When ordering Chinese from your local take out, you won’t think to ask about any of the unappetizing Chinese delicacies being sold at the famous Wangfujing night market. However, this place does offer a look into the Chinese food culture of days gone past and even though these days its main audience is tourists, this market really cements the saying that the Chinese will eat everything with four legs with the only exception being a table.
There are stalls as far as the eye can see, lit by atmospheric red lanterns to guide you past the spread of a wide range of foods. From the not so out of the ordinary fried noodles to fried ice cream, dumplings to noodle soups, funky looking broths and 8-year-old fermented tofu (the smell will haunt you forever but don’t let it put you off, give it a try!), they have it all. Then there is the main attraction of the market, creepy crawlies! Why not try some deep-fried tarantula or testicles of all sorts? A silkworm cocoon, a roasted millipede or fried cat steak?
I left for China with the mindset to push myself beyond my comfort zone (oh and how it seemed so much more comfortable at the time) and boy did I! On my visits to Wangfujing night market, I tried my hand at sea urchin, sea star, sea snake, scorpion, silkworm, crickets and last but definitely not least, dog. Some people get upset about the latter, but let me explain why I chose to eat man’s best friend that day. Think about what the difference is between a chicken and a dog, other than that we keep the one as a pet. Surely their lives are of equal worth, and to me, that means I shouldn’t discriminate, if I eat the one then I have to eat the other…
So here I was, rather hesitatingly trying things we would call insect control for at home, but I have to say it’s not all that bad! The dog, funnily enough, tastes just like chicken; as you will discover most “exotic” meats do, like crocodile for example. I thought crickets and scorpions tasted like salted crisps. I definitely have a better understanding as to why they are eaten all over the world and are seen as a delicacy in so many cultures. Though I have to say that eating sea urchin once is enough for a lifetime! It resembles the structure of a cow’s tongue (and yes, for some reason I have eaten that too and found it to be surprisingly flavoursome actually) and is accompanied by a substance which is similar to one that is often associated with a cold. Yikes!
Whether or not you want to explore the creepy crawlers menu is up to you but the market itself is an attraction on its own and when you keep in mind that this is not the “real” China, it will definitely be a memorable experience. The snacks being sold here are not for the faint-hearted, will only appeal to the daring and although they definitely seem unappealing, they are worth a try.
The Wangfujing Market is located near DongDan tube station and is easily accessible by foot. Keep an eye on your belongings and make sure to read about the famous Tea Scam before you visit HERE.