3 Snacks for Qīng Míng Festival (to Eat While Tomb-Sweeping)

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Saturday, April 02, 2016 

under Food by Quintana Hoyne

It's Qīng Míng Jié (清明节)! Break extensions have been filed, sunglasses put on, and knits finally back in storage where they belong, spring is (really) here!


Then it starts raining.


But nevermind! Break out the family books, because according to the Chinese lunar calendar, today is the Day of Tomb-Sweeping (actually it's on the 4th but it's weekend now!), hence it is known in the West sometimes as the Tomb-Sweeping Festival. And I am happy to present to you 3 Snacks you can enjoy while tomb-sweeping that are not just wonderfully delicious but respectful and respectable with regards to the occasion.


Qīng Tuán 青团 - Freaky green glutinous rice cake w/ red bean paste

This is a green monster, naturally dyed, filled to roundedness with a sweet paste of mashed red beans. Great for three reasons: First, it is palm-sized and snackable; second, it is sweet; third, it is a tried and proven solid breakfast replacement for Shanghai locals and perhaps even you on your Tomb-Sweeping break from work. Literally translated as the “verdant lump,” its verdant color comes from a refreshingly grassy bunch of wheat straw pulps or Chinese herbs called ài căo (艾草).


As a rule, never have a qīng tuán cold, as glutinous rice magically turns raw again after it’s gone cold, infamously leading to indigestion. So best to heat it up. Which apparently had not been an option when it was first invented. About 200 years ago in the Qīng Dynasty, when rebel force general Chén Taìpíng (陈太平) was on the run from the Qīng army, peasant sympathizers proposed that he carried these amongst leafy greens in a basket, passing for a farmer nobody. Which apparently worked but probably didn't do much for this survivor’s stomach unless he stopped for a BBQ... 


Cost: 24 RMB / half a dozen
This Place Has The Best: Wáng Jiā Shā (王家沙), 807 Jiāngníng Road, near Hăifáng Road (江宁路807号, 近海防路)


Săn Zi 馓子 - Basically fried dough sticks

Imagine an endlessly looping Churro, or instant ramen noodles first brushed in oil, then deep-fried a couple times until the glob of carbs and fat turns a golden yellow — that describes a săn zi, the reigning champ of Chinese junk foods. You can attack the block of it with your animalistic teeth straight up, or dip broken bits into hot milk until they melt like biscotti immodestly in your mouth.


Peasants first invented it during the Spring and Autumn period, as a prepared staple to last them through a three-day ban of fire issued by King Jin. He ordered it up on the day of Qīng Míng Jié to commemorate his late loyal right-hand man Jiè Zĭtuī (介子推), which is actually how most traditional Qing Ming foods came about. If you ever hear of any other foods named zĭtuī xxx, they probably trace back to the same guy. Like animal-shaped steamed buns had on this particular day are named zĭtuī mó (子推馍), and red date cakes are for the same reason called zĭtuī gaō (子推糕).


Cost: 20-40 RMB
For săn zi in Chinese burritos: Liàng Zào (靓灶·民间菜), 280 Shàngzhōngxī Road, 2/F (上中西路280号壹街坊二楼)
For săn zi on century eggs: Lóng Xiā Fēng Bào (龙虾风暴), 500 Ãnlóng Road (安龙路500号)
For săn zi & spinach: Xīn Péng Dà Jiŭ Diàn (欣鹏大酒店), 760 Xījiāngwān Road (西江湾路760号)


Rùn BĭngZi 润饼 - Chinese Burritos

Fact #1: With thoughts for late ancestors possibly being reincarnated in edible form, one’s tomb-sweeping agenda tends to favor vegetarianism.

Fact #2: Rùn bĭng eaters care nothing for the fate of their ancestors. They chuck these buffet-style Chinese burritos every Qīng Míng Jié in the southern Fujian Province and now, with the emigrants, in Taiwan.

Fact #3: A spring roll is just one of these babies deep-fried.


How would I describe a rùn bĭng? It wraps indiscriminately and is somewhere between a burrito and a crêpe. Plus a bed of crushed peanuts and the singular use of pork belly, almost qualifying it as a poor man’s dish. But many ingredients have a rich enough cultural meaning, like the Chinese for chives is jiŭ (韭), which is homonymous with jiŭ (久), meaning long-lasting. It is also different from Western wraps in that julienned veggies are cooked ahead for easy digestion, then paired with a kick-ass hot sauce for a heart-burning complement to four other palette-reviving flavors — namely acidity from pork, sweetness from cabbage and radish, salinity from dry seaweeds, and something with no proper translation associated with seafood galore or a sly dose of MSG.


Cost: 29 RMB (beef) / 26 RMB (spinach and eggs)
(Nowhere Offers Authentic in Shanghai But) This Place Comes Close: Taipei Kitchen Restaurant (台北雅厨), 199 Qīngtóng Road, Bldg 15 (青桐路199弄中芯花园15号)



Like our Snack Guides? Read our run-down of Shanghai's best street snacks, Street Snacks Parts I and Street Snacks Parts II!





They gonna be (one of) the reason for my next Shanghai trip:)


April 03, 2016