Things to do in Yiwu – other than the trade markets

Things to do in Yiwu – other than the trade markets

It’s about 5°C outside. You’re in a foreign city, you’ve finished work and your feet are sore. It’s about to get dark and you’re feeling a little snacky. What to do?

We have two options here:

  1. Stay in the hotel and catch the lift downstairs to the restaurant buffet.
  2. Rug up, put fresh socks and shoes on and hit the pavement.

Yiwu China

Honestly speaking, we did both and seeing I wrote about the hotel buffet last time I was in Yiwu it was time to really hit the streets and see what this town dishes up after hours. The locals have found a way to keep warm and fit every evening after work, as we discovered in a park on the corner of Binwang and Gongren North Roads.

For a few hours the asian electro-pop belts out from boom boxes as one dude takes the lead in a very energetic dance and exercise routine. It’s like Chinese Zumba where anyone can join and sweat it out. I swear Miss B and I should have joined the happy pack!

Huagong Road comes alive at night in more ways than one. From drab traffic thoroughfare and hot-pot restaurant street in hazy daylight to bustling food destination at night. There are wine shops, the occasional hole-in-the-wall eatery offering a very local specialty that caught me off guard (more on that at the end of this post) and a couple of dentists with shop-front windows.

Yes folks, we stood and watched a lady get her tooth extracted. Man it was a struggle at first but after a few back-and-forth wriggles the sucker popped out. The practitioners thought it was amusing that we were watching at the same time I thought it was amusing that they see nothing odd about it.

Santing Road Market, Yiwu

Just near the Santing Road night market we found a couple of people selling puppies, one of which Miss B latched onto and almost purchased to bring home. Too cute. The Santing Road Market runs every night of the week and once you get past the household rubbish, clothes and underwear (yes, I did stock up on bootleg Calvin Klein briefs) it gets pretty damn exciting.

Santing Road Market, Yiwu

Hello street food market. The eastern end of Santing Road night market bustles with (mostly young) locals fuelling up for a night out on the town. The strip of food vendors is alive and action-packed, providing a broad selection of delights that would make just about anyone happy. Bitterly cold nights call for fresh hot food. Má là tang is sure to warm the insides; skewers of various meat balls, vegetables and tofu sectioned off in simmering troughs. Choose your desired skewer and the trough master does the gathering. You add your chilli sauce and whatever other condiments there are.

The skewered goodies continue as you make your way down the stalls; delicious spiced octopus fresh off the grill, pork, or if you’re game the golden caramelised duck necks loaded with charcoal flavour.

Santing Road Food Market, Yiwu

Both of us swooned over the slabs of silken tofu, caramelised on both sides with flecks of spring onion. It’s sliced into strips and dished up with a generous dusting of cumin, chilli and seasoning.

Santing Road Food Market, Yiwu

The most popular food stand was where the Donghe meat cake was constantly being made. Small plate-sized cakes sit in baskets but most of the people, including me, jostled for the large version that’s cut to your desired size, weighed, and then sold. This is not one for the weight conscious. At the back of the stand beneath a tree a guy stands and makes the enormous cake in a large shallow pan heated over coals. A rather liberal amount of oil is used as the meat-filled pastry blubbers away before being flipped over, sprinkled generously with sesame seeds and spring onion. He then passes it to the young girl with the cleaver. Ignoring the high oil content, it’s a seriously tasty local specialty.

Santing Road Food Market, Yiwu

Twice we came to the market for dinner, selecting servings of pre-made vegetarian meals, a piece of grilled chilli chicken for me, a beer and for under $6 we had six plates of food and a long-neck of beer that we struggled to get through. Well, not the beer. It went down in no time.

Santing Road Food Market, Yiwu

Plastic covered plates eliminate the need for washing up so any left-overs can either be taken home in the same bag or just tied off and disposed of. Loved how the locals just spat bones onto the table or on the ground around it. The resident rats must love visiting this market every night after hours.

Santing Road Food Market, Yiwu

Dazzling displays of sugar-coated fruit made my temptations crumble. Grapes, melons, kiwi fruit, strawberries, orange segments, cherry tomatoes; all skewered and dipped in toffee and allowed to set. It was a toss-up between the sesame crusted banana or the strawberries. The skewer is handed over semi-wrapped in whispy rice paper that is also edible and just dissolves in the mouth with the sweet and juicy fruit.

Xi'an buns at Santing Road Food Market, Yiwu

Being full from dinner meant I could just stand and observe what this lady was creating. Xi’an buns loaded with juicy braised meat chopped with green chilli, stuffed into a flat pocket of bread. Now I’m kicking myself for not getting one.

Middle Eastern restaurants in Yiwu

With Yiwu’s high population of visitors from Middle Eastern countries you can even find an area of town that is just like stepping into downtown Aleppo, or anywhere else like it.

In the tangle of streets just north of Chouzhou North Road – in particular the strip on 7th and 8th Streets – is an enclave of outdoor restaurants enshrouded by plumes of smoke from grilling meats, vegetables and seafood. Many of the restaurants are set up and owned by people of the Xinjiang province, serving up Uighur cuisine and immediately getting my attention.

Middle Eastern restaurants in Yiwu

It was the char-grill at Mamat Restaurant that drew us in and despite the chilly temperature we sat outside by the warmth of the grill. Pots of mint tea are dropped off and immediately we’re asked what we want.

“Er, a minute, please?”

A quick look at the array of ready-to-cook skewered goodies on display plus a glance at the menu and we had our meal mapped out. Before we knew it we were chowing on hummus (18RMB) and freshly baked nang (3RMB) bread. The light scraping of hummus on the plate was a little pathetic in quantity but the delicious bread helped out in that department. My charred Uighur skewer of lamb (18RMB) and steamed lamb dumplings (25RMB) caused a few pleasurable groans and the great hunk of perch (20RMB) was just the ticket on a brisk evening.

  • Mamat Restaurant (next to Dan Xia Hu Hotel)
  • 133/ 7th Street, Bin Wang Trade District
 
Middle Eastern bakery in Yiwu

Not too far away is a great little unnamed bakery that sells a handful of Middle Eastern biscuits and baklava-style pastries. Keep an eye out for the Aleppo Restaurant, bustling with groups of men lounging about smoking on hookahs, sipping strong coffee and fingering prayer beads. It’s very much a smoky boys club and next door is the bakery. Everything is priced by weight so it’s as easy as telling the friendly bloke what selection of syrupy pastries you want and he’ll look after the rest.

Heading back to the hotel, we walked along Huagong Road snapping away with our camera’s at anything remotely exciting such as dentists in windows, big bowls of eggs in brine, snails for anyone that likes eating them and a rather unusual-looking animal in a large bamboo steamer. The foods at these two hole-in-the-wall restaurants are out on the footpath as means of showcasing the goods.

Now, the thing that caught me off guard and the thing that must come with a warning is shown in an image below. By the look of the animals shape and the pads on its paws, it looked as if we found a couple of restaurants specialising in dog meat. The restaurant owner ran out when he saw me photograph it and proceeded to flip it over as the skin-side was much more attractive than the gutted inside. He was pretty chuffed that I was photographing his food.

Scroll down if you wish, but you have been warned

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Dog meat in Yiwu

 

That’s it for Yiwu, folks. Here’s hoping we return in another couple of years.

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