Harbin Food is really great and there is a good variety of food, from dishes that go with rice, to hotpot, to Chuar; the Dongbei region is well known for its food. I encourage everyone to try as much of the local food as possible. If you are just visiting – when is the next time you are going to be in Harbin? If you are staying as an expat for the long haul – make the most of it.
I didn’t like Chinese (snort, Chinese style) food at home, but I love the food in the country.
The street food is really good.
Harbin Food on the Street
Haws冰 糖 葫 芦– Hawthorn berries on sticks and sometimes other types of fruit as well; covered in syrup that has set solid. Normally 2 to 3 yuan in Harbin. They are normally not sold in the height of summer to avoid the syrup melting.
Harbin Sausage 哈尔滨红肠– A unique Harbin food, influenced by the city’s Russian History. Stores sell it to cook or you can buy them on a stick from street vendors on Zhongyang Dajie (Walking Street).
Harbin Hard Ice creams – cheap and cool in the summer; they are even cheaper in the winter as the shop owners don’t have to pay for electricity to keep them cool. They just put them outside. I’ve never eaten them in winter, the mere thought always seemed painful.
Chuar – assorted barbecued meat on sticks and grilled buns. Delicious and really popular everywhere in Harbin, especially in summer.
Big Bread 大列巴– has been made by Qiulin Company for about 80 years and is sold from a shop in the middle of Walking Street. It is generally to be spotted by the really long line zig zaging out from the selling window. It costs 22 yuan per loaf. It is the size of a slightly squashed basketball and weighs about 2 ½ kilos. Very popular with the locals. Always seems to be sold mid-day on Wednesdays. I’ve been there other times, but the Big Bread hasn’t been sold.
It is unique as a sour dough bread. Most Asian bread is sweet and fluffy.
Frozen Persimmons and Pears – sweet and cold, meant to be gnawed on and eaten gradually. Again cheaper in winter (and somehow people still eat them).
Harbin Spring Rolls春饼 or 卷饼 – These are wraps of potato slivers, cucumber, sausage and egg with a spicy sauce. You can find this on the street or in restaurants.
Bowza – delicious bread buns, filled with meat. They are a popular breakfast food, but can be bought at any time of day.
Russian bread – There are many bakeries around the Historic Centre and elsewhere in the city.
Insects on sticks – grasshoppers, cockroaches, silk worm crystallises and scorpions are just some of the insects that can be bought on the street in Harbin. The best place to get them is in the market beside the beer garden on Centre street.
There are also a variety of good restaurants. The best way to eat is the Chinese style with lots of different dishes so you have a good selection to try from. Remember to order rice as it complements lots of dishes and is a good filler.
Some of my favourite restaurants include:
Oriental Dumplings King (东方饺子王), 38 Zhongyang Dajie (道里区中央大街39号). This is my favourite Dumpling restaurant on Walking Street. It has a really good variety of Dumplings. Service can be a little slow sometimes, but the food tastes great. English and Russian menu.
Old Changs Spring Cakes (老昌春饼), 178 Zhongyang Dajie (道里区中央大街178号). This has pancake rolls filled with vegetables and meat. True North East Dongbei food.
Hotpot Paradise ( 鼎鼎香) 58 Jingwei Jie. This is a delicious Hotpot restaurant – my favourite in Harbin although you can find Hotpot places everywhere. This is the best one I have been to in Harbin. Hotpot is a must try in Harbin. Big picture menu so you’re set.
Wuji Rib House (吴记酱骨炖菜馆), 208 XiDazhi Jie (岗区西大直街208号) and 57 Gongcheng Jie (南岗区工建街57号). This has really nice Dongbei style ribs, you are given plastic gloves to keep your hands clean and a straw to suck out the bone marrow. How much marrow you get can be hit and miss, but the meat is always good and the rest of the food is great too.
Song Ji shao kao宋记烧烤 Address 南岗区下夹树街57号. A really good chuar restaurant if you don’t want the street chuar. Good value for money.
Black Land Restaurant黑土地 Hei Tu Di Address: 南岗区 文昌街 22-38号 Nan Gang Qu Wen Chang Jie 22-38. Really nice restaurant, well known for delicious Pig face, you can get pig’s feet too.
Robot Restaurant机器人餐厅 Adress 道里六道街 51号. This is a cool restaurant with gimmicky robots ‘cooking’ food and delivering to the table via the ceiling.
Bì Fēng Táng (避风塘) 185 Zhongyang Dajie. This is not a Dongbei restaurant, but has really nice southern styled Chinese food. Think more Dim Sum style.
Shun Feng hotpot Address: 南岗区文昌街 107号107 Wen Chang StreetNan Gang District. This place doesn’t have outstanding food, the ‘spicy’ hotpot lacks flavour a little and I would not bother with it if you are just visiting. It is well known for it’s rich, eccentric, owner. It is a popular amongst expats looking for a novelty. The owner is famous for his now closed USA Bucks, a chain of hotpot restaurants and an appearance on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. In the show he sings, and dances with his Russian girlfriend of the year while ice fishing on the Songhua river.
New Heaven Food City (新天地百事成饮食), 311 Hongqi Dajie (红旗大街311号) This is notorious as one of the flashiest restaurants in Harbin. It is 400 yuan per person and has Bird’s Nest Soup amongst other delicacies. I have not been here – yet, but I thought it was worth a mention.
Cafe Russia (露西亚西餐厅) This is on Centre Street near the FloodMonument. Delicious food.
Katusha This is beside the FloodMonument. A true Russian restaurant, the menu is in Russian and English, but not Chinese. It closes at 9.30pm and not all dishes will be served after 8.15pm.
Marhaba Arabian (马尔哈巴), Hanguang Street 1-19 Address:黑龙江省哈尔滨市南岗区汉广街1-19号 It is further away in the suburbs, near the Harbin Institute of Technology. It has really good Arabian food. The nearest metro stop is Hagonda.
Hamama’s Kofi House, 2 mugong road unit 104(木工2号). This is a cool little café, it is owned by a Papua New Guinean man and his Taiwanese wife and is really famous in Harbin. It has all sorts of western food like cakes, burgers, smoothies and a western breakfast. It is really famous in Harbin as one of the first cafes. Copy cat cafes now surround the area.
Bars, Clubs and Pubs
Harbin’s bar scene is not huge, but there are some good places to check out and meet expats if you are here for a few days. If you are looking at staying longer, then these will be among the main options to spend you evening (unless you are more likely to be found reading or blogging like me).
G2 (used to be called BoxTown (糖果酒吧)), 118 Xidazhi Jie (西大直街118号). This is a sparkling club not that far from the Harbin Institute of Technology.
Sky Bar and Café 南岗区砖街13号（曲线街砖街交口附近). This is about the only place you can get Mexican food in Harbin and is owned by a guy from Texas. There is also good Trivia night on Thursdays, very popular expat hangout.
Underground Bar Possibly the most popular expat bar; it is in a side street off 西大直街 Xidazhi Jie. The address is 曲线街74-2号. To get there leave Box and turn right up the main street beside Box and walk towards HIT University, then cross the road when you see the Post office on the other side and walk down that side street. Walk about 5min, the Underground Bar will be on the left. Sky Bar is just around the corner. Many people eat and start drinking at Sky Bar and then head over the Underground when Sky closes.
It’s owned by DJ from Puto Rico. I worked with him 10min away in a private ESL school.
Blue’s (布鲁斯酒吧), 100 Diduan Jie (地段街100号). Crowded with frequent fights, sometimes participated in or started by staff. Very popular with foreigners from everywhere. You can buy a bottle of Vodka for 10 yuan after 11pm. Rather crazy.
Fox Pub Street Address: 1-8 Hanguang StHarbin均为原哈尔滨最著名的BOX酒吧原班人马. This is a pub popular that foreigners hang out in.
Buy your own food to cook
The local markets are by far the best place to buy your own food if you are visiting or working in Harbin. There are two general types; the early morning 5 to 9 markets and the all day 9 to 8 markets. Both are colourful and at peak times bustling. I’ve been lucky enough to live on a street with a day market while living in Harbin. They are dotted all around the city on random streets, so ask around to find one.
There is always a brilliant variety of fruit and vegetables and very fresh meat. Often still alive and waiting to be bought in the case of fish.
Chuar is easy to find at these markets as is bowza. There is a market on the street I live on and even after a year of living here I still love walking down it and smelling the chuar and durian.
Keep an eye on the prices quoted. The stall vendors may bump it up because you are foreign, but mostly the food here is cheaper and fresher than in many supermarkets.
If you must have western food, and many expats will go to extraordinary lengths to find things from home, then check out these western supermarkets.
Wal-Mart – There are 3 Wal-Marts in Harbin click here to find all of Wal-Marts addresses in China and scroll down the page to find their Harbin addresses.
Carrefour – another good store to buy western food and products for cooking at home. Can be found at three places.
Lesong store address is at 2 Sandadongli Road Xiangfang District(香坊区三大动力路2号)
Hongbo square address is at 301 Hongqi Street Nanguang District(南岗区红旗大街301号)
Yongping store address is at 100 Dongzhi Road Daowai Distreet(道外区东直路100号)
Trust-Mart – another foreign food option
Anbustreet store address is at 300 Anbu Street Xiangfang District(香坊区安埠街300号)
Pinggong store address is at 45 Pinggong Street (南岗区平公街45号)
Mellow Bakery – One of the first things I found after arriving was that the bread was really sweet. This did not bother me too much at first as I mostly ate delicious Chinese food, but after 6 months I found I had a craving for the texture of bread without insane amounts of sugar in the dough. I found small bread buns in my local market and then I also found Mellow Bakery. It can be found in the basement of the Xuefu Mall. Take the subway to the Xuefulu stop. It has maybe 30 types of bread (Bread with ham and cheese, with garlic and butter, with chocolate, with walnuts etc). Unless the name tag (which is in both Chinese and English) says that there is honey, then they won’t be insanely sweet.
Tao Bao – This is a good online option is you simply can’t find what you are looking for in Harbin. It is a favourite amongst my ESL teacher colleagues and is useful throughout China. The Tao Bao Field Guide is a good place for more information.