Hainan cuisine

Wenchang Chicken

Wenchang chicken is one of Hainan's four specialties, and may be the most well known of them all. Not only popular in Hainan, has it also become a signature dish in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, due to the nostalgia for their home of the Hainanese diaspora. The chickens are generally free range chickens. Wenchang chicken is normally boiled and then cut into pieces. It is then eaten by dipping the pieces in a mixture of spices including chopped ginger, garlic, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, and freshly squeezed citrus. The skin of Wenchang chicken is typically yellow, with an oily appearance, and the inner meat and bones are often red and raw looking, although in recent years the dish has been more thouroughly cooked due to bird flu fears.

Jiaji Duck

Jiaji duck is one of the four specialties of Hainan, but has a unique history. Also known as “muscovy duck,” Jiaji Duck originated in the Mexico and Brazil area and was introduced to Hainan by overseas Chinese over 150 years ago.


Often force-fed, these ducks feature tender meat and thin crispy skin. The traditional way to prepare it is to boil it in water, dice it, then eat with mixture of vinegar, chopped ginger and sesame oil. Authentic Jiaji duck comes from Qionghai, Hainan.

Dongshan Lamb

Dongshan lamb is one of the four specialties of Hainan Province! Dongshan lambs are raised on the slopes of Dongshan Peak in Wanning city. Dongshan lamb is famous for its excellent nutritional value and pleasant aroma. It tastes wonderful whether braised, fried or made into soup.


Hele Crab
In Wanning, three local rivers meet providing a perfect home for Hele crabs, one of the well known specialty dishes of Hainan. The shell of the Hele crab is green, and turns red when cooked. Inside the thin shell nestles the delicate white meat and roe of the crab. It is often served with a dipping sauce made from ginger, garlic and vinegar, which brings out the amazing flavor of the crab meat. The best time of year for eating Hele crab is late summer and early fall, when they are at their peak.

Danzhou Zongzi

Zongzi are a traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo, reed, or other large flat leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling. In the Western world, they are also known as rice dumplings or sticky rice dumplings. They are traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar (approximately late-May to mid-June).

A popular belief amongst the Chinese of eating zongzi involved commemorating the death of Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet from the kingdom of Chu who lived during the Warring States period. Known for his patriotism, Qu Yuan tried unsuccessfully to warn his king and countrymen against the expansionism of their Qin neighbors. When the Qin general Bai Qi took Yingdu, the Chu capital, in 278 BC, Qu Yuan's grief was so intense that he drowned himself in the Miluo River after penning the Lament for Ying. According to legend, packets of rice were thrown into the river to prevent the fish from eating the poet's body.

Hainan Zongzi are larger than other types, with large amounts of filling. In Hainan, zongzi fillings can include chicken, pork, salted duck eggs, shrimp, shredded squid, and more. Danzhou Zongi fillings are even more varied, including sea salt, red snapper, dog meat, and other varieties. They share some important qualities though – they are always tender, flavorful, and made with high quality rice and with plenty of fillings.
Danzhou Zongi often use streaky pork, pig feet, and small dried shrimp, and are flavored with soy sauce, alcohol, garlic paste, MSG, and salt.

Zongzi are an important gift within the Dragon Boat Festival, and are given to friends and family at this time of year.

Danzhou White Rice Layer Cakes
Danzhou white rice layer cakes are made from freshly made glutinous rice paste. It is made by pouring and setting each individual layer. Sometimes a layer of minced pork is added between the layers. The top layer is stir fried with minced pork, garlic oil, onions, and drizzled with locally made sweet rice vinegar and soy sauce. This pure white tasty snack is often sold for 1 yuan per piece in stalls lining the street.

Golden Thread Fish

The Golden Thread Fish plays an important role in the seafood and fishery industries of Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, and Taiwan. These fish have plenty of meat, making them popular with diners. Golden Thread Fish are a saltwater fish that can be prepared in many ways: steamed, sautéed, stewed with tomatoes, or in soup. No matter how you cook it, the fish remains tender and flaky; it is the centerpiece of any meal.

