Dana Mladin

Here! Come, take the bug!

Reading Time: 18 minutes

“I like Chinese food. I want some!” These are risky sentences in Beijing J. You know the saying… take care what you wish for…

WANGFUJING NIGHT MARKET

One of the toughest experiences one can have here is a walk in the Wangfujing Night Market. I got there by accident. I had noted in the Top Beijing this “tourist attraction point”, but before getting to take the map and looking for it, my steps took me there naturally.

Wangfujing is a popular commercial area in the Dongcheng District. Once you get here, you find a lot of malls one next to the other, bright ads and publicity announcements that literally hurt your ears over and over again, small street stands with food you can eat while walking, but the real adventure begins the very moment you let the wave take you. Literally. Chinese people and tourists hurry towards a side alley. Well, if I see so many people going, I go too, not to seem stupid J. I thought that it was something not to be missed. And it was!

WHAT TO EAT IN BEIJING WANGFUJING NIGHT MARKET

The first contact with Wangfujing night market is shocking: on a stand they sell edible scorpions. They are very fresh, as you have the proof in front of you: the scorpions are still alive, on sticks, moving their small “feet”, before being spiced and fried…

Of course, I took thousands of photos. I have no idea if I am allowed to do so, I have no idea if the sellers are upset by this, as they speak loudly anyway and quite a lot, and I don’t really know if they scold me or they speak about the last night movie…

I don’t have the courage to buy, although I am curious! I look dumbfounded at all the people who dare buy… And especially who dare eat such a thing! It seems for them too this is a new experience, as they take out their phones to take pictures. I try to interpret the reactions they have after eating to understand if this can be a good option for me too… They all have fun. It is entertaining.

I go further on the street, to see what I can find.

On a few stands there are some… very cute beings, that move their many legs. Millipedes, I’d say. In this case, they moved their legs in vain, because they ended on a stick…

Do you know what I remember? Those long, colorful lollipops, that are sold in Romania, in various fairs. Only these ones have legs… I don’t buy.

I try to find out from a man what he sells on his stand. He said, pigeons. Or, at least this is how I interpreted his imitating flying and the small dimensions of the things and with a photo from another stand where they lied just the same… Some Chinese people buy enthusiastically. I don’t. What do I need a Chinese pigeon for? Don’t we have the Romanian ones??? Let me be very patriotic and only eat ours J.

For the less courageous ones there is normal food as well, let me call it “normal”.

Stands with Shanghai chicken, dumplings, noodles and seafood. And some shells like the ones you find on the beach in Mamaia and snails like the ones that appear in huge numbers after rain…

WEIRD FOOD TO EAT

Would you eat bugs on stick?!? They have a large variety, well, whatever people found at home… J))

What it is like to ask: “Please, give me three bugs on a stick!”…

I have to admit these are the ones I hate the most. Bleah!

In the least expected place, among the bugs stands, I find something special: a street artist, on a small stage, in front of some chairs on which a few tourists have sat, has a Chinese traditional opera moment.

FOOD YOU NEED TO TRY IN BEIJING…

THE FORBIDDEN CITY AND THE UNFORBIDDEN FOOD…

I spend the days visiting like a desperate tourist everything I can. And observing the people around. And wondering at things that either remind me of the communist period and scare me or show me unknown details about the Chinese people.

In the evening, as my hotel is very close to the culinary wonders market, I go back there, maybe I’ll find the courage to test something.

I have to admith this is something I don’t like. I can see anything, but a seahorse on a stick… L Wasn’t it a protected species??? And believe me, I know we are in China, but these are not fake, they are very real.

And a new surprise: on a lot of stands they sell starfish!!! I honestly cannot understand how you can eat this. (Yeah, I know, with your mouth and teeth, but how can anyone even think about eating something like this, I wonder…)

Next to the starfish, we have grasshoppers and snakes. I have mentioned these in my list, because some years ago, I have eaten snake in Hong Kong. So I might buy this. Maybe…

I go back to the scorpions, as they are the only ones that make me trustful enough to live such an unexpected, unique culinary experience. I go around, I smell a bit, I take some pictures, I listen to what some tourists who have already tried the first bite say and then, this is it, I buy some!!!

I take a stick with three sacrificed scorpions on it. I have paid for it some two dollars if I remember well. I am so enthusiastic, as if I have just discovered the wheel! J Then I go to a corner to taste the delicacy…

That is what other tourists who have bought the same scorpions say. I listen to their comments: “Crunchy, salted, nutty” – that is all I can catch. Yes, I do agree.

To ease down the scorpions who are stuck in my throat, I go to a stand that sell yogurt.

