10 Chinese Snacks That Vegetarians Will Love

“Have you tried this food before? You have to try it!” I heard some variation of these words so many times during the five years I spent living in China. Having lived in China as both a college student and as a teacher, I had classmates, bosses, friends, and students who were eager to teach me more about their culture—and extremely excited about introducing me to new Chinese snacks.

As a vegetarian, this was a bit more challenging for me. I felt bad rejecting the snacks that my friends wanted to share with me, but I was also cautious about what I ate and worried that I would accidentally consume meat. 

Luckily, with the help of my friends—some of whom could be described as foodies—I still had the opportunity to experience Chinese snacks and street food.

Three Cities and Ten Delicious Chinese Snacks 

I also had the privilege of living in three different cities: Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu, and I traveled to many other areas. However, it’s also worth noting that China is obviously a large country, and is home to at least 55 ethnic minority groups. 

My experience with Chinese street food has several limitations: I am a vegetarian (so I couldn’t try everything), I ate a lot more street food in Chengdu compared to when I was living in Shanghai, and I spent the majority of my time in the regions that I lived in. There are truly too many incredible snacks to try—which is not the worst problem to have. Here are my top 10 favorites.

the cityscape of shanghai

1. Langya Potatoes

It’s possible that living in Chengdu transformed my tastebuds. I didn’t grow up eating spicy food and didn’t really crave it. But Chengdu is a foodie’s paradise—and Sichuan province is famous for its bold, spicy flavors. When I first tried Sichuan hot pot, which is(debatably)not a snack, I fell in love. 

Langya potatoes are a common street food found in Sichuan province. I studied in Chengdu for six months and on many occasions when I went for walks with friends, they encouraged me to buy these potatoes. When I returned to Chengdu after relocating to Shanghai, one of my friends felt devastated because we couldn’t enjoy those spicy crinkle-cut potatoes together again. It turned out that the stall we used to visit had sold out. She told me that one day I would return to Chengdu, and she would be sure to eat langya potatoes with me—a true tradition.

A Tray of Langya Potatoes

2. Tian Shui Mian

Are noodles a snack? Yes, definitely. I’ve come to appreciate that noodles can be a snack, breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Tian shui mian, or sweet water noodles, are another popular street food in Chengdu. The “sweet water” is a sweetened soy sauce, and the sweet and spicy sauce that covers the thick noodles seemed a bit different from anything else I’ve had. However, I find the sweetness to be subtle, and the combination works. Tian shui mian can also be ordered at many casual restaurants in Chengdu.

a bowl of Tian shui mian

3. Mung Bean Cakes

Mung bean cakes are my favorite. I can’t be the only one who loves mung bean (right?), because a friend and I waited in long lines in less-than-desirable weather to snag fresh mung bean snacks. To make mung bean cakes, people use mung bean paste, resulting in a light sweetness and a very smooth texture. They’re also small, similar in appearance to a mooncake because of their size and shape. Though I would gladly eat mung bean cakes during any time of year, they’re popular during the summer as mung beans have cooling properties according to traditional Chinese medicine. 

I loved visiting tea houses and getting these cakes to go with my tea, but I have purchased them basically everywhere: bakeries, vegetarian restaurants, street vendors, etc. There are different varieties of mung bean cakes—for example, some might have red bean paste in the center, while some don’t have filling—but I personally love that this sweet treat is not too sweet. These are my go-to if I’m looking for something that is just a bit sweet without being rich. 

A Plate of Mung Bean Cakes in Shanghai

4. Put Chai Ko

Chinese food is diverse and varies by region. Guangdong province (and Cantonese cuisine) has a long history and is well-known for its dim sum. The time I spent in Guangzhou (the capital of Guangdong) was fairly limited, and I’ve never been to Hong Kong. Luckily, one of my friends made sure I tried plenty of Chinese snacks while in the area. 

This particular snack, put chai ko, is popular in Hong Kong. The “cake” is made using rice flour. They’re chewy and jiggly, and red beans were added to the one I had. (Personally, I am a red bean advocate—not everyone shares this opinion.) I tried put chai ko from a street vendor when walking around in Guangzhou. 

