1. Barbecue Pork Buns (Cha Shao Bao) Think of it like this: it’s meat from sweet and sticky barbecue ribs finely diced and stuffed in an airy and soft steamed bun. It’s the perfect combination of savory and sweet. Strategy: Look out for the cart with steamed buns of all sorts, specifically the bamboo basket with 3-4 puffy, slightly split white buns.
2. Shu Mai Dumplings (Shao Mai) These dumplings are made with fresh ground pork topped with salty fish roe and partly wrapped in a yellow dumpling skin. The steaming process ensures that the meat stays juicy and maintains its plump texture. Strategy: Look for the cart with dumplings. Shu mai look like angular pork meatballs with a yellow wrapper and orange “sprinkles.” 3-4 dumplings per bamboo basket.
3. Chrysanthemum Tea (Ju Hua Cha) This is not your average tea; chrysanthemum tea is made with chrysanthemum flower petals, giving the tea a floral, fragrant taste. Strategy: Order this before your food comes. Try it plain or with sugar cubes.
4. Turnip Cake (Luo Bu Gao) “Cake” may be misleading, as this is a savory side dish. Turnip is pureed and diced into a fine paste, formed into bar shapes, and pan-fried. The crisp outside contrasts nicely with the soft interior. Strategy: Look for a cart with miscellaneous side dishes on actual plates, not bamboo baskets. It’s usually accompanied by stir-fried Chinese broccoli or rice omelets.
5. Fried Sesame Balls with Red Bean Paste (Zha Zhi Ma Qiu) Sweetened red bean puree is encased in a glutinous rice layer, rolled in sesame seeds and fried. This delightful dessert is crispy and hot on the outside and sweet and smooth on the inside. Strategy: Look for the dessert cart filled with golden brown goodies such as egg custard tarts and coconut buns. 3 sesame balls per plate.
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