Yokohama, a city in the Greater Tokyo Area, is the second largest city in Japan and home to the largest Chinatown in Asia. Here, you can get your fix of everything from Hong Kong-style egg tarts to Peking duck to Taiwanese noodle soups. While you can certainly have an incredible meal at a sit-down Chinese restaurant in Yokohama and there is no shortage of restaurants offering tabehoudai, or all-you-can-eat deals, going on a street food adventure is definitely the best way to explore the authentic Chinese foods that Yokohama Chinatown has to offer. This Yokohama Chinatown Street Food Guide will introduce you to some of the most delicious savory and sweet street foods, as well let you know which ones you can pass on with no regrets.
1. Yaki Shoronpo, Fried Soup Dumplings
Yaki shoronpo, or pan-fried soup dumplings, are a staple of the Yokohama Chinatown street food scene. Filled with collagen-rich pork broth, these soup dumplings are popular with women, as collagen reportedly aids in keeping skin smooth and supple, slowing down signs of aging, as well as helping build muscle and lose fat. This shop sells three types of soup dumplings: masamune shoronpo are stuffed to the brim with juicy pork, fukahire shoronpo contain thin strands of shark fin, and hisui shoronpo are filled with pork and seven kinds of vegetables. The dough is just thick enough that the bottom generates a firm crust, but delicate enough that it’s easy to pierce through with a chopstick.
There’s an art to eating shoronpo. While some pioneers forge ahead with reckless abandon, daring to pop the innocent-looking little dumpling into their mouth whole, this route only leads to scalded tastebuds and shame. The most advanced method of eating yaki shoronpo starts off with making a hole in the top of the dumpling to let some steam escape. Once it has cooled off, you can raise the dumpling to your mouth and sip the rich broth. After you’ve sipped all the broth, you’ll be able to take a bite without the dumpling sending droplets of soup squirting out like a fire hydrant. Alternatively, just go ahead and eat it whole. But consider yourself warned!
2. Koshou Mochi, Taiwanese Black Pepper Bun
While Yokohama Chinatown is famous for chukaman (steamed Chinese buns such as nikuman meat buns and anman red bean buns), you can find steamed buns all over Japan in supermarkets and convenience stores. Now, koshou mochi, Taiwanese black pepper buns are really something special. Baked, rather than steamed, in a deep clay oven much like an Indian tandoori oven, they have a lovely crunchy outer texture and a very soft interior jampacked with tender and peppery meat. They’re a street food staple of Taiwanese night markets, and are a hearty and filling option, with just enough peppery heat to warm you up on a chilly winter day in Tokyo.
3. Peking Duck
Hailing from Beijing, Peking duck is a delicacy of Yokohama Chinatown street food, with the price tag to match. Tuck into a whole Peking duck for a whopping 7800 yen, roughly 70 U.S. dollars, or half of one for 4000 yen. Or, you could go for a rolled pancake wrap featuring a couple of freshly-sliced strips of Peking duck, drizzled with a sweet and savory sauce, and nestled up beside pan-fried veggies and a fresh leaf of lettuce.
But honestly, for the price of 250 yen, two thin slivers of Peking duck are hardly worth it, especially as the flavor and texture of the Peking duck, a dish renowned for its crispy skin, are overwhelmed and dampened by the sauce (though to be clear, the sauce is pretty delicious). So, when you’re beckoned by that ever-present line outside the Peking duck wrap shops, which seem to promise tasty things within, keep walking. This is one Yokohama Chinatown street food to pass on.
4. Mensen, Taiwanese Oyster Noodle Soup
Another classic Taiwanese street food available in Yokohama Chinatown, mensen is a Taiwanese oyster noodle soup made with oysters and misua (vermicelli noodles), and sometimes pork intestine. Super warming and comforting, Taiwanese mensen is perfect for a chilly day or evening. The thin, slippery noodles are addictingly slurpable, and the broth is thick and smooth with a slight seafoody brininess. The cilantro garnish adds a bit of brightness (but if your palate puckers at the mention of the divisive herb, you can ask them to omit it when you order).
Still have room for dessert? If not, go ahead and work up an appetite by taking a walk around the block and checking out some Chinese souvenirs, because you won’t want to miss out on Yokohama Chinatown’s desserts!
5. Egg Tart
If you come to Yokohama Chinatown, a Hong Kong style egg tart is a must-try! The egg filling is smooth and custardy, and very subtly sweet. Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, you can definitely enjoy this as a dessert after you’ve eaten your fill of street food. The exterior is crispy and flaky, the dough perfectly laminated with those lovely layers that shatter when you take a bite. Somehow the puff pastry doesn’t feel oily or greasy, but very light and airy. It’s the perfect bite.
6. Age Goma Dango, Fried Sesame Ball
Of course, the fan favorite age goma dango, or fried sesame ball, had to make this list of Yokohama Chinatown street foods! With the crispy sesame-studded exterior and smooth red bean paste filling, sesame balls are pure joy in a bite. We’re talking ridiculously delicious, especially if you can get them while they’re still hot out of the fryer.
7. Kuro Goma An Iri Shiratama, Sesame-Filled Rice Dumplings in Ginger Syrup
Known as tangyuan in Mandarin Chinese, the Japanese name is more of a mouthful, kuro goma an iri shiratama, meaning black sesame-filled dumplings. Swimming in an insanely yummy sweet ginger syrup, these ground sesame-filled dango are yet another major hit! The kick from the ginger pairs beautifully with the sweet dango, which are chewy and stretchy and oh-so-soft. The warm, gingery, syrupy broth would be very gentle on a sore throat, and would be a nice pick-me-up if you’re feeling a little under the weather. While the syrup is quite sugary, it pairs well with the goma dango, which have a very toned-down sweetness and toasty roasted flavor.
8. Panda-man, Panda-shaped Steamed Bun
This neighborhood is crawling with pandas, the official Yokohama Chinatown mascot. You can even get a cute steamed panda bun! But while these adorable buns qualify as Instagram-worthy, the chocolate-flavored panda-man was a bit of a miss, as the flavor of the chocolate filling was on the blander side.
But try other types of these cute animal-shaped steamed buns; there may be a hit among them! They come in a variety of flavors and colors, with both sweet and savory options. The pig-shaped steamed bun, for example, has a pork filling, while the green panda bun is matcha flavored.
9. Annindofu, Apricot Kernel Milk Pudding
Annindofu is quite similar to the Chinese dessert, douhua, which is a very silky tofu pudding. But while the name “annindofu” sounds like it implies “tofu,” this dessert is actually made with agar-agar (a gelatin-like thickening agent made from seaweed) and not soybeans. It has a gentle sweetness, super smooth and slippery texture, and mild almond-like flavor. But, rather than almond milk, annindofu is made with apricot kernel milk, which has that almond-like flavor, and a very pleasant fresh aftertaste. Like the Hong Kong egg tart, annindofu is very subtly sweet, and it is also light on the stomach so it’s the perfect dessert to end with after indulging in your favorite Yokohama Chinatown street foods.
Rika is a sourdough enthusiast, amateur film photographer, and pun-lover, born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. A carb-based lifeform, she is always on the lookout for tasty bakeries in Tokyo.