Local noodles, sizzling skewers and crunchy ice cream
Nanning's night market spans several hundred metres along two streets in the heart of the city. Historically known for its sometimes bizarre cuisine, it has an astounding variety of food on offer, from local noodles to anything you can imagine on a skewer, along with tropical fruit drinks and desserts.
The crowd browsing the hundreds of food options at Nanning Night Market
The market opens at 6.30 pm every night of the week along ZhongShan Lu, which is a narrow street that runs between NanHuan Lu and the extremely busy, eight-road Minzu Dadao and ChaoYang Lu intersection. The market's main entrance is on the southern side of the intersection, diagonally opposite the Walmart shopping centre. ZhongShan Lu is closed to car and bike traffic when the market is open. The market spills over into the adjacent parallel but slightly shorter street (Gonghe Lu), which is connected to ZhongShan Lu by an alleyway in the middle of the market.
A meat skewer from the market - the single piece of fat is deliberately placed on the skewer to enhance the flavour when cooking, but does not need to be eaten
If you are starting your eating at the NanHuan Lu end of the market, try a bowl of local noodles. Order and collect your food at the ring of noodle carts, then take a seat on the mini stools and tables arranged in the centre. I chose a wide flat noodle known as Yuling Niu Ba Gan Lao Fen, which roughly translates as "beef jerky cold noodle from the nearby city of Yuling". It has a very light pickle flavour and is usually eaten cold, which makes it a great choice on a hot Nanning evening. If you don't like cold noodles, you can heat this dish by adding some soup from the soup tank on tap at each noodle stall.
The Nanning night market never fails to surprise. Last time I visited I was startled a baby crocodile on display, and I saw a wide variety of unfamiliar chicken and duck species. However, after a recent tightening of environmental laws, endangered animals are no longer on display and the live animals are mostly restricted to seafood only. Even with the live animals gone, I still found something unexpected - this time some freeze dried ice cream chilled to minus 218 degrees Celsius. It was deliciously creamy and crunchy at the same time.
Dry ice steam coming off a superchilled bowl of crunchy ice cream
As you move along ZhongShan Lu, dining options include both street stalls and restaurants. The stalls allow you to point and try anything that catches your eye. Some of the more popular snacks being consumed were skewered beef, skewered baby octopus and coconut milk drinks. If you don't want to eat on the move, you can stop at one of the dozen or so restaurants along the street, where you can sit down at a table in comfort and watch the throng of people passing by. For those wanting something never before eaten, the restaurants have a reputation for offering Chinese dog, but I have never ventured to try it.
If you are asking for directions to ZhongShan Lu, the sound Zhong is roughly pronounced like the word thong but replace the 'th' sound with the 'j' sound as in the word jet. Shan is roughly pronounced like the first syllable of the word shandy, and Lu is roughly pronounced like the first syllable of the female name Louise. Any number of buses can get you to the mega-intersection at the top of ZhongShan Lu, including bus numbers 10, 11, 34, 45, 76, 79, 205, 207, 604 and 706 running along Zhuxi Dadao. Bus number 97 stops at the other end of the market near the noodle stalls.