7 popular midnight foods in China

Fancy some crayfish, grilled cold noodles or malatang when the clock strikes twelve?

(CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK)  - The television series Midnight Canteen, adapted from hit Japanese manga titled Midnight Diner, aired on Chinese TV in June 2017.

But the show caused a lot of controversy online, criticised by many as copycatting the Japanese TV version and losing Chinese characteristics.

Like the Japanese version, Midnight Canteen is an anthology of stories, revolving around a one-man restaurant in Shanghai and the tales of its patrons who come and go in the wee hours. 

The TV drama was rated at only 2.8 points out of 10 on douban, China's major film and TV review websites, overwhelmed by criticism that it is not presenting an authentic Chinese midnight culinary culture.

Now the question is: What do Chinese eat at midnight? What are their favourites?

Here is a list for the foodie in you.


Spicy crayfish is a popular snack. PHOTO: VCG

1. Spicy crayfish

Spicy crayfish has become a sensational evening snack across China in recent years, originating from the central and eastern parts of China, including Hunan, Hubei and Jiangsu provinces.

The crustaceans, also known as "little lobsters" in China, have a nickname in Chinese, ma xiao (spicy little lobsters), as they are often served in hot and spicy chilli sauce.

Beer is a favoured beverage to pair with the delicacy.

China's crayfish market is worth more than 140 billion yuan (S$28.8 billion), according to media reports. Nearly 18,000 restaurants focused on serving crayfish as of August 2016, three times the number of KFCs in the country.


From left: Barbecued chicken wings, potatoes and lamb. PHOTO: VCG

2. Barbecue

From lamb, fish and pork to mushrooms, cabbage and corn, almost all foods can be barbecued on grills at late-night snack stalls across China.

A wide choice of sauces is offered to add flavour to the barbecued delicacies, no matter if you are a chili lover or a fan of cumin powder.


A hot pot feast. PHOTO: VCG

3. Hot pot

Born in south-west China's Sichuan and Chongqing provinces, hot pot is now almost everywhere in China.

With plates of meat, vegetables and whatever raw foods that consumers choose served on tables, the strongly flavoured, oily but mouthwatering dish easily cheers people up at late-night gatherings regardless of the season.


Stir-fried rice noodles with beef. PHOTO: VCG

4. Stir-fried rice noodles with beef

Stir-fried rice noodles with beef is a favoured dish in Cantonese cuisine and a popular night meal especially in South China's Guangdong province. 


Grilled cold noodles. PHOTO: CHINA DAILY FILE

5. Grilled cold noodles

Known as kaolengmian in Chinese, the grilled cold noodles were originally a quick street snack in north-east China, which has now spread to many other places. In the capital city of Beijing, for example, it is not rare to encounter a cart or a street stand selling the noodles.

The cooking process is simple. A thin, pre-made sheet of dough is placed on a sizzling flat skillet before an egg is cracked and spread over it. It is then sprinkled with scallions, chopped onions and cilantro.


Hunan rice noodles. PHOTO: SUPPLIED TO CHINADAILY.COM.CN 

6. Hunan rice noodles

Hunan rice noodles are among the favourites for late-night food seekers, especially in Central China's Hunan and Hubei provinces. There are usually two types of rice noodles, round and flat, served fried or in soup. Various flavours and toppings are available to add: pork ribs, beef, mushrooms and different spices.


Ingredients on shelves to go with malatang. PHOTO: VCG

7. Malatang

Malatang literally means numb, spicy and hot in Chinese. In malatang restaurants, or stalls, skewers of meat, vegetables, bean curd products and many other foods are put on shelves to be chosen by consumers. The selected ones are then cooked in boiling soup with fiery sauce.