A Plate of Put Chai Ko

5. Jianbing

I’m not ashamed to admit that jianbing was a staple for me when I lived in Chengdu on a student budget. (I think I liked it so much that I always ate it before thinking of taking a photo, because I only have one photo of jianbing and it’s in a bag). Jianbing, a popular Chinese street food, resembles a type of pancake or crepe and people commonly eat it for breakfast.

In my experience, jianbing vendors populate many neighborhoods across China, offering different regional variations of the dish. For reference, I lived in six different apartments in China, and I could walk to a jianbing vendor within five minutes from each one. Around the time that I left Shanghai, some vendors even started selling vegan jianbing using a plant-based egg alternative.

Jian-Bing-from-a-street-vendor-in-Nanjing-China

6. Zongzi 

Zongzi, or sticky rice dumplings, are a Dragon Boat Festival tradition. When I was teaching in China, many of my students told me that they would celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival by eating zongzi despite not liking zongzi. People eat zongzi to commemorate Qu Yuan, a patriotic poet who drowned in a river. To stop fish from eating his body, people threw zongzi into the river.

Personally, I believe zongzi are one of the most underrated Chinese snacks, which is why I’ve included them. Zongzi are made with sticky rice and are wrapped in bamboo leaves. They can be made with sweet fillings like red bean or savory fillings like pork. As a vegetarian, I had only ever tried red bean zongzi and was not a huge fan, but I tried a vegan version of the savory dumplings during my last year in China, and I personally love the sticky rice and savory “meat” combination.

A Bowl of Zongzi

7. Xiaolongbao

I lived in Shanghai for four years before I tried xiaolongbao, one of the foods that Shanghai is most famous for, because I didn’t know where to find vegetarian options. Xiaolongbao are similar to steamed dumplings but are filled with soup. 

You can find xiaolongbao with meat or vegetable fillings, but the soup is usually not a vegetarian-friendly snack. I tried xiaolongbao for the first time at a vegetarian restaurant in Nanjing (sorry, Shanghai). Many of the vegetarian versions of xiaolongbao that I personally found in China were mushroom-based. You’re most likely to find great xiaolongbao at a casual restaurant in or near Shanghai.

A Serving of Xiaolongbao

8. Tangyuan

Tangyuan (also called yuanxiao in northern regions) are historical Chinese snacks that have been enjoyed for more than 2,000 years. They’re associated with several different Chinese festivals, including Spring Festival/Lunar New Year and the Lantern Festival. Tangyuan represent reunion or unity, and are commonly enjoyed for Dongzhi Festival (winter solstice) as well. People commonly serve this dessert snack, consisting of glutinous rice balls filled with red bean, sesame, and peanut or another filling, in a warm sweet soup.

(Note for vegetarians: Some tangyuan recipes use lard.)

Plates of Tangyuan Being Prepared

9. Yang Rou Chuan

Yang rou chuan means lamb kabob, so I’ve only had a vegan version. People enjoy eating lamb skewers in different regions, especially northern China. The popular variation comes from Xinjiang. You’ll typically find yang rou chuan seasoned with chili and cumin. It’s common for street vendors to sell lamb skewers (and other skewers) at night, either at night markets or just on the street. 

Yang Rou Chuan at the Table

10. Liangmian

There are so many different types of noodle dishes in China, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. One of my favorites, though, is liangmian (cold noodles). You’ll typically find these noodles sold by street vendors or at small restaurants. Portion sizes are usually small, so this dish functions as a delightful vegetarian snack, especially on a hot day. 

There are different variations of liangmian; for example, the Sichuan variation is spicier due to the use of chili oil and Sichuan peppercorn. In Shanghai, I ate a variation of liangmian made with sesame sauce, cucumbers, and meat (in my case, a plant-based substitute).  

A Plate of Liang Mian

Conclusion…There are Tons of Delicious Chinese Snacks for Vegetarians

Every region of China has something different to offer. Even after spending close to five years studying and teaching there, I didn’t run out of delicious Chinese snacks to try—even as a vegetarian. I admit that experiencing China’s popular snack culture is harder with dietary restrictions, but it’s certainly not impossible. There are so many spicy, savory, and sweet treats that didn’t make it on this list (mooncakes have my heart), making China a foodie’s paradise. 

 Are you considering studying abroad in China? Check out Paunise Pierre Talks Studying in China next to get an insider’s take!

