Dishes That are Unique to Wuhan
The dish that Wuhan is most famous for and the first one local people will mention is Hot Dry Noodles or Re Gan Mian. It is essentially a breakfast food but can be eaten as a cheap delicious snack at any time of the day. It is dry noodles mixed with sesame paste, shallots and spicy seasoning. You will probably need a drink to accompany this snack as it is as the name suggests extremely dry and spicy.
Doupi is another popular snack food, sticky rice is combined with beef, egg, mushrooms and beans and wrapped in a coating of soy skin, this is then fried to give a soft filling and a crispy outer layer.
Wuchang Style Steamed Fish became popular after being praised by Chairman Mao in one of his poems; this dish originates from Liangzi Lake in nearby Ezhou. The fish is steamed with ham, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms and served in a chicken soup.
Jingwu or Wuhan Style Duck Neck is an extremely spicy local speciality food that when cooked is coloured red due to the extreme amount of spices that are added. People from other regions of China crave for this dish and whenever we visit some Chinese friends in Guangdong province we always have to take a supply of this dish with me.
Mianyang Three Steamed Dishes are referring to meatballs of fish, of pork or of shrimp; it is traditionally cooked in steaming dishes and over the years this dish has been adjusted to keep pace with local tastes.
Hongshan Vegetable Bolts is a speciality of the district in Wuchang close to the Baotong temple. The crisp and tender vegetables are cut into strips and stir-fried with strips of tender pork and are featured on several restaurant menus around the temple and elsewhere in the city.
Cheap Restaurants and Street Food in Wuhan
Wuhan is a university city with over 1 million students throughout its 80 universities and colleges. One of the best places for an abundance of choices of cheap food is the area close to Wuhan University or the metro stations of Jiedaokou and Guangbutun on line 2. In this area snacks are available for just CNY 4 or 5 while individual dishes or noodles or rice may cost up to CNY12. If you go to these smaller back street eating houses, be prepared for the rustic nature and sharing a table with strangers, it is a great way to experience local life.
If you want to try the best Doupi (this snack was mentioned earlier in this article) then it can be found at The Old Tongcheng on Zhongshan Street in Hankou. Expect to pay CNY5 or more depending on the size of the portion you buy. The restaurants and food stalls on Zhongshan Street sell an estimated 15000 bowls of Hot Dry Noodles every day.
Wuhan has several snack streets or places where you can find street food. Hubu Lane is 150 metres long and is filled with food stalls or street food along both sides and has been selling street food to visiting tourists for more than 20 years.
Other options of where to find street food include Qiaokou Road and JiQing Street. JiQing Food Street is close to the shopping malls and is located near to Jianghan Road metro station on lines 6 and 4 or Xunlimen station on lines 4 and 1. At each of these locations you have a big choice of breakfast style snacks and Chinese barbeque where each item will cost just a few CNY. Even if you are not eating it is an interesting place to go and watch this nightly attraction.
Entertainment While You Eat
One of the attractions to visiting JiQing Food Street is the entertainment that the street provides. During the evening as the night food stalls are setting up their stands of peppery snails, crabs and lobster, spicy skewered meat snacks, spicy duck necks and dumplings the locals will begin arriving taking a seat at their favourite stall and drink beer while reminiscing their day with their friends. Folk musicians will travel from table to table playing music which is usually traditional Chinese while some will play western ballads. It becomes very busy from around 10pm until long after midnight.
The Best Restaurants for Local Wuhan Food
The Xiaotaoyuan Restaurant is famous for its food especially the range of traditional Hubei soups, it is located at 64 Lanling Road in Hankou and the best soups are Chicken, Spareribs (pork) and Duck. Expect to be served a wonderfully tasting soup with a large sized bowl enough for a group of people and costing from CNY30.
Visit a floating restaurant along the banks of Wuhan’s two rivers where you can choose which fish you would like and then served to you a short time later. A fish course will cost from CNY 50 to more than 100 depending on the type of fish and its size.
For typical traditional Hubei cuisine with an added selection of Sichuanese dishes you can try the Kanglong Taizi Restaurant on Tiyaguan Road in Wuhan, it opens daily from 10.30am until 10.30pm and a good meal can be yours for around CNY80 per person. we recommend the Wuchang Steamed fish it is delicious here.
If you want to go a little more up-market then you should try the Best World Restaurant on Jianshe Avenue, it is open daily from 11am until 9pm and specializes in the cuisines of Wuhan (Hubei) and Cantonese style food. If you like seafood this is the place to come to. It will cost around CNY200 per person to dine here.
If you want to sample some traditional Hubei countryside cuisine with a touch of Taiwanese cooking go to Mr. Xie’s restaurant on Jiefang Avenue in Hankou or to his second one on Pengliuyang Road. Both restaurants offer the same menu, are open from 11am until 9pm and expect to pay around CNY60 per person.
Western or International Food in Wuhan
Wuhan has a good selection of western food from the usual fast food outlets if you want chicken, pizza or burgers these are plentiful across the city.
For something a little different try the American Cowboy Restaurant in Hankou, close to the Shangri La Hotel. They serve American style burgers, Mexican food and can cater for large groups of people. Meals cost from CNY30. They are open until 11pm every day and have a buffet from 2pm until they close. The Yes Bar in Hankou and close to the Galaxy Plaza serves some of the best western food in Wuhan with a large selection of international favourites, the menu changes regularly and expect to pay from CNY50.
The Blue Sky Café on Jiefang Avenue in Hankou is a popular spot for foreigners, the food is first class with real steaks similar to those you can buy back home. They also serve Mexican, French and Turkish food, the crepes are fantastic. A few beers and a meal can cost anything from CNY100 to 200. Get there early as this place gets packed. It is also one of the best bars in Wuhan and stays open until 2am.
Cafes and Coffee Houses
If you just want coffee you can go to Starbucks or Costa Coffee, they are located in multiple places across the city, for something a little different try these Chinese owned cafes and coffee shops.
5Hao Hongbei Coffee is on Huangli Road Wuchang close to the Art Museum and Hubei Provincial Museum. It has lots of indoor and outdoor seating with a great selection of international coffees and food such as cakes. It is a quiet calm setting away from the hustle of many coffee shops.
The Lobby Lounge is located at 1077 Luoyu Road in Wuchang and on first looking in it has the appearance of a library. The food is high quality and a great selection, try the burgers but they are second best to the afternoon tea. It is sometimes full of students relaxing and making use of the Wi-Fi available here.
Bars, Pubs and Drinking Venues
Generally in China there are not too many bars, most people will go to a restaurant for a meal, have a beer or two and socialize. Some people will then continue drinking and talking, the restaurant is the closest thing to a bar. Now, in some cities with a growing influx of foreigners there is slowly becoming a need for western style bars. Wuhan is no exception to this growing trend.
We have already mentioned the Blue Sky in the section on western food above, another popular bar is Helen’s on Zuodaoquan Beilu in Hongshan district. It is part of a chain of bars that began in Beijing. It is very lively, great beer and music with friendly staff that want to engage in conversation with you. The decor inside resembles a museum and it was mentioned to me by a colleague that it is like sitting drinking in a museum. All the artifacts on show are traditional items made by the Tujia people, one of China’s rarest minority groups.
For a completely different ambiance we challenge you to visit the Prison Bar. It is owned by a member of a rock group from Wuhan and the music is very loud. The beer is excellent but the bar is a dive. Beers are on sale from CNY5 and it is a refreshing change from the music you hear everywhere in China. It is alive but as we mentioned not for everyone.