In addition to its grand international Ice & Snow Festival, Harbin's food is also a significant and interesting part of a Harbin tour! Thanks to its close distance to Russia, Harbin's dishes draw on the essence of both its local Harbin Cuisine and also Russian Cuisine. The food there stresses much on the strong taste of food, with all kinds of liquid seasonings evenly and beautifully soaked in each piece of food materials, rather than being that elegant like Cantonese Cuisine. Such dishes can help you warm against the freezing weather during cold winter months. And when the summer comes, Harbin Beer will help you stay refreshed on a hot day.
Then, what are the must-try signature dishes in Harbin? Where to savor the most authentic food and snacks in this city? Here, we carefully select top 10 most representative and popular dishes and snacks for your food hunting, with recommended restaurants listed too. Check our pick of best before you go!
• Chinese：东北水饺 Pinyin: dōng běi shuǐ jiǎo
• Recommended Restaurant: try any restaurant you see at your first glance, all of them can offer delicious dumplings for you. Orient King of Eastern Dumplings are our best recommended.
Dumplings play an important role for Harbin Cuisine. To some extent, the daughter-in-law must be able to make dumplings to be considered part of the family. During Chinese New Year, some also insert a coin inside one of the dumplings, and it is believed that whoever gets this lucky dumpling will be rich in the coming New Year.
There are many restaurants in Harbin only selling dumplings. On the menu of dumpling restaurants, you could find various types of dumplings, but two that are always ordered are the Pork and Chive Dumplings and Pork and cabbage dumplings. These tasty dumplings are made with a mixture of pork and chives or cabbages. If you are vegetarians, you can order the dumplings with vegetables only, like fresh mushroom stuffing, carrots and com kernels.
Harbin Dumplings (东北水饺)
• Chinese：哈尔滨红肠 Pinyin: hā ěr bīn hóng cháng
• Recommended Restaurant: restaurants and street food stands on Zhongyang Pedestrian Street or other streets around the city
If you go to Harbin, sausage with irresistible European flavor is sure not to be missed. This widely welcomed specialty is called Red Sausage because of its purplish red skin. They are cured meats made of the ingredients of flour, lean pork, a layer of casing, starch, salt, garlic and so on. Such a treasure can be found at almost every market and restaurant in Harbin. In a restaurant, they are sliced and served on plates. And in a market, they are vacuum-packed, so you can buy some home as gifts.
There are also sausages on sticks sold at stalls spreading Harbin City! You could find such a stall at Zhongyang Pedestrian Street, Ice & Snow World... However, a random street stall is more recommended rather than one of the Ice and Snow World exhibitions because you’ll get way bang for your buck, and the sausages will actually be juicy.
• Chinese：马迭尔冰棍 Pinyin: mǎ dié ěr bīng gùn
• Recommended Restaurant: No. 89, Zhongyang Pedestrian Street (In between Xi Qi Dao and Xi Ba Dao in Zhongyang Pedestrian Street)
Madier Ice Cream, or called Modern Popsicles, is one of the icons of the Harbin city. You may not feel surprise that people follow a long queue for such an ice cream in a hot summer day. However, how about in a cold winter day? Madier Ice Cream is still appealing in winter. It's perfectly normal in Harbin to see visitors wearing down jackets enjoying their Madier Ice Cream, while snorting and stamping their feet there. Some people even hold the view that the ice cream taste better than in summer.
You can find this ice cream at the city crowd in Harbin, but the iconic stall is placed in Zhongyang Street. There are several flavors you can choose from, and the most popular are those in vanilla flavor. It tastes a little salty but also sweet and milky. Do remember to try it even if you are not a sweet tooth.
Harbin Madier Ice Cream
Harbin Russian Food
• Recommended Restaurant: Russia Coffee & Food, Lucia, Madieer, Portman’s Restaurant…
Thanks to its proximity to Russia and the long tradition of Russian immigration, Harbin is one of the best places in China for getting a more genuine taste for Russian Cuisine. Borscht, beef stroganoff, Russian beer, fruit pizza and caviar can be easily found at the city.
Unlike other Chinese-style restaurants that take you get close to China, these Russia food restaurants can bring you authentic atmosphere of Russia. And these restaurants will be peaceful places to meet a contact when the temperature outside plummets in some winters it can reach -38C. Therefore, visit one of the Russia Restaurants if you have time, even though you are not looking for something to eat, it will also be a good idea to have a cup of tea or coffee there. During peak tourist season - Lunar New Year - you may wish to book ahead, but outside those times there’ll be no problem getting a table.
Chinese：锅包肉 Pinyin: guō bāo ròu
Recommended Restaurant: The one near your hotel or on Zhongyang Pedestrian Street
Guobaorou, or known as Crispy Sweet and Sour Pork, is another famous member of northeastern style food (known as Dong Bei). This dish uses a special sauce called tangcuzhi (糖醋汁), which literally means “sugar and vinegar sauce” and mostly just a combination of sugar and vinegar. And you really do taste the sweet meeting the sour with this dish, as the vinegar mingles with the sweetness of scrumptious sugar. Besides, when you put one piece of the thin pork slice perfectly wrapped in batter into your mouth, you could get a feel of crispness as if you are eating gorgeous pop-corn crunch.
If you are going to try such a dish, you could find it at almost every restaurant and also snack stall. Try it at the restaurant with locals near your hotel is a good idea. Also, you could try it at one of the restaurants on Zhongyang Pedestrian Street.
