Title

Eats on the Street

Photos of Chongqing’s (Hot) Streetfood

  • As the evening dinner rush begins, a crowd forms outside Gang Shan Zhazha, a popular street-side hotpot restaurant on Tiyu Road in the central Yuzhong district of Chongqing. The restaurant sits on the site of a former neighborhood garbage collection point and “<em>zhazha</em>” is local slang for “garbage.”
    As the evening dinner rush begins, a crowd forms outside Gang Shan Zhazha, a popular street-side hotpot restaurant on Tiyu Road in the central Yuzhong district of Chongqing. The restaurant sits on the site of a former neighborhood garbage collection point and “zhazha” is local slang for “garbage.”
  • A group eats hotpot out of a split pot that separates the reddish, spicy from not spicy broth at An Pang Hotpot in an alley above Tiyu Road.
    A group eats hotpot out of a split pot that separates the reddish, spicy from not spicy broth at An Pang Hotpot in an alley above Tiyu Road.
  • A group of friends who live in the neighborhood eat at He Wang and Shi’s Skewers and Fragrant Hot Pot, a skewer-style hotpot restaurant popular with locals. One of the diners said, “We like the atmosphere. It’s a typical Chongqing place: friends sit together and it’s hot out and you all sweat together.”
    A group of friends who live in the neighborhood eat at He Wang and Shi’s Skewers and Fragrant Hot Pot, a skewer-style hotpot restaurant popular with locals. One of the diners said, “We like the atmosphere. It’s a typical Chongqing place: friends sit together and it’s hot out and you all sweat together.”
  • Men drink beer at a street-side <em>shaokao</em> spot on Tiyu Road. <em>Shaokao</em> is a style of barbecue in which patrons choose a variety of raw meats and vegetables to have spiced and cooked. In Chongqing, most <em>shaokao</em> cooks mix all of the ingredients together after barbecuing and add garlic, green onions, hot peppers, and other flavors.
    Men drink beer at a street-side shaokao spot on Tiyu Road. Shaokao is a style of barbecue in which patrons choose a variety of raw meats and vegetables to have spiced and cooked. In Chongqing, most shaokao cooks mix all of the ingredients together after barbecuing and add garlic, green onions, hot peppers, and other flavors.
  • <em>Dou gan</em>, a dish of fried noodles with peanuts and spices, is a popular dish at this small unnamed outdoor noodle cafe at the bottom of Shibati, or “18 Steps,” in central Chongqing. This neighborhood dates back to the Ming Dynasty when 18 steps took residents down to a freshwater well.
    Dou gan, a dish of fried noodles with peanuts and spices, is a popular dish at this small unnamed outdoor noodle cafe at the bottom of Shibati, or “18 Steps,” in central Chongqing. This neighborhood dates back to the Ming Dynasty when 18 steps took residents down to a freshwater well.
  • Jiang Shijun is the manager of the eatery Du Laowu’s Midnight Beer on Tiyu Road. The restaurant is one of about ten locations operated by the family in Chongqing. According to Jiang, the street-side restaurant usually serves about 1,000 people a night and is open seven days a week.
    Jiang Shijun is the manager of the eatery Du Laowu’s Midnight Beer on Tiyu Road. The restaurant is one of about ten locations operated by the family in Chongqing. According to Jiang, the street-side restaurant usually serves about 1,000 people a night and is open seven days a week.
  • A top-down view of Xie Guangrong’s food cart shows the <em>tudou ni</em> (smashed fried potatoes mixed with spices) at her food stand outside the B District Middle Gate of Chongqing University. Here, a large helping of <em>tudou ni</em> costs 3 RMB or about U.S. 50¢.
    A top-down view of Xie Guangrong’s food cart shows the tudou ni (smashed fried potatoes mixed with spices) at her food stand outside the B District Middle Gate of Chongqing University. Here, a large helping of tudou ni costs 3 RMB or about U.S. 50¢.
  • A restaurant worker takes lunch to a stall in a market off Shaanxi Road.
    A restaurant worker takes lunch to a stall in a market off Shaanxi Road.
  • A watermelon seller waits for customers at the bottom of Shibati.
    A watermelon seller waits for customers at the bottom of Shibati.
  • A woman sells chicken and duck pieces at a street stall at the bottom of Shibati.
    A woman sells chicken and duck pieces at a street stall at the bottom of Shibati.
  • Street-side <em>shaokao</em> cooks work on Tiyu Road. The road is lined with street-side <em>shaokao</em> and hotpot restaurants.
    Street-side shaokao cooks work on Tiyu Road. The road is lined with street-side shaokao and hotpot restaurants.
  • A cook inside the kitchen of An Pang Hotpot in an alley above Tiyu Road.
    A cook inside the kitchen of An Pang Hotpot in an alley above Tiyu Road.
  • Bowls of fried noodles and <em>xifan</em>, rice porridge or congee, are consumed at a small unnamed outdoor noodle cafe at the bottom of Shibati. The cook, Tong Suchun, has been in operation for about 20 years. At the time, the neighborhood was slated for redevelopment and Tong said he didn’t know what he would do after the restaurant closed. “I’ll take a break,” he says, “and then find something new.” The restaurant typically serves a couple hundred people in a night. Most spending about 15 RMB, or U.S.$2.40.
    Bowls of fried noodles and xifan, rice porridge or congee, are consumed at a small unnamed outdoor noodle cafe at the bottom of Shibati. The cook, Tong Suchun, has been in operation for about 20 years. At the time, the neighborhood was slated for redevelopment and Tong said he didn’t know what he would do after the restaurant closed. “I’ll take a break,” he says, “and then find something new.” The restaurant typically serves a couple hundred people in a night. Most spending about 15 RMB, or U.S.$2.40.
  • A group eats hotpot out of a split pot in an alley above Tiyu Road as the staff relay orders to the kitchen off hanging clipboards.
    A group eats hotpot out of a split pot in an alley above Tiyu Road as the staff relay orders to the kitchen off hanging clipboards.
  • A patron picks his ingredients for hotpot from refrigerators holding vegetables, meats, and tofu, at He Wang and Shi’s Skewers and Fragrant Hot Pot. Individual servings of meat, vegetables, and tofu are placed on skewers, which diners choose to add to their table’s hotpot.
    A patron picks his ingredients for hotpot from refrigerators holding vegetables, meats, and tofu, at He Wang and Shi’s Skewers and Fragrant Hot Pot. Individual servings of meat, vegetables, and tofu are placed on skewers, which diners choose to add to their table’s hotpot.
  • Crowds seated indoors blend with those outdoors in a window reflection at Gang Shan Zhazha, a popular street-side hotpot restaurant on Tiyu Road.
    Crowds seated indoors blend with those outdoors in a window reflection at Gang Shan Zhazha, a popular street-side hotpot restaurant on Tiyu Road.
  • The group at the end of the table eats hotpot from a nine-section bowl, a Chongqing specialty. Though they live in the neighborhood, members of the group said that this was the first time they’d been to Gang Shan Zhazha because the line is usually too long. Their favorite ingredients of the night were cow stomach, cow intestine, and duck intestine. Xiao Feng, seated at the end of the table, said “We [Chongqingers] like hot food, but this is very spicy for us.”
    The group at the end of the table eats hotpot from a nine-section bowl, a Chongqing specialty. Though they live in the neighborhood, members of the group said that this was the first time they’d been to Gang Shan Zhazha because the line is usually too long. Their favorite ingredients of the night were cow stomach, cow intestine, and duck intestine. Xiao Feng, seated at the end of the table, said “We [Chongqingers] like hot food, but this is very spicy for us.”
  • A couple eats lamb and chicken skewers and drinks beer from a food stall near the carnival on Meixin Foreigner Street, a sprawling amusement and oddity park in northeastern Chongqing. The park is popular among working-class Chongqingers. Meat skewers cost 1 RMB each.
    A couple eats lamb and chicken skewers and drinks beer from a food stall near the carnival on Meixin Foreigner Street, a sprawling amusement and oddity park in northeastern Chongqing. The park is popular among working-class Chongqingers. Meat skewers cost 1 RMB each.
  • Workers serve small plates of snacks to people eating at Old Home Kitten Noodles (Lao Difang Mao’er Mian) near Ciqikou, an ancient town dating back to the Ming Dynasty. These snacks are usually consumed while drinking beer. The restaurant is primarily outdoors and is open 24 hours a day. Ciqikou is a major tourist destination in Chongqing, but at night the tourists disappear and locals come out to eat from street food vendors.
    Workers serve small plates of snacks to people eating at Old Home Kitten Noodles (Lao Difang Mao’er Mian) near Ciqikou, an ancient town dating back to the Ming Dynasty. These snacks are usually consumed while drinking beer. The restaurant is primarily outdoors and is open 24 hours a day. Ciqikou is a major tourist destination in Chongqing, but at night the tourists disappear and locals come out to eat from street food vendors.
  • Meal time at Gang Shan Zhazha.
    Meal time at Gang Shan Zhazha.
  • <em>Shaokao</em> ingredients prepared on skewers for diners near Shibati.
    Shaokao ingredients prepared on skewers for diners near Shibati.
  • A food stall on Meixin Foreigner Street. This district has replicas of a 150-meter section of the Great Wall and Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer.
    A food stall on Meixin Foreigner Street. This district has replicas of a 150-meter section of the Great Wall and Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer.