Six Awesome Places to Teach English Abroad

What are your interests? What do you want to do in the future?  Have you made a five-year plan for your professional goals? People probably ask that a lot, and it’s okay if you don’t know yet. A great way to find out what you want to do is to travel. Traveling while you teach English abroad is both an exciting and terrifying adventure, but it certainly does open up new horizons and opportunities for just about everything.  Even in the pandemic, with all its troubles and uncertainties, the world is still full of possibilities. Most of the destinations that you would love to visit would still love to have you. Education and life will continue! 

Here are six awesome places to teach English abroad

The first three on the list have always been popular destinations for English teachers abroad, and they pay well. Plus, they provide living accommodations and travel reimbursements. In addition, teachers are respected and appreciated. They look for different levels of experience from teachers but don’t worry if you are new to this career.

China

Schools in China require teachers to have a bachelor’s degree and some experience in teaching English. If this is you, there are many opportunities for English teachers abroad, and there are a lot of exciting things to learn about. Complete immersion into language and culture makes it even more awesome. English teachers abroad in China are able to work with all age levels (from kindergarten to university) and in public or private institutions. There are many placement cities, too, including Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen. On average, the monthly salary is between 6,000-16,000 CNY ($900-$2,400 USD). Since most programs offer furnished, rent-free apartments or an accommodation allowance, English teachers abroad are able to save a lot of money. 

City street lit up at night, Shanghai, China. A potential nighttime view while on an adventure to teach English abroad
City street lit up at night, Shanghai, China.

Japan

Japan has all climates. There are mountains, icefields, beaches, and rainforests here. It’s an exciting destination for English teachers abroad who want to travel and become immersed. Big cities like Tokyo and Osaka are available for placement, as well as smaller towns like Shiojiri. In Japan, English teachers work alongside the Japanese classroom teacher, and they are immersed in the community. Japan is an awesome location for English teachers abroad because of the adventure. The pay is great, averaging 215,000-280,000 JPY ($2,075-$2,750 USD) per month. Nonetheless, the cost of living here can be high.

South Korea

Here also, teachers can be immersed in a comfortable, exciting culture, and in a well-developed, modern economy. English teachers abroad have the opportunity to work in public schools and private language institutions throughout the entire country. The South Korean government does require, however, that teachers complete a criminal background check. The benefits of teaching in South Korea are fantastic. Teachers receive furnished, rent-free living accommodations, medical coverage, paid holidays, plus bonuses. Paige Miller highlights why South Korea is an amazing country for English teachers abroad in her interview with Dreams Abroad.

South Korea is a great place to teach English abroad, especially for city skyline views.

Thailand

Thailand is a gorgeous location. English teachers abroad love the beaches and the many ocean sports. For most, Thailand is an awesome location because it is so unlike anything else. Teachers can find themselves working in kindergarten all the way up to high school. Compared to other countries, however, the pay is very low. English teachers abroad make about 25,000-40,000 THB per month. That equates to roughly $800-$1,300 USD. With that being said, the cost of living in Thailand is very low. Check out Leesa Truesdell’s interview with Beth Young to get a first-hand look at what life is like for an English teacher abroad in Thailand.

Students holding a bicycle in Thailand

Spain

Spain has a very exciting culture with great food and wine, wonderful weather, and a rich history. English teachers abroad are able to work all over the country; from its beautiful coastal cities to its picturesque towns in the heart of the nation. Spain is a little more strict than others for those wishing to teach English abroad. Teachers must have a bachelor’s degree and be under the age of 36. The average monthly pay is between 350-1,000 EUR ($430-$1,220 USD). However, English teachers abroad in Spain are able to live with a host family. Alex Warhall offers an excellent summary of what life is like as an English teacher abroad in Spain. From here, travel easily around Europe and find everything you are looking for. 

A classroom full of students in Spain. Spain is a popular destination to teach English abroad

Colombia

This country is also a Spanish-speaking location. It offers a relaxed atmosphere and a great history, along with beaches, great coffee, and sunshine. Most positions are available in private schools throughout Colombia’s major cities, although public schools and the vocational SENA National Training Service also have positions. English teachers abroad make about 15,000-30,000 COP ($4.5-$9 USD) an hour for roughly 20-40 hours of instruction a week. Assistance is also available for finding suitable housing, but only if you’ve landed a job with an international high school. In his interview with Leesa Truesdell, Lamon Chapman describes his experience teaching English at a university in Medellin. 

A photo of a school in Colombia

There are many great locations in the world to entice English teachers abroad. Choosing a place to go isn’t easy, and it depends mostly on what the traveler wishes to get from the experience and take away into the future. If you are looking for a great destination and a great living and working experience, you will find all that at any one of these locations and more. Visit We Teach for more information on teaching abroad. 

Please note: exchange rates and program benefits are subject to change.

Written by the Dreams Abroad Team

Source: Oxford Seminars

Paunise Pierre Talks Studying in China

Paunise Pierre is from Gonaives, Haiti. She moved to Tallahassee, Florida when she was 19 years old to study Economics at Florida State University. Paunise is currently studying for her masters in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. After she graduates, Paunise would like to continue traveling and explore a career in investment banking. In this interview, she looks back on her period studying in China.

In her free time, Paunise enjoys attending events on campus and interacting with students of various international backgrounds and ethnicities. She also enjoys cooking and tasting foods from other cultures. When she isn’t studying, Paunise is traveling to new locations to experience all they have to offer. She hopes to relocate to China after she graduates to pursue her dreams and start her career.

What sparked your dream to study abroad?

“I moved from Haiti to the US when I was 19 years old. I finished high school and started college. During my freshman year, I signed up to go on an adventure in China just because I wanted to know what the world looked like outside of the United States.

Before studying in China, I had a layover in Incheon, South Korea. I stayed in a Korean Air hotel during the layover. Immediately, I fell in love with Korea and vowed to return one day. Before visiting South Korea, I prepared by learning about the culture. I used resources at FSU by joining the Korean American Student Association as well as the Asian American Student Union. I started watching very popular Korean TV shows and listening to K-pop.

Two years later, my dream came true. I visited Seoul, South Korea and stayed there for three weeks. I was mesmerized by the immense history sitting in one city. Seoul has everything someone could look for with locations that range from historical monuments to pillars of the modernized world. I climbed my first mountains in South Korea at the Bukhansan National Park in the Seoul area. I enjoyed the food, the people I met there, and the country in whole. Since my trip, I plan to return since I feel like I need to explore the other parts of the country. I’d like to visit places such as Busan, Daegu, and the DMV. One of my biggest dreams is to see the two Koreas reunite before I die. My next trip is to Eastern Europe this summer, and I cannot wait to explore more of the world.”

What were your expectations before you left? How have they changed?

“I studied at the Tianjin Foreign Studies University in Tianjin, China in 2014. My expectation was to meet only Chinese students, but there were students who happened to be from all over the world. They were from countries such as France, the UK, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and many others.

In addition, my expectations before I went to South Korea were very high due to my exposure to their culture through TV shows and K-pop. I was not disappointed when I arrived in South Korea. The country only exceeds my expectations. Navigating the subway and taking the bus in a completely new city was actually fascinating to me. Another “first” I did in South Korea was taking my first subway ride. I was able to navigate easily with their smartphone app.”

What did you not expect?

“The language barrier was my biggest challenge. Sometimes I would try to have a small conversation with the locals, or I’d try asking for directions when I needed to navigate on my own in the cities. I was not able to do it easily without my classmates or other acquaintances while I was there.”

What’s your next step?

“I am currently working on my MBA and am trying to travel to other places that I have not been to. Europe is currently on my travel list and I’m excited to explore a new part of the world. I try to explore the United States and Canada as much as I can since they are closest to me.”

What advice would you give to a student with the dream to study abroad?

“My advice to anyone going to travel abroad is to be ready to learn not only about the hosting country’s culture but also about yourself. While you are learning about this new-found culture, it also happens to be that you are simultaneously discovering yourself. It can be quite challenging sometimes to be in a new place alone. Travel can test your ability to adapt to diverse situations and your ability to problem-solve when faced with a challenge.”

If the opportunity presented itself while Paunise was working on her masters, she’d study abroad in China again in a heartbeat. Paunise would like to go back to China to reunite with old friends and travel around to see other historical sites of the country. She enjoyed the program very much and learned a great deal about herself and the Chinese culture.

To read more about studying and snacking in China, read 10 Chinese Snacks That Vegetarians Will Love next!