Hainan Coconut Milk Chicken

Hainan coconut milk chicken is a dish that really brings out the local flavor of Hainan. Fresh coconut milk pairs beautifully with well known favorite Wenchang Chicken, creating a sweet and savory combination. The aroma and flavors seduce the senses and make this dish impossible to resist.

Hainan Fried Rice Cakes

This popular local snack originated in the Haikou area. Golden yellow, they are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Fragrant and tasty, they are available all year round.

Sticky Rice Cakes

Sticky rice cakes are a popular local Hainan snack. The recipe has been passed down through generations of Hainanese, and it is eaten at every gathering and festival in Hainan. The cakes are made from a sticky rice paste, and the filling often includes shredded coconut, crushed peanuts, hempseed oil, and sugar. Often served wrapped in a strip of banana or palm leaf, this snack is chewy and filling with a hint of sweetness.

Lingao Roast Suckling Pig

With crispy skin, tender meat, and heavenly scent, Lingao roast suckling pigs are well known as a top-notch main dish. The piglets are raised in Lingao's excellent environment, and are bred especially for use in this dish. Born in January, the piglets reach around 12-15 jin (6-7.5kg) by the summer solstice, which is the best time to enjoy Lingao roast suckling pig.

Braised Ox-Tail

Braised ox-tail is a dish popular with the Hainanese. In addition to ox-tail, the penis, organs, and meat may all be stewed together in this dish. This means the dish can be considered to have medicinal properties, and is very nourishing. It is good for both men and women's health!

Li and Miao Ant Chicken

Ant Chickens are a breed of especially small chickens raised by Li and Miao minorities in the Wuzhi Mountain area. Due to their small size, locals call them “ant chickens.” The chickens forage on the mountainside, giving them tender and sweet smelling meat, similar to wild fowl. The chicken not only has a delightful taste, but is also very nutritious.

Five Footed Pig

Five Footed Pig, also called Aromatic Pig, is a type of small Wuzhi Mountain pig. These pigs have short legs and don't weigh much; they have a long pointy snout that they use for foraging food. Since the snout is constantly pressed to the ground, the pig seems to have five feet, instead of the traditional four. Thick-skinned and with firm flesh, the pork is aromatic, tender and flavorful. No matter how it is prepared, this dish is sure to please.

Water Spinach with Salted Fish Sauce

Water spinach with salted fish sauce is a specialty of Wanning. The salted fish salt is made with sea-salt, which deeply penetrates the water spinach leaves, forming a unique savory dish. It is eaten in several ways, stir fried with soy sauce, or fermented in clay jars with brown rice, and mixed with congee.

Orange Veal

Made from free-range veal, the meat in this dish is tender and lean, and is covered in freshly squeezed local orange juice. Orange Veal is a Qiongzhong specialty, and is made with local, fresh ingredients.Variations on this dish may contain pork, deer, or other meats.Local Specialties


Baoluo Rice Noodles

Baoluo Rice Noodles are named after Baoluo town in Wenchang city, and are similar to Hainan Rice Noodles. Simmered with pork or beef bones, salt, and MSG, the overall flavor is somewhat sour and spicy. Popular with locals, this dish is inexpensive, tasty, and filling.

Fever Vine Soup

Popular as a folk tonic, the main ingredients of this dish are locally grown fever vine (also known by the somewhat more colorful term of ‘chicken droppings vine’, ‘stink vine’, etc.) and rice. It is commonly prepared by adding sugar, coconut milk and boiling water. Fever vine soup has several health benefits as well as a pleasant aroma. Commonly eaten in fall, especially in the area of Qionghai, it is used to prepare the body for cooler winter weather.

Another local variety, Ding'an Fever vine Soup, has a history stretching back to the Yuan Dynasty, and is also known for its' health benefits.

Qing bu liang (AKA Sam bo luong)

Qing bu liang is a real Hainan summer evening specialty. Commonly sold from small carts on blisteringly hot Hainanese evenings, qing bu liang is a cool refreshing sweet dessert soup. When ordering you can choose which of the ingredients you'd like in your soup. Common options include dates, mung beans, barley, taro, watermelon, quail eggs, and glutinous rice balls. These are cooked together and then added to a base of either iced coconut milk or sweetened ice water – your choice! Refreshing and sweet, qing bu liang is a terrific way to cool off and relax with friends.

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