Top 3 Chinese Street Foods You Have to Try

Mar. 1, 2019

HSK 3 quiz

As you probably know, the Chinese are food-obsessed people. The topic of conversation often turns to food and most social and business events will take place over a banquet meal, or a simple late-night “大排档 (dàpáidàng) food stand.”

But, did you know which kind of food can be found everywhere in China? Well, let me tell you there are 3 common and popular Chinese street foods in China: “津市牛肉粉 (jīn shì niúròu fěn) Jinshi beef noodle,” “兰州拉面 (lán zhōu lāmiàn) Lanzhou noodle,” “沙县小吃 (shā xiàn xiǎochī) Shaxian snack.” What’s more, all of them are not expensive while very delicious. And Today, I will introduce one of them.

津市牛肉粉 (Jīn shì niúròu fěn) Jinshi beef noodle

“津市牛肉粉 (Jīn shì niúròu fěn) Jinshi beef noodles” are a staple food in Hunan Province dating as far back as the Qing Dynasty. This rice-based noodle dish has since spread throughout the country in places such as Changsha, Wuhan, Nanchang, Xi’an, Shenzhen which have resulted in more than 5000 shops. Jinshi City has three rice-noodle mills and more than 200 restaurants, which manufacture and sells 30,000 pounds of rice noodles every day.

It is the breakfast of choice for most people in Jinshi and after eating a bowl of noodles in the morning they are prepared to face the day.

If you have the chance, don’t miss them. “麻辣牛肉粉 (málà niúròu fěn) spicy hot beef noodles,” and “红烧牛肉粉 (hóngshāo niúròu fěn) braised beef noodles” are most commonly recommended dishes.


“红烧 (Hóngshāo) braised” and “麻辣 (málà) spicy and hot” are two of the most common flavors of Chinese food. These two Chinese words are usually placed in front of specific foods, such as:

红烧 (Hóngshāo) + Noun. (Food) Or 麻辣 (málà) + Noun. (Food)
红烧肉 (Hóngshāo ròu) Braised Pork in Brown Sauce
麻辣小龙虾 (Málà xiǎo lóngxiā) Spicy Crawfish

In addition, “津市牛肉粉 (jīn shì niúròu fěn) Jinshi beef noodles” and “长沙臭豆腐 (cháng shā chòu dòufu) Changsha stinky tofu” are top two special snacks in Hunan Province.

Stinky Tofu: Smells Awful, Tastes Great!

The noodles came to be after a group of Uygur immigrated to an area near the city of “津市 (jīn shì) Jinshi” in today’s Hunan Province. They originally liked to eat beef noodles, but the local people used rice as their staple food and could not find any noodles. The Huis, who settled here, used the local “米粉 (mǐfěn) rice noodle“ as a substitute for normal noodles, creating the earliest beef rice noodles, which had “清淡的口味 (qīngdàn de kǒuwèi) a light taste.”

Later, the people in Hunan gradually accepted this style and improved it, making the taste spicier and saltier, among other spice profiles, resulting in today’s Hunan Style of beef noodles.

Key Learning Words

1. 牛肉粉 (Niúròu fěn) beef noodles; beef rice noodles

Wǒ měitiān zǎoshàng dōu yào chī yì wǎn niúròu fěn.
I eat a bowl of beef noodles every morning.

2. 拉面 (Lāmiàn) ramen; noodles

Wǒ xiǎng chī zhèngzōng de lán zhōu lāmiàn.
I’d like to have authentic Lanzhou noodles.

3. 小吃 (Xiǎochī) snack

Zhèlǐ de xiǎochī hěn chūmíng.
The snacks here are very famous.

4. 特色 (Tèsè) characteristic

Zhè jiā cānguǎn jīngyíng tèsè fēngwèi xiǎochī.
This restaurant deals in specialties snacks.

What’s Your Specialty? – “特色 (Tèsè)” Or “特点 (Tèdiǎn)?”

5. 麻辣 (Málà) spicy and hot

Fúwù yuán, lái yì wǎn málà niúròu miàn.
Server, a bowl of spicy beef noodles, please.

6. 清淡 (Qīngdàn) light

Zhè dào tāng cháng qǐlái hěn qīngdàn.
The soup tastes light.

So, this completes Part I of a two-part lesson on 3 different common Chinese street foods. Please stay tuned for Part II shortly! Are you hungry yet?

HSK 3 quiz
1. Read the dialogue and answer the question below.

Xiǎo Míng: Jīntiān zhōngwǔ nǐ dǎsuàn chī shénme ya?

Xiǎo Xīng: (   ) zěnmeyàng? Zhè kěshì húnán yǒumíng de tèsè xiǎochī ne.
小星:(   )怎么样?这可是湖南有名的特色小吃呢。

Please choose the best option to make it complete.

A. 兰州拉面 (Lán zhōu lāmiàn)

B. 沙县小吃 (Shā xiàn xiǎochī)

C. 津市牛肉粉 (Jīn shì niúròu fěn)

See Answer Analysis

―Written by Becky Zhang―
Becky Zhang is a teacher at She has over 9 years of experience teaching Mandarin Chinese to foreign students and promoting Chinese culture. She lives in Beijing but loves traveling to ancient Chinese villages. One day she’d like to be a tour guide in China!

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