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Epic Dandong Street Food in 2024

Dandong Street Food

There are lots of reasons to visit this epic border town, but perhaps it is the epic Dandong street food, as well as overall cuisine and night life that truly make it such a great place.

For the uninitiated Dandong is a very special place for my whole North Korean tour business. That is because Dandong is not only separated by the short distance of the Yalu River, but also serves as therein gateway into North Korea. And it is these factors that make the food in Dandong so very interesting.

You can read our full Dandong Guide here.

The Food in Dandong

At 2 million people Dandong is considered a pretty small city by Chinese standards. This would usually be a problem when it comes to food, but due to the international presence as well as its importance to trade means the food options here are pretty good, although its far from a Hong Kong.

Food here can be split into a few different genres, such as regular Chinese food from across the country, Dongbei (North-East cuisine), North Korean, a tiny sprinkling of western and even Russian foods. What really rocked me here though is the epic Dandong street food scene.

Like anywhere some of these are better than others, with the North Korean food here not only being particularly good, but also very much worthy of its own article……

Dandong Street BBQ

So when it comes to Dandong street food the clear epic winner is Dandong street BBQ, the thing is though this genre can be eaten in both restaurants, as well as the street.

In fact “indoor street food in Dandong” is particularly awesome due to the extremely cold weather that the city goes through. This leads to a number of late night Dongbei cuisine, as well as Dandong BBQ restaurants, many of which are open pretty much for the whole night.

So, what is this Dandong BBQ that I speak of? Essentially it is not all that different from regular Chinese BBQ, or kao rou in that it is dominated by meat on stick usually of the smaller variety. This makes it more akin to Han BBQ than say Xinjiang BBQ.

One of the tipping points that makes Danding BBQ so good though is its proximity to both the sea and the river. This means that Dandong street fiord BBQ also offers a bunch of shell fish, as well as BBQ’d big fish that only goes to make things that bit better. Of course they serve vegetables too, but as Homer Simpson said “you do not win friends with salad”, so if you are vegan then Dandong BBQ is not the place for you.

And the best of the best with Dandong street food is to be found at the main street food market up by the centre and near to Dandong Railways station and the Dante Hotel. This open air market has stalls galore and is open all year, quite literally whatever the weather, and thats a big deal for a place that truly gets seriously cold in winter.

Another Dandong street food honorary mention I should give is to Dandong Mala Tang. For the uninitiated I recently wrote about Mala Tang in Beijing. This simple dish basically replaces the BBQ element with a soup (tang) that is cooked for you, but pretty much has the same ingredients. For this reason I used to call it boiled BBQ, before I became a ninja at Chinese.

I’m not sure why, but Mala Tang is a huge deal in Dandong and I sued to eat it a lot when I lived in Dandong while guiding tours to North Korea. Overall though it was always more of a day rather than night food thing for me, particularly due to the drinking.

Street drinking in Dandong

Dandong has literally only a handful of bars mostly along the riverside. Of course it also has KTV’s and the like, but they are a few and far between. Now this might make you think the people of Dandong do not drink, but this is very much not he case, as anyone that knows Dongbei ren can tell you.

So, where do the people of Dandong drink? You guessed it, on the street with the Dandong street food and with beer as the usual weapon of choice. And while this is weak Chinese beer if you drink enough it will mess you up (after much urination). Thankfully North Korean beer, such as Taedonggang are also available, although not usually on the street.

Thankfully proximity to North Korea, as well South Korean soft power mens that one can also choose to get spiced on Soju while ending the street food Dandong scene.