Down Beijing’s Wangfujing Street lies a bizarre spectacle; a culinary adventure; a uniquely Chinese experience.
However you choose to view it, the Beijing Night Market (Dong Hua Men) has a little something for everyone to enjoy. Brightly lit stalls teem with red and gold-clad vendors screaming out a host of culinary options, including tantulas, scorpions, and starfish on a stick, to name only a few. I, personally, am not big into eating these types of foods, but I do enjoy photographing such places. My husband, however, was actually quite enthusiastic to try most of the more controversial, nausea-enducing options.
The evening started out predictable enough. We spent an arduous hour riding shoulder to shoulder with our fellow passengers on the Beijing Metro. We got stared at and photographed and asked plenty of questions we didn’t understand. We met an energetic little Chinese girl, eager to run up to greet the Laowai (foreigner) and impress them with her English skills. And we dodged the sea of swarming remote-controlled helicopters and flashing laser pointers being sold by street vendors just south of the market. Just a typical evening for us whenever we go out in China.
But the evening took an unexpected detour as we approached the market when we ran into a group of rather large Russians in Beijing for business.
“What are you guys doing here? I take it you’re not Chinese …” Justin said, jokingly.
“You know Gazprom?” the tallest among them asked in a thick Russian accent. We nodded. “We work for Gazprom. We are Russian.” And then, as if on cue, he pulled out his wallet and dropped a U.S. one-hundred dollar bill into the cup of an old woman who passed us, begging on the street. Without missing a beat, he then reached into his coat and pulled out an unopened bottle of Grey Goose vodka.
“You American?” he asked. We nodded again. “Then we drink to America!” he said.
With a little alcohol in him, Justin was ready to begin sampling the Night Market’s rather bizarre culinary options. In the spirit of citizen diplomacy and global peace-building, the Russians treated us to a plate full of silk worms. Out of patriotic duty, Justin reluctantly agreed to participate.
He confidently popped one into his mouth, afraid to show any weakness around the Russians. As he bit down, his eyes widened in horror as his cheeks bulged out. I knew immediately what had happened.
“It exploded in your mouth, didn’t it?” I asked hesitantly. He nodded in horror and hurried to finish the thing off before any of the Russians took notice.
“Have another!” one of the Russians suggested, as he shoved the platter of bloated brown worms in front of Justin’s face.
“Oh no thank you,” Justin replied. “I think I need to save some appetite for the rest of the market,” he excused. “But I’ll take some more vodka!” and he held out his cup looking for anything to help wash the after taste of the worm from his mouth.
We chatted for another ten minutes or so with the Russians before venturing off on our own to explore the rest of the market.
“What did it taste like?” I asked once the Russians were far enough behind us not to overhear.
Justin’s face reacted as if he was experiencing it all over again. “You know when you eat a deviled egg …” I nodded. “Like that, only a pretend it’s a silk worm.”
The rest of the evening went much the same way, sans the Russians. I’ve compiled some of my favorite photos from our visit to the Dong Hua Men Night Market for your culinary viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
Roasted baby chickens. Or are they Velociraptors? Not sure. Think I’ll pass.
A vendor dishes up some Jiao Zi, a Chinese pastry filled with meat and/or vegetables.
This guy was really insistent on getting me to try the pig stomach. I politely passed.
A delicious treat in China, sugar coated fruit on a stick. Strawberries, kiwis, pineapple, and more covered in melted sugar. Yum!
A crab-filled dumpling. Dim Sum, anyone?
Ok, so now for the really gross stuff …
Pig testicles, made to order. Yep.
Silk worms. The grossest thing by far.
Multiple varieties of scorpion. Justin chose the smaller of the two options.
Deep-fried tarantula. Justin said it tasted like popcorn and it was one of the more pleasant things he tried.
And finally, star fish on a stick. Irresistible.
The Dong Hua Men Night Market in Beijing is one of the most unique and enjoyable experiences we’ve had so far during our time in China. Although some of the fare found here is not usually our idea of a good meal, we really enjoyed sampling new things. I’m not sure if this place exists more for the locals (do they really eat scorpion on a regular basis?) or for the tourists who will fork out loads of money to say they’ve tried something as exotic as tarantula. Either way, it’s a great place to visit whenever you’re in Beijing!
Have you visited the Beijing Night Market? What foods were you brave enough to try?