Can you remember the taste of the yogurt in the glass jars? This is it! A little bit more liquid. Very tasty!!! And yes, it has the taste of my childhood, that’s why I am so happy about it! Almost everybody here drinks it.

FOOD EXPERIENCE IN BEIJING

…BACK TO THE MARKET, BECAUSE TODAY THEY HAVE GRASSHOPPERS!

I come back the third day, trying to get the courage to try something new. The Chinese people take pictures of me, one has even come to be in one of my selfies and really scared me… I am too white for them and everything strange is photographed. J

The truth is I don’t get to see too many white tourists here. Everywhere around, only Asiatic people.

I pass the normal food and go to the grasshopper, the only ones that look trustfully enough for me. What would it be like for one to jump into my mouth while trying to eat it?!? I don’t buy…

Neither can I buy the bugs. I feel sick only thinking about this…

And I know I cannot save the sea horse or the starfish, but I really don’t feel comfortable to buy these.

I decide to play it safe, keeping to the traditional area: I buy some tofu that is so appreciated and a portion of simple noodles.

I feel sick only by looking at this photo! They are really TERRIBLE! The tofu smells bad. It’s like eating the dirty socks of an entire football team! The noodles smell too, in a way I cannot put into any words I know. Well, I wouldn’t made a film with this either…

Wasted money. I have tasted one millimeter of each portion and then I abandoned them on the table. I honestly think the bugs were better!

I left and went further.

On a stand I saw something that was on my list of food I had to try. It seems all right, no risk involved…

It is sort of a tart made of grated potatoes, made in the form of a flower, with an egg in the middle. On the left you see the one already made, on the right, one they have just starting to fry. This is not bad at all. I eat it in a hurry and go further on, still hungry… I look fascinated at the stands, at the produce, the sellers and at the clients too.

From all the crazy street food things, I choose the most normal thing: chicken on a stick. Or, at least, that’s what I hope it is. I have asked twice. They have given me a “bouquet” of chicken, as you do not ask for one stick or two. There you go, take all this and eat! The price? 1.3 Euros for all the sticks. I am telling you this is not chicken…

I eat like a termite those things, but I don’t finish them, as the offer is too big and I really want to test other stuff as well.

SOUVENIRS TO BUY IN BEIJING

I discover lateral alleys in this street food area and I see they are fool of souvenirs. My God, this is the place with all the “made in China” things! Hundreds of things for tourists, one more Chinese than the other. J

From magnets, mirrors, fans, chopsticks, to painted plates, jewelry boxes, the lucky cat, traditional costumes, soft toys and… everything else you might want! I leave some money here and I go back to the food area.

I stop in a small fast-food like restaurant. People here sell crab soup and the crabs are all over the place. So that you know what you eat…

On the screens they show images with their crab soup and the way you are supposed to eat it. I look and take notes, so that I don’t look stupid when I get my soup…

You eat it with a straw. You break the membrane on one side and then you suck all the warm soup and the crab meat. And that is all.

God knows if you are supposed to eat the membrane too. I have not seen anyone eat it, so I did not take the risk. Maybe it would be like eating the barrel after drinking the wine…

CHINESE TRADITIONAL DESSERTS?

I start with a little bit of training – egg waffle. I have eaten such a thing in Hong Kong too and I liked it. It is like a soft waffle, with egg…

Then I was close to buying some red beans ice-cream. What?! I did not feel attracted to it. That was all I needed, to get gas after ice-cream too J.

I thought I could choose something more user-friendly, so I chose mango. I had taken mango as well some days before in a fruit salad drink with a lot of fresh mango. And with whip-cream, plenty of it, for all the sweet lovers!

DO CHINESE EAT DOGS???

What do you think I asked the guide who took me to the touristic places? Not about the Last Emperor, not about the Palaces or communism, but if they really eat dog meat in China J.

He said they do!!! In the northern area, where poverty is huge. And they eat big dogs because the small ones don’t have enough meat….

I pass by a small dog and I say: “You are happy, comrade, you are safe!” I hope I am safe too, as I have tasted so many things these days…

THE WANGFUJING NIGHT MARKET RECAP

I make friends with a panda bear, to have nice dreams at night as “memories torment me, memories impress me” (as a song says). Luckily no torment in the belly… This is a sign I have eaten safe food.

I try to remember all the crazy things I saw on the stands, apart from the “normal” food that we all saw, more or less, in our Chinese restaurants.

Starfish, sea horses, bugs of different kinds, millipedes, snakes, scorpions, something that looked a lot like rats, pigeons, liver, hearts and other organs that I could not identify… And a lot of deep-fried things which only God knows what they really were…

Bon appétit!J

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