Recently I visited Donghuamen Night Market. A must for Chinese and international tourists alike! Only…please, please don’t go if you’re vegetarian, or if you really like animals, or if you really hate animals, or really if you’re squeamish in any way. On the other hand, if you’re not a fussy eater, if your tastebuds like to explore, and if you like your food to have lots of legs… knock yourself out! That is, if the smell of the place doesn’t knock you out first.
Yep, that’s starfish alright. And behind it, sea urchin, snake, seahorse, scorpion, centipede, silkworm, cicada, tentacles, and tarantula kebabs.
Picture it. Wangfujing is a busy shopping street, KFC and McDonalds on one side, big boutiques on the other. You reach a crossroads, you see a string of market stalls running into the distance. “Hey, that could be tasty” you think, and the stench of smelly tofu wafts towards you.
Still feel enthusiastic? Just wait. The first thing you see is a two inch scorpion wriggling all its legs at you. They serve three of them to you on a stick. Before I could stop saying ‘um, um, um…’ the seller had shoved all three of the scorpions (wriggling) into a deep fat fryer. Yummy. I asked the seller how to eat it (怎么吃？）and he told me just to shove the entire thing in my mouth. So, eventually… I did. It was crunchy and I wasn’t sure how to manage the tail, but it didn’t feel like I was eating a real bug. And by the way, it tasted exactly like McDonald’s fries!
The snake was actually really delicious. It didn’t look appetising at all (as you can see) but it had a really meaty taste, the texture was slippery, chewy and…very, very much like a snake. I almost felt bad for liking it!
Thinking ‘oh , hey , that wasn’t so bad’ I became a bit braver when trying my last snack, and went for the cicada. Closing my eyes, I bit off the head. A hard outer shell enclosed a ‘tergum’ filled with something bitter and juicy…It was not a pleasant experience. As I bit and the ‘juice’ soaked out all over my tongue, I felt the cicada’s insides deflate inside my mouth until all I could feel was a chewy, crunchy, plastic shell. And I had to swallow it, because the seller was grinning maniacally at me. Yummy.
I would like to point out that this is NOT traditional Chinese food. This is very much a treat for tourists to ‘enjoy’. It may be the only one of its kind in Beijing! Maybe some Chinese eat everything, but there are probably plenty of Chinese people who now think I am crazy for eating a deep fried grasshopper. I don’t blame them…
Check out http://www.thebeijinger.com/directory/donghuamen-night-market for some info and directions.