It doesn’t matter how many times you tell the cook not to add hot peppers, anything you order in Chongqing is going to be mouth-numbing and hotter than anything you’ve ever tasted before. It will be good, but it will be hot. From hotpot joints and street-corner barbecues to cold noodles served out of buckets dangling from a bamboo pole, Chongqing’s street vendors operate late into the night. You’ll be lucky to get a table at the restaurants on Tiyu Road, an area in Chongqing’s central Yuzhong district and ground zero for the city’s street food scene. But just about every little road throughout the city has a few cooks that set up shop on the street. In the morning, you can find savory fried dough, rice porridge, and pots of steaming hot “flower” tofu, ready to be garnished with an assortment of beans, nuts, herbs, and, of course, fiery peppers.

But it’s when the heat of the day begins to cool that vendors wheel their carts to street corners and the edges of plazas to prepare for city’s nightly feasts. Last summer, when these photos were taken, Shibati, the historic “18 Steps” neighborhood built around a staircase, had been scheduled for demolition and redevelopment. The street vendors were beginning to leave from the area. Near the ancient town of Ciqikou, the tourists disappear at night and shaokao, or grilled meat, vendors fill up the sidewalks. In Shapingba, street vendors fill the open areas near Chongqing University’s gates. But in Deyi World Plaza, one of Chongqing’s glittering club and shopping areas, independent street vendors have given way to franchise kiosks. No matter where you go, though, you can get your spicy food on the street late into the night. Most vendors close up shop just before dawn.