You can’t walk through the Wangfujing Snack Street in Beijing, China, without gawping at some of the more bizarre things sold there.
Even if you’re used to seeing (or eating!) deep-fried bugs in countries like Thailand – you can usually find them at Bangkok’s Khao San Road – or the Philippines, you would still be a little surprised to see the things that are sold at Wangfujing.
Wangfujing is a shopping area in Beijing that is popular with tourists, both local and international. It is only about 2km away from Tiananmen Square and is pretty close to some top hotels like the Marriott, Regent, The Peninsula and Waldorf Astoria.
Along the main Wangfujing street is an alley that takes you to an enclosure which houses numerous snack shops, a food court, bars and a handful of souvenir stalls. This is what is popularly known to tourists as the Wangfujing Snack Street.
As you enter the area, you are greeted by a strong aroma that may or may not put you off; no, it is not durian but stinky tofu! The smell was OK during my visit in December (winter), but friends who were there in summer complained that it was unbearably pungent.
Still, stinky tofu is nothing new as you can even find it in many weekly pasar malam (night market) in Malaysia. Rather, what was more intriguing were the “live” scorpions being sold at a couple of stalls. These scorpions were served on