In the midst of discovering historical palaces, plunging gorges, and bustling marketplaces, it's not always easy for travelers to find a satisfying meal. No one likes sightseeing on an empty stomach. With that in mind, here are 10 snack foods that any traveler can easily purchase and pack along for a day of exploring in China.
It doesn't get more traditional than the classic steamed bun. Baozi are not only a cultural and culinary experience every China traveler should experience, they are also wonderfully portable.
The word "bao" is translated as "bag" and it is easy to see why. Baozi are dough-wrapped packages of various meats and vegetables that will keep you fueled up and ready to go. They are considered finger food, which makes them perfect for the busy traveler with no time to waste at a table.
2. Red Bean Buns
For those with more of a sweet tooth, red bean buns are the Chinese equivalent to a Little Debbie snack cake. Made in the same way as baozi, these buns are filled with a sugary, bean paste filling and make for a delightful pick me up at any time of the day. Don't be turned off by the word "bean". There is so much sugar added to these little buns you will be reminded more of Fig Newtons than something off the Taco Bell menu.
At first glance, zongzi doesn't look very appetizing, but this is definitely a case of not judging the book by its cover. Typically wrapped in the leaves of the bamboo plant, these glutinous rice dumplings are either boiled or steamed and can be found throughout Asia. Beneath the leafy exterior, you can expect to find fillings such as chicken, pork, peanuts, jujubes, and even red bean paste.
This flatbread can be found in any Chinese city with a Muslim district. Náng will often be sold from tiny stands stacked high with bread and can be wrapped up and stowed away for later snacking. Different stands will use a variety of toppings and seasonings, but all are guaranteed to taste fresh and delicious.
5. Dried Fruits
Dried fruits can be found at any market and are occasionally sold by street vendors as well. While you are likely to find Western standbys, such as banana chips and raisins, why not treat yourself to something new such as dried hawthorn berry, mango, or even sugared ginger?
6. Fresh Fruits
In China, you are never too far from a fruit market. Aside from apples and oranges, there are many fruits you won't have encountered in a Western supermarket. Fresh papayas, mangoes, Kumquats, Chinese pears, melons, dragon fruits, and many others. Just be sure you don't get anything you can't peel into easily. Luckily, most markets will have pre-peeled varieties of most fruits made fresh and ready to go.
7. Nuts and Seeds
If nuts and seeds are your go to snacks at home you'll be happy to find all your favorites are readily available in China and are often much cheaper. Walnuts, cashews, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds can be found roasted or raw in most markets. They offer a healthy alternative for food conscious travelers and have the added bonus of being easy to see and order. Most places will set them at a set price per unit.
8. Tea Eggs
While tea and eggs may sound like two separate parts of a complete breakfast, the Chinese version is a treat everyone should experience. The eggs are hard boiled and then cracked and soaked in a mixture of tea and spices, which give them unbelievable flavor. The typical blend includes cinnamon, star anise, fennel, clove and the all-powerful Szechuan peppercorn. You will see pots of tea eggs soaking in street vendor stalls and restaurants alike.
9. Imported Snacks
Especially in the more westernized regions of China, it is easy to find imported snacks you may feel more familiar with. Things like Oreos, Lay's Chips, Cheetos, Snickers Bars, and Hershey Chocolate are common. Though, you can expect to pay more for that English on the wrapper and the quality may not be exactly how you remember it.
10. Chinese Versions of Imported Snacks
While you may find it comforting to soothe your homesick taste buds with the salty goodness of Lay's Originals, don't be too quick to write off the Chinese adaptations of your favorite brands. Specialty Lay's flavors you might encounter include seaweed, roasted squid, and cucumber. And while there are plenty of cream centered Oreos to be had, don't pass up on the green tea, kumquat, and lime versions as well.
Explore China and Its Food with China Highlights
Interested in exploring China and all of the amazing snack foods it has to offer? Let us help you plan your first visit with an eight day tour of China's "Golden Triangle" featuring the most famous cities and sites.
Looking for the perfect introduction to Chinese cuisine? Why not join our twelve day The Flavor of China tour, which includes some of the grandest sites and dishes China has to offer. Learn more today!