What do I like about the traditional Chinese food sold for street food?
It’s fast, easy to pick and order because what you see is what you get. It’s fresh as fresh gets being such a popular way to dine in this country and there’s no shortage of options to choose from. Although Lijiang might not have been the well preserved tiny old town hidden between mountains that we expected it to be, it was surely the most spectacular one we visited in terms of traditional Chinese food and especially street food. The (reconstructed and somehow dissappointing) old town was packed at each step with open air shops selling all sorts of goodies, some more traditional than others, but all very tempting to the eye and stomach. The colors and smells kept the tourists wandering through the winding cobble stone alleys for hours at a time.
Lijiang’s position in the middle of a predominantly agricultural province made for crisp fresh veggies and fruit, a local and delicious production of yoghurt and mango juice and a wide variety of freshly sacrificed animals (if you’re into that) which could have all landed on your plate, one at a time or all at once, depending how hungry you got.
A few of my favourite traditional Chinese food treats I enjoyed in Lijiang:
- fresh yoghurt brought from the farms each morning: even though it was made in the traditional Chinese way, which means sweetened, I did get addicted to this drink and sipped on it every morning while in Lijiang (only 6 RMB per serving)
- the fruit juice squeezed right in front of your eyes from any fruit imaginable (between 10 and 30 RMB, depending on the size and the fruits used)
- a nice surprise came from a rarity I had yet to try before this trip, which were little deep fried bugs, covered in spices; we nibbled on some water nymphs and grasshoppers, but the scorpion was the best of all (the priciest treat we had, around 20-30 RMB for a stick of 6)
- the bottled mango juice produced locally and sold at every store (5-6 RMB)
Local tips when enjoying Lijiang’s street food
Local tip no. 1: if you have the chance to stay in a place which will provide a kitchen to use, I do highly recommend the Zhongyi Market in Lijiang, where you can find the freshest and yummiest of treats to be cooked at home. Either way, the place is worth a visit, even if just for picking some apples or strawberries (which were in season at the time we visited, and amazingly delicious).
Local tip no. 2: when talking about different traditional Chinese food, street food out of all the varieties there are is not supposed to be a delicacy, but in Lijiang there are many vendors inside the main food courts of the old town who will take advantage of the high demand and overcharge you. Although it is eye catching and the vibe of the place inspires you to spend and spend, we did at occasions exit the old town and found equally delicious treats for a fraction of the price sold for inside the old walls, which we highly recommend for others to try.