WHAT-on-a-Stick?! (Definitely Not the Minnesota State Fair)

{{{{Warning: this post is not for the weak-stomached or faint-hearted.}}}}

One evening, I was walking around Beijing by myself when I stumbled upon the Wangfujing “Eat Street.”  I’d read about this place in the guidebooks, and it sounded reminiscent of middle school cafeteria gross-out competitions.  Even in China, where the approach to food can be “anything goes,” this street’s food is extreme.  I’m sure that most of the items are occasionally consumed by locals, but I couldn’t help but notice that the crowd was mostly tourists, both Western and Chinese.  In other words, I think this is something of a tourist trap marketed as an authentic experience.  All the same, it was worth a quick browse.

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Wangfujing Snack Street at dusk.
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Candied fruit skewers and juice. So far, so good.
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Teeny-tiny fried quail eggs.
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Porkie pastries.
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Silkworm larvae. Gross, but I’ve seen them for sale before.
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Pigeons. At first, I thought they were young chickens.
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Octopus and squid tentacles. These are also genuinely popular in China. I’ve seen little food court stalls that specialize in just squid.
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Ever wonder how to skewer a snail? Now you know. These came four to a stick.
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OK, now we’re getting weird. Scorpions; a variety of sizes. Those big guys in the foreground would fill the palm of my hand. If I was insane and wanted to hold one, that is.
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Those pink curly things are snakes. Once I figured that out, I leaned in to see if I could identify the ones with skin. My husband has a degree in herpetology, after all, and he’d be interested. But the stallkeeper was obnoxious. “Snake! Snake! It’s snake!” he cried, with feigned drama. “I know,” I replied. He pulled off a small piece and threw it at me. It fell inside my shirt. I think he expected me to scream–like it’s all part of a show. I just looked at him quizzically and moved on. I certainly wasn’t going to reward his behavior.
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I actually saw one Chinese woman attempting to eat a starfish on a stick. It looked as awkward as you might imagine.
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Centipedes (big’uns) and tarantulas. I promised you it was going to get gross.
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Wait a minute. That’s not a row of oysters, shelf mushrooms, or beef tripe. That’s just a spiral-cut potato, fried. Just like the Minnesota State Fair, after all!

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