Fast Food Gems Crafted by Street Chefs of the Night

2018-03-06
Crayfish is off the market and crab is soon to follow. But the desire for night snacks never dies. In chilly weather, a bowl of fried noodles, lamb kebabs, or hot congee always warms the stomach and the heart.

For Hangzhou residents and visitors who miss the unique taste of crayfish now taking a seasonal break, we list local roadside eateries, stalls and restaurants known for providing food after the fall of darkness.

People refer to this place as the “legendary barbecue booth” because it had a history of moving to different locations around the city without warning, making it difficult to track down. Anxious fans followed owner Lao Yang on social media, waiting for his message “Lao Yang is now here ...”

Lao Yang maintained his following and his customer base grew stronger once he settled at a new location in 2012.

He rented a small restaurant near bustling Nanshan Road and ended the cat-and-mouse game. The eatery in daytime is a noodle restaurant and at 8pm turns into a BBQ joint.

It’s opposite the China National Silk Museum and has a great reputation among locals.

Lao Yang is famous for its grilled yellow croaker (ask for kao xiao huangyu), but be patient as the wait time can be between 30 and 60 minutes. Long queues form every night due to the large number of customers for grilled fish, lamb, and chicken wings.

Arrive before 8pm or go on a rainy night to avoid the queues.

The grilled small croaker is Lao Yang’s signature dish although the chicken wings are also excellent. The skin is grilled enough so the grease comes out, making each wing look sleek and sizzling.

The average cost is 50 yuan (US$8) to 100 yuan.
 
Address: 73 Yuhuangshan Rd, across the street from China National Silk Museum
Opening hours: 7:30pm-2am


From a stall to a small restaurant to a brand with five outlets, Chao Zhong Ren’s reputation continues to grow by virtue of its good food.

An assortment of fresh fish, crab, shrimp and other critters swimming in tanks or lying on ice attract many diners to the restaurants. Some even make the bold claim that it’s the city’s best Chaozhou cuisine, famous for its fresh, light seafood and vegetables cooked with little oil.

Chaozhou cooking originated in the Chaoshan coastal region of Guangdong Province. It’s a major genre within Guangdong cuisine, influenced by both Cantonese and Fujian cooking.

The restaurant purchases its seafood from Guangdong. All dishes are made without much oil and there’s an emphasis on poaching, steaming, simmering, braising and stir-frying.

The seafood porridge is Chao Zong Ren’s signature dish. It is not boiled in water, but in a fruit and vegetable soup. Salt is the only seasoning used.

A shrimp congee for two people is enough for three or four to share, given there are dozens of shrimps inside. The porridge is stirred frequently while it is boiled so the rice stays clear but does not get sticky.

The seafood porridge has more than 20 types of seafood including crab, shrimp, lobster, scallop and eel.
 
Address: 368 Gudun Rd
Opening hours: from lunch to 3am


Stone Age Barbeque


Barbequeing never loses its appeal when night snacks are required. Do-it-yourself barbeques are full of fun but don’t always deliver the desired result.

For example, sometimes one side of the meat can be overcooked while the other is underdone.

Or for big pieces of meat the outside can be hot while the inside remains cold. And the person responsible for cooking always gets too busy to eat.

Stone Age Barbeque solves the three problems by using an automatic double-layer grill.

All kebabs are cooked evenly as they continue rolling on the automatic rotisserie, obviating the need to manually turn the sticks in time. In addition, cumin and pepper are liberally sprinkled.

Other items such as corn and sweet potato are placed on the lower grill until they are warm and then moved to stronger heat so the insides can cook.

The restaurant is designed to look like a cave. Chicken wings, lamb kebabs, and mutton are recommended.
 
Address: No.5 Second Lane under Baoshi Hill
Opening hours: 5pm-3am


Fermented tofu has a strong odor, is called stinky tofu and is a popular night-time snack, usually found at night markets or roadside stands. It is also served as a side dish at lunch bars rather than in restaurants.

Fat Sister’s is known for making the best stinky tofu in Hangzhou. Even well-known food critic Shen Hongfei testifies to this claim.

Around 30 years ago, Fat Sister stood with her cooking pan outside West Lake Cinema, running her small stinky tofu business from 10pm until the early hours of the next day. People remembered her wonderful cooking skills, but didn’t remember her real name which is how over time she became known simply as Fat Sister.

When the small business began, most of her customers were people going to the cinema. But as her reputation spread, people started to queue even before she opened the stall at 10pm.

Cooking stinky tofu looks deceptively easy: put the tofu in some oil and fry it. However, the timing, amount of oil and quality of tofu are all greatly important.

Fat Sister makes her own stinky tofu rather than buying it from the market, and her years of experience have allowed her to get the timing just right. Her stinky tofu is crispy outside, tender inside and accords with her slogan “smells smelly, tastes tasty.”

Fat Sister’s also sells meat and vegetables. Her stall is at the intersection of Pinghai and Dongpo roads.
 
Address: 115 Pinghai Rd
Opening hours: 11pm-2am