We like to think of ourselves as adventurous eaters who'll try just about anything.
That was, until we went to China.
During our trip to Shanghai, Beijing and Yangshuo a couple weeks ago, we encountered a number of wild food items. We were thrilled to see them -- and just as happy to let them go uneaten. Initially, we worried that maybe we were being a bit un-adventurous in not trying these foods. But then we realized we were on vacation, not Fear Factor.
We think you'll see what we mean.
Let's start with fried Stinky Tofu (above). We ran into this all over Shanghai. It's a fermented tofu that has a potent smell -- you definitely smell it half a block before you see it. It's been described to us as the "blue cheese of tofu," and the scent of it will just about knock you over. We thought there was no way we would eat it. The smell alone was enough to keep us away.
But then, as we were on our way to Yangshuo in the mountains, toward the end of our trip, we got an email from a Bitten Word reader named Meaghan who lives in China and told us about a number of things we just had to try. Stinky Tofu was on her list. So we decided to man up and try it. But we couldn't find any once we got to Yangshuo. Next time...
In a number of places we encountered Whole Pigeons on Sticks. It looks like they're marinated whole and then roasted or sometimes grilled. We didn't eat these.
This one was a zero on the gross-out scale, but it was still pretty wacky. At one restaurant in Hangzhou, a day-trip we took from Shanghai, we had Giant Radish as a side dish. The radish was soft, as if it had been boiled and then seasoned. The pieces were huge (what you see in this photo was about one-quarter of one of the pieces) and unlike any radish we've ever tasted.
In Beijing there's an outdoor street market every night on Donghuamen (just off the city's famous Wangfujing shopping street). The strip of several dozen vendors features plenty of "extreme" food. If you like Bugs and Snakes on Sticks, this is the place for you.
We tried these Candied Fruit Sticks at a restaurant one night. We had seen them all over the streets of Beijing, and we were intrigued. It's just small crab apples (or sometimes strawberries) with a thick candy sugar coating. They were okay, but too sweet for our tastes.
One night in Shanghai, we met up with a friend who's lived there for more than a decade. He took us to a restaurant featuring cuisine from the Shanxi region of inland China (not to be confused with the neighborhing Shaanxi region; China geography is hard).
Anyway, the main course of our Shanxi meal was a Whole Fermented Fish. We're shaky on the details, but it seemed to be steeped in black beans and aged vinegar, which is a popular ingredient in Shanxi cuisine. We loved it!
On a China Eastern Airways flight from Shanghai to Beijing, we were served a Meat Floss sandwich, and then we ran into them a few more times in restaurants and bakeries. We had no idea who what it was, but looked it up after we got home. It's essentially dried, pulled pork. It was okay (despite the odd name), but the one we had was served with some kind of mayonnaise (we think), which was a little weird.
And while we won't show you a photo, we will share that on the very extreme end of the scale, we encountered Dog Meat while we were visiting Yangshuo. We first saw it being served in a restaurant, and then being sold at a butcher.
We politely declined to try the dog.
That's it for our wacky food encounters in China! In an upcoming post, we'll take you inside a Chinese food market!
Until then, would you have eaten these items? Not touched any of them? Let us know in the comments.