Where is the beating heart of Xiamen? Just follow the locals to Zhongshan Lu, a pulsing pedestrian thoroughfare brimming with nearly 200 boutiques and food stalls. Set out for a stroll after dark and hunt for keepsakes at traditional Chinese shops hawking dried seafood, preserved meats, and oolong tea. Be sure to break your stride for pineapple cakes 凤梨酥, a Taiwanese treat of rich shortbread filled with spiced jam; the buttery goodies from HuangYuanTang 黄远堂 (with a surprise slather of winter melon jam baked inside) are our favorite. After indulging in dessert, reverse course with savory peanut soup, a comforting local delicacy made fresh daily with peanuts that have been boiled, painstakingly hand-peeled, and sun-dried before being simmered for hours with rock sugar to soften them. Most people queue up at the well-known ZeHeHuang 则和黄花生汤at number 22, but we find the most slurp-worthy bowls are at SiBei 思贝花生汤, a short detour off the main strip. In-the-know Xiamanese have gathered at this humble, open-air kitchen counter since 1954. Ask them to drop in an egg to heighten the peanut broth’s delicate flavor, and pair it with a flaky chive pastry (jiucaihe韭菜盒) or two.
Zhongshan Lu is a quick drive from Conrad Xiamen. HuangYuan Tang is on the main pedestrian walkway. SiBei Peanut Soup is located where Siming Beilu intersects with Zhongshan Lu near the Laiya Department store; from there, walk until you see the rounded open-air corner counter with tables on your right.
HUANGYUAN TANG PINEAPPLE CAKE 黄远堂黄凤梨酥: 202 Zhongshan Lu, Siming district; +86-0592-202-3968; open daily 9 a.m.–10:30 p.m.
SIBEI PEANUT SOUP 思北花生汤: 64 Siming Beilu (near Datong Lu), Simeng district; open daily 6:00 a.m.–3:00 a.m.