Crazy Shit I Saw In China


I knew I would run across some cool, crazy stuff on a trip through China, but I had no idea what they would look (or taste) like. I’m not about to step onto Andrew Zimmern’s toes here – I have very little interest in culinary one-upmanship by slamming grubs and other paraphernalia down my gullet – but there was some stuff we couldn’t avoid, including the first “robotic chef” I’d ever seen, at X.E. Flavour in Beijing. The company worked on securing nearly 200 patents for it, and they use it exclusively for their large banquet room. Humans are needed only to measure, weigh and plate. I’m sure the service unions in the U.S. would take some issue with that. There were plenty of other oddities in both the north and the south:


On Lamma Island, about 40 minutes from Hong Kong Harbour, seafood is the star. Every restaurant along the main part of town features fresh seafood tanks. These Mantis Prawns looked like they came straight from a Ridley Scott film. On the left, alive in water; on the right, after they’re steamed. A small pair of scissors is required to cut away the shell:

















On Hong Kong Island, at the Causeway Market, we saw these “black” chickens, which freaked my kids out:



At the Beijing Airport, waiting for our plane, there were some vending machines at the gate. In the drink machine, lots of milk tea and flavored teas; in the food machine, dried snacks and some duck feet, just in case the peanuts on the plane don’t do it for you:



At 1949 Restaurant in Beijing, after you have the main course Peking duck, and they bring you the other course of duck soup (upon request only), they will serve the soup (absolutely one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten) then present you with the boiled pieces and odd bits of the carcass they used to make the soup, so you can nibble on them between sips of soup. Um, that’s o.k., I’m good:



At Lucky House, in Beijing, after lunch they sent in one of the chefs to show us how they make the “blindfolded noodle,” that is, they put the dough on their plastic-and-cloth-covered head, blindfold the chef, then take two steel “blades” and slice off the roughly-hewn noodles directly into the pot:



Then for dessert, one of the items to arrive was this comically large, hollowed-out sesame ball, which had to be removed, then snipped by a server into manageable pieces:



Just off of Wangfujing Street in Beijing, we stumbled onto a block-long night market, where they had, among other grilled items, some flash-fried seahorses and scorpions. The latter tasted like salty, crispy shrimp crackers. As for the snakes on the right, I’ll take a pass, thanks anyway:


photo: courtesy Madeline Dolinsky


























Back on Wangfujing, we spotted a cute little snack shop, which appeared to have all kinds of sweets. Upon closer inspection, they confirmed our suspicion that Beijingers love their duck. Like we would approach a stack of Doritos or Cheetos, here, they can buy a whole roasted duck-in-a-bag:




Not only do they love the whole duck, but they had dozens of tiny, brightly-colored packages (apparently appealing to kids) with all manner of duck offal – tongue, gizzard, heart, lunch, wing, etc.:
















What do you think about all of this? Have you ever seen these sorts of items elsewhere? What’s the most unusual edible you’ve seen on the road?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *