Hohhot’s cuisine is largely influenced by its northern location and population of sheep. Mutton is the most common meat, which forms the substance of most local dishes. Though vegetables are of course eaten, it can be harder to get by as a vegetarian in Hohhot than in other Chinese cities. Some of the most popular dishes include:
Roasted whole sheep: owing to the complicated cooking method, this traditional dish was once only reserved for Mongolian Kings. Today however, it’s popular among locals and can be found all over. It’s made by stuffing a whole sheep with various spices and cooked in an air-tight oven at a high temperature until golden-brown. It’s then served on a huge plate and dished out to guests in order of importance. If you like lamb, it’s a must-try dish.
Roasted mutton leg: deriving from the above-mentioned dish, this is essentially the same, but takes less time to prepare due to only roasting one part of the animal. It’s commonly barbecued during the warm summer evenings.
Shaomai: this popular local delicacy dates back as far as the Qing Dynasty. Made using a unique preparation technique, it’s made from thin dumpling skin that’s carefully wrapped around well-seasoned minced meat to form a tasty snack.
Mongolian Hotpot: Originating from the Yuan Dynasty, this is a typical Mongolian dish that consists of thinly sliced meat that’s boiled in flavoured hot pot water. The cooked meat is traditionally eaten with a flavoured paste made of pickled tofu, sesame sauce, shallot and various other ingredients, as well as vegetables and noodles.
Though it isn’t one of China’s well-known megacities, Hohhot has a vibrant and appealing entertainment scene. The city is home to a handful of western style bars and clubs popular among expats, but it’s real draw is the local-style entertainment. Traditional Mongolian song and dance shows frequently take place across the city, and many even allow the audience to get involved! Venture out to the grasslands during the evening, and you’ll have the chance to stay in a ger and join bonfire parties at which the locals enjoy various activities ranging from performances to sports competitions.