One of the favourite aspects of living in China is the amazing, variety, and ridiculously inexpensive cuisine available. Chinese cuisine encompasses a diverse range of foods, ranging from substantial Dongbei (Northeastern China) delicacies to Middle Eastern-inspired flavours from the far northwestern Xinjiang province.
As you may have heard, there are certain, shall we say, unusual food selections on Chinese menus that you should avoid — we’re talking about things like chicken feet, pig brains, various tongues, and so on. More power to you if you’re like such things, but if you’re not, we’re here to assist you to keep an eye out. Here are a few of them that
you should either avoid or, strangely, appreciate.
1. chòu dòufu (臭豆腐) – “stinky tofu”
This meal, which is popular across China, definitely lives up to its name. Stinky tofu (literally, stinky tofu) is fermented in a brine that varies by area but can include everything from shrimp to bamboo to goat milk.
Westerners frequently compare it to blue cheese in that it has a strong odor but also a robust flavor; it’s an acquired taste but can be a really excellent meal when made properly.
2. yànwō (燕窝) – bird’s nest (usually in soup or congee)
In some regions of China, as well as in Hong Kong and Chinatowns across the world, bird’s nests are dissolved into water, which is then used as broth or added to mixes for other meals.
Traditional Chinese medicinal beliefs claim that yànw, which is mostly derived from bird saliva, improves digestion and stimulates the immune system, which is well worth it given that some types of nests can cost up to US$10,000 per kilogram.
3. fèngzhǎo (凤爪) or chicken feet
You would have no trouble finding them: the wet market (fresh meat/produce markets prevalent across Asia) sell them, and they’re frequently given out for free at pubs and restaurants, much like peanuts in restaurants.
They’re usually soaked in vinegar before being fried or steamed, although they’re also available vacuum-packed at convenience stores. It’s worth trying once, though the texture is hard to get used to!
4. xiēzi (蝎子) – scorpion (usually fried, on a stick)
Scorpions and scorpion parts are valued in traditional Chinese medicine for their capacity to treat skin disorders, cure infections, and even prevent mosquito bites, and they’re a popular street food in some regions of China. They’re not always fried; sometimes they’re just on a stick for you to consume.
It is claimed that they have a chicken-like flavor and, of course, a crispy texture!
5. mì fēng (蜜蜂) – honeybees (fried)
They are popular in Yunnan Province in southern China, where restaurants occasionally serve a large dish of fried bees as an appetizer. Bees, known for their sweet taste and crunchy texture, are another thing we’re unlikely to try, but I’ve heard they’re pretty nice as a snack.
In summary, what are your wildest/weirdest/yummiest China food stories? Have you ever ordered anything you had no idea what it was and ended up getting something extremely strange? Please let us know in the comments section below.