Guobaorou (Crispy Sweet and Sour Pork)
• Chinese：地三鲜 Pinyin: dì sān xiān
• Recommended Restaurant: Restaurants on Zhongyang Pedestrian Street or Lao Daowai Area, like Lao Chujia (老厨家)…
Dì Sān Xiān is a traditional home-cooked dish in northeast China (Harbin is included). Dì refers to the farm land. And Sān Xiān means three fresh stuffs in English. Therefore, Dì Sān Xiān can be literally translated as the three treasures from the earth. And in fact, the three treasures are potatoes, green pepper and eggplant. This dish is extremely delicious. The potato and eggplant would taste soft inside but crispy outside, while the green pepper tastes a little bit sweet. And what makes this dish stand out from so many Harbin dishes is that it tastes like a meaty dish, but it doesn't.
Many restaurants in Harbin can serve you such a dish. And our most recommended restaurants are those in Zhongyang Pedestrian Street or Lao Daowai Area. The restaurants on Zhongyang Street are better if you are looking for a better dinning environment.
Chinese： 炖菜 Pinyin: dùn cài
Recommended Restaurant: Restaurants on Zhongyang Pedestrian Street or Lao Daowai Area, like Lao Chujia (老厨家)…
Harbin is extremely cold in winter, and in order to keep natives warm against the freezing weather, a variety of stews were created.
There are eight most famous stews, including Braised Pork with Vermicelli, Stewed Chick with Mushroom, Stewed Spare-ribs With Green-bean, Braised Beef with Potatoes, Lamb Stew with Sauerkraut, Braised Catfish with Eggplant and Demoli Fish Stew. It looks like comparative lack of exquisite for all the ingredients are chopped into big chumps laying in the big bowl without appropriate order. However, after a try then you could realize how tasty and warm it is. Try one of the stews before visiting Harbin Ice and Snow World, then you can get really relax strolling around.
Stewed Chick with Mushroom
DaLieba (Big Bread)
• Chinese： 大列巴 Pinyin: dà liè bā
• Recommended Store: Qiulin Department Store (秋林公司) on Gogol Street
DaLieba is a kind of sourdough bread that larger than your face. Its name Lieba (khleb) in Russian means bread. “Da” in Chinese means Big. So, Dalieba is literally means Big Bread. Most of the Big Bread are in oval, some also rod-like. Malt in the recipe of Big Bread gives it the peculiar sour sweet taste and delicate flavor. This bread also has the unexpected quality of remaining fresh for a surprisingly long time without becoming stale. So if you don’t want to go outside for something to eat, one or two Big Breads are enough for your next breakfast with your family.
With more than one hundred years of history, Dalieba (Big Bread) is considered to be a Russian heritage in Harbin now. Have a try of it may give you a feel of in Russia too. And the best recommended place to buy a Big Bread is from Qiulin Department Store on Gogol Street.
Chinese： 烤冷面 Pinyin: kǎo lěng miàn
Recommended Restaurant: Street food stands at the pedestrian streets in Harbin City
Grilled Cold Noodles is one of the most famous street foods in Harbin. The name of this snack didn't really make any sense - Kao Leng Mian, which literally translates to Grilled Cold Noodles. However, it is not noodles and also not cold at all, but extremely warm enough to drive the cold away. This snack is kind of delicious fried dough slices with egg, scallions, lettuce, chopped onions, and cilantro and hot sauce or tomato sauce. Usually, it is served in a paper bowl with two glorified toothpicks that can either be used to as makeshift chopsticks.
Grilled Cold Noodles is rarely seen in restaurants, but often sold in night markets and street food stands around Harbin. Therefore, you could enjoy it when you have some leisure walking at the city.
Grilled Cold Noodles
• Chinese： 哈尔滨啤酒 Pinyin: hā ěr bīn pí jiǔ
Being founded in 1900, Harbin Beer is now one of the oldest beer brands in China. It has also become a symbol of Harbin. You can even find a giant ice sculpture of it inside the Ice & Snow World. The beer has a distinctive refreshing European flavor and tastes better when it is cold. If you are in Harbin, you will find people chatting and enjoying the beer at barbecue stands, bars or restaurants, even in the cold winter days. So, if you want to live like a local in the city, have some Harbin Beers is a MUST try.
Every July, There is also a grand festival held in the city - Harbin International Beer Festival. This annual festival has been held since 2000. With the launch of the festival, an annual activity in the city, refreshing beer, savory snacks and thrilling music will take over the city for the next two month. If you happen to visit Harbin during this period of time, you could enjoy the beer and show with locals there.
Delicious Harbin food is one of the highlights of Harbin City, but not the all. Ice & Snow Festival, Yabuli Ski Resort, China Snow Town… There are so many things to do and see in this “Ice City”. To better plan your Harbin tour, you could check the following useful articles to get inspired, including best visit time, transportation, accommodation, map, etc.
Nourished by the five thousand years’ history and multiple nations and regions in the vast land, China’s food culture is more than what words can describe. Rooted in traditional Chinese philosophy, like Yin-Yang and Five Element and Confucianism, Chinese cuisine is beyond the food itself but an artwork of the creative minds. Under the guidance of Traditional Chinese Medicine, most of the Chinese cuisines are healthy and nutritious, pursuing to maintain people’s health, and even help the patients get healed.
Are you wondering about Chinese cooking process? Is that hard? around 100 cooking techniques have been formed over the development of Chinese food culture. The diverse cooking techniques show the wisdom of Chinese people and also help a lot on the sustainable development and reformation of the Chinese cuisines.
To enjoy the authentic Chinese flavour in a right way, Chinese dining etiquette plays a rather important role in Chinese food culture. Getting to know the Chinese etiquette will not only show one’s good self-cultivation and manners, but also help your understand the culture deeply and avoid making taboos accidentally to behave offensively to your Chinese host.
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