Shop window in Beijing's Wangfujing street. Photo posted on Flickr by Clara Maya.
Foreigners who travel to China often come back with grizzly tales of the weird and wonderful things they had to eat there: silk worms, dried seahorses or even sheep penises. But our Chinese Observer say most locals would never put such things in their mouths.
“Think of something you wouldn't dream of putting in your mouth - they probably have it on sale on Wangfujing street.”
Jack Liu is a blogger for the website ChinaHush, on which he published the following post.
Chinese food is famous for two reasons: its deliciousness and its weirdness. The latter characteristic has a perfect example: Wangfujing street in downtown Beijing, which is full of street vendors selling the strangest exotic snacks.Photo posted on Flickr by Gohingplaces.Just Google it or search for it on YouTube, and you’ll find a lot of photos and videos of foreigners amazed by what is sold in Chinese restaurants. You’ll find roasted sparrows, cicadas, silk worms, inside-out snakes, giant grasshoppers, the penises of various kind of animals, and star fish. Just think of something you can’t bear the idea of putting in your mouth, and they probably have it on sale on Wangfujing street.Judging from their reactions, foreign visitors seem absolutely thrilled at the exoticness of it all. Even though they may not be enjoying the food, it’s all one big game to them. Here’s a typical exchange heard at a Wangfujing food stand:- OK, John, truth or dare?- Dare.- All right, go eat that giant fried spider over there.[…]After having their bit of fun, the tourists go home and blog about their experience, posting hair-rising photos on their Facebook profile. My God, these Chinese really eat anything!Grilled worms. Photo posted on Flickr by Clara Maya.Sheep penises. Photo posted on Flickr by Clara Maya.
"I was born and raised in China, and I find this place very strange"
Do you find this place strange? I know I do, and I was born and raised in China. There are two things I find especially strange. For starters, the food vendors all speak English. Not perfect English, but enough to tell tourists what kind of worm they are eating, or that sheep penis will “make them strong”. Can you imagine a vendor in a Western McDonalds speaking Chinese? Then why would “local Chinese” street vendors speak English?
Photo posted on Flickr by Akathryna.
"Fried worm on a stick? I personally don’t call that food."
Clearly, Wangfujing has become a tourist trap. The food there is deliberately, exaggeratedly weird so as to attract foreign visitors looking for something to challenge their taste buds. Fried worm on a stick? I personally don’t call that food.
"Snack" vendors. Photo posted on Flickr by Clara Maya.
This is a review posted on the website Dazhong, a leading Chinese food review site:
“This place is a rip-off for people who come to Beijing for the first time. None of the stores are run by locals, and all of them are very dirty. I have diarrhoea every time I go there. Newcomers to Beijing, stay away. Wangfujing is just a shopping street for tourists.”
Posted on Flickr by Akathryna.
You may ask, how does one find good, authentic, Chinese food? The best way of course is to go where locals recommend. Other than that I have three pieces of advice to make your dining experience in China as pleasant as possible:
1) If the vendor can speak English, leave.
2) If the place is full of foreigners, leave.
3) Good food isn’t necessarily expensive. Imagine you’re looking at prices in dollars or euros, not yuan. That will help you detect tourist traps.
An alternative for less adventurous culinary tourists. Posted on Flickr by Clara Maya.