The first attempt at the night market, while failing to live up to the culinary expectation due to unforeseen changes, was still quite an adventure. The next day, we decided to press our luck and try it again. This time we took the metro, having been in the Wangfujing area 4 time previously. We decided to visit both markets first, to gauge the situation.The first market was filled to capacity with pedestrian traffic. As stated previously, this market area is more touristy and has more than just food (clothes, shoes, jewelry ,bags, tea, etc). We mostly just explored this section and took photos of some of the overlapping food options. The food options here were not as varied, but the items were displayed more artistically and hence better for my photos. After getting our fill of the overcrowded market, we decided it was time to start eating and made our way to the same place I had started at last night, a block away. We first walked down the street in it’s entirety to gauge the tasty options. My first stop: scorpions.
There were two options; 3 tiny fried scorpions on a stick or 3 giant fried scorpions on a stick. Since this was only my second tasting (after the previous night’s silkworms), I wanted to start slowly. Also the price was a factor as the large scorpion was double the price of the small. To be completely honest, I was slightly intimidated by the sheer size of the large scorpion. I regret not having the large after my tasting of the small ones. They were perfectly seasoned and crunchy. I could easily see myself watching sports, drinking beers and popping scorpions like popcorn. Ok, perhaps popcorn is a bad analogy as you need at least 2 bits to finish one, but it did have me craving more. It was crispy, yet contained more substance than the baked tarantula I had before I left. Having thoroughly enjoyed the scorpions I was now eager for the next tasting.Stop #2 : cicadas.
I wanted to try cicadas next, simply because they were so prevalent around Beijing and they looked quite bug-like. I was again quite surprised by the taste. As compared to the silkworms from the previous night, the scorpions and cicadas were quite good. The stale taste that I had experienced with the silkworms did not reappear this day. The taste was of something deep-fried and crispy, yet there was more substance to it than a potato chip. I kept trying to convince Molly to try one, but she was having enough difficulty taking reaction shots of me eating and at the same time keeping her food down. Ultimately, she would end up not tasting any of the “treats of the day”.Attempt #3 : starfish
This is an item I did not expect to find on a stick, but was more substantial and delicious than it looked. Out of all the things I tried this day, taking into account that all these items were deep-fried and seasoned the same way, this was the most unique in color, texture and taste. While crunchy on the outside, the inside was green and resembled white fish meat in taste (though obviously not white). While the insects were more finger food/snack, the starfish could be considered a small meal onto itself. One might call it the hot-dog of China….
Food #4 : snake
By this point, I had gotten most of these items from the same food vendor and I was building a bit of a rapport, to the point where I was providing temporary monetary exchange for him. I was offered the choice of either goat penis or snake. Ultimately, I went with snake (this time). This was probably the most ordinary of the things I ate at the market that day. The head was missing and it was on a stick (no surprise there). The taste resembled fried eel with small crunchy, but edible bones. It was skillfully seasoned and was quite spicy.Final stop : squid tentacles
By this point I had started to lose steam and was becoming satiated, fast. Of all the options left to me, I wanted to try something familiar yet prepared in an unusual way. I had tried squid (calamari) previously, but the spicy tentacles on a stick intrigued me. Unfortunately, this was not my favorite. It was spicy, the way I like it, however the tentacles were a bit chewy and left me with a slight queasy feeling. Thankfully the freshly brewed iced tea and bubble soda drinks helped wash this down.
After trying several things at the market, none tasted strange enough that I would not recommend it to a friend. It is true that their outward appearance was strange, yet the taste was far from it. I could have potentially stayed there the whole night trying different things. One problem was that there were so many options I had yet to try (goat penis, cat, dog, sea urchin, etc. to name a few) and we needed to be at the BBQ dinner at our hostel (Chinese Box) for our friends final night in Beijing. The other problem is that I can only eat so much at once. That night I slept well, stomach churning full of BBQ, a variety of night market edibles and Chinese beer, dreaming of all the unusual foods I would get to try next, wherever that may be.