A sneak peek into Hainan’s local foodie scene

By Li Xiang / HICN / Updated: 16:44,07-August-2022

Sometimes we fall in love with a place by falling in love with its food first. China’s southernmost Hainan province is a great example of this phenomenon. 

If you ask about the most authentic foodie culture on the island, the answer would be laobacha (which literally means “grandpa's tea”). Here, an assortment of snacks and treats, along with a fresh-brewed pot of tea is considered the perfect way to spend hot and humid days with friends and family.

Seafood is another crucial part of Hainan’s local cuisine. Fresh-caught seafood needs nothing more than to be simply steamed or boiled, and is eaten with typical local dipping sauce ingredients. The sauce is customized by each dinner, who adds whatever they like to their dipping bowl, such as soy sauce, vinegar, minced garlic, yellow lantern peppers, and of course the island’s favorite fresh-squeezed calamansi juice for the perfect citrus zing.

The tropical province of Hainan boasts an impressive variety of fresh, locally grown fruits which are available year round, giving resident chefs and diners so many ways to enjoy the bounty of the island. Some dip their fruit in chili salt or soy sauce before eating, while others add traditionally made salt to fruit to make salted fruit tea. Some add fruit to the cookpot, creating dishes such as starfruit fish soup, wampee steamed chicken, and many more.

Indoor and outdoor laobacha venues can be found throughout the island – although you might find a more traditional vibe at an open-air roadside setting. NEW HAINAN APP / LIN JIAN

Overwhelming, endless varieties of local snacks and treats can be found at laobacha venues. NEW HAINAN APP / LIN JIAN

If the tropical island has a defining flavour and dish, it would surely be a big bowl of Hainan Noodles. NEW HAINAN APP / JIE YUDUAN

Soothing medicinal herbs, colorful beans and potatoes... it seems that these all go well with sugar and can be made into soups or desserts. NEW HAINAN APP / FENG SHUO

Ciba (Sticky rice cakes) of the Hainan Li Minority sit on sustainable leaf “plates”. (NEW HAINAN APP / LI TIANPING)

Danzhou Zongzi (sticky rice dumplings) are made with an egg yolk and locally sourced pork. (NEW HAINAN APP / XIAN HE)

Foodies can enjoy a late-night meal at one of many bustling night markets on the island. NEW HAINAN APP / JIE YUDUAN

Grilled oysters, a Hainan night market specialty. NEW HAINAN APP / JIE YUDUAN

 One not-to-be-missed Hainan experience is dining in floating restaurants, which are found on the fishing rafts of the boat-dwelling Tanka people. NEW HAINAN APP / YANG HAICHENG

Before daybreak at Hainan’s fishing ports, the harbor’s fish markets are already bustling as boats both big and small dock and unload the catch of the day. NEW HAINAN APP / CAI QINDONG

Rambutan, a tropical fruit widely grown on the island. NEW HAINAN APP / LI WEIYU

Pineanpple, a tropical fruit widely grown on the island. NEW HAINAN APP / ZHOU JINGWEI

Mango, a tropical fruit widely grown on the island. NEW HAINAN APP / CAI TIANHONG



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