If you live in Shenzhen, you know where Dong Men is.
If you haven’t been to Shenzhen, or you simply do not know where it is, Dong Men(东门, which literally translates into East Gate,) is a large labyrinth of shops, salons, bars, and restaurants in the heart of Luohu. It is ridiculously large – if you have never been there before you can certainly count on getting lost. It took me almost two years to figure the place out.
It is loud and exceptionally dirty in areas – it is filled with bright lights, billiards halls, shop clerks who are shouting slogans at you, and smells that you sometimes can’t place. Dong Men is where you want to go to buy ridiculous souvenirs for people at home, cheap shoes or handbags, or if you just want to grab some street food on the go.
At night, Dong Men turns into a different place all together. It’s streets, once bustling with busy shoppers, are now packed with mobile street food carts. Fruit, baozi, chuanr, tofu, fish – you name it, you can buy it on the streets of Dong Men after seven at night. But the real Dong Men street food market is not where all of the shops are. No, no, the real street food market is across the street, down an alleyway, hidden away from the world behind tall buildings and barbecue smoke. In this market you will find stalls, equipped with tables, where you can eat until you are full of barbecue lamb, Taiwan pancakes, and beer.
It’s true! And every other street food market in Shenzhen (yes, including Baishizhou 白石洲) pales in comparison. And this is why you should be eating there right now.
- The Atmosphere Is Indescribable
It’s dirty, it’s loud, there are smells you cannot describe. It’s a mix between a nightmare of a labyrinth and a beautiful dream. It’s worth getting lost in. You can watch young hooligans try and hide the fact that they are gambling during Chinese New Year. You can people watch. You can do anything if you believe you can. You can eat all the things.
- They Have The Best Fruit Smoothies
Seriously – the fruit is fresh, you hand pick which fruit you want in your smoothie, and the fruit is washed with clean water. No need to worry about whether the fruit is clean or not. And it’s surprisingly cheap – usually no more than ten kuai (about a dollar fifty) for a large 20 oz smoothie.
- The Seafood Is Fresh
Most of the restaurants in the market come equipped with fish tanks outside, so that you can pick the fish you want to eat! Genius!
- You Hand Pick What You Want To Eat
Eating at a barbecue joint? Fantastic! Pick up a basket and grab whatever stick you want! Eggplant? Do it. Lamb? Why not. Tofu? Even better. Chicken nuggets? Yeah – they even have chicken nuggets. I don’t exactly know why, but they have ‘em. And if you don’t like the look of one barbecue stall, you simply move on to the next one, because there are probably at least ten on that street alone, not to mention all of the other side streets you haven’t been on yet.
- The Food is Extremely Eclectic
No matter what you are in the mood for, Dong Men has it. Barbecue, Taiwan pancakes, baozi, jiaozi, soup, seafood, fruit, deep fried breads, anything you can possibly imagine is on this street. It’s fantastic. No – look at me. It really is.
- The Laoban‘s Are Incredibly Friendly
The Laoban’s, or the guys/gals who are cooking your food, are always extremely friendly. They will even sit and have a drink with you if you offer. This is one of my friends, but he wasn’t my friend the first few times we went to his stall – he was simply just the Laoban. But after we came a few times (mostly because he was so happy to have us,) he became a friend. That’s how easy it is to make friends! Speaking of…
- It’s A Fantastic Place To Make New Friends!
Never have I ever left the street food market without meeting someone new, or making a new friend. Whether you exchange phone numbers or end up at karaoke with them (pictured above) you will make new friends there. It’s almost organic – because the tables are so close together, you are bound to bump into someone accidentally. So what’s to be done about that? Make friends, of course!
- You Buy Your Own Beer
Pretty self explanatory and common in most markets. But if you are a tourist and you have never bought your own alcohol and brought it to your table, this is the place! Whether it is beer, baijiu, or ginjiu, have at ‘er. No one cares because everyone is doing it. (This is also another way to make friends).
- The Food Is 很便宜 (Very Cheap)
At this point I think I have made it clear that there is no shortage of food to buy at the Dong Men street food market. But one of the best things about it is that it is so cheap. I have never spent more than twenty five kuai at the market – and I usually eat a ridiculous amount of food. The average dish is around five kuai and if you are looking for barbecue each stick is around three kuai depending on which stall you are eating at. It’s insane.
- The Food Is Delectable – Did I Mention That Already?
I know what some of you may be thinking. Street food is dangerous, not delicious!
Especially in a market format where vendors are constantly being checked up on by police, which is the case in Dong Men. I have been eating street food for almost three years and I have never once gotten sick from it. The fact of the matter is street food is an integral part of Chinese culture. If you want to experience Chinese culture, one of the best way’s to do it is through street food.
And the food at the Dong Men street food market in particular is amazing. It is melt in your mouth chaunr, to die for Taiwan pancakes, fresh baozi, heavenly tofu made that day. I am hungry just thinking about it.
If you aren’t drooling right now I don’t know why. And if you aren’t completely satisfied when you leave there, well, then, you must be crazy.
“How do I get to this magical place!?” you ask? Well, it’s very simple.
Take the metro to Shaibu Metro Station (晒布地铁站) and come out exit A1. From there, do a 180 degree turn and walk down Dongmen Middle road (东门中路) towards Shennan East Road (深南东路.) When you get to Hubei road (湖北路) approximately 3-5 minutes later, hang a left and then walk for two blocks. You will arrive at HeTang road (禾塘路) which is a long, upward sloping street (that doesn’t look exactly like a street) to your left. Walk up He Tang road for exactly one minute and 到了! You have arrived at the real Dong Men street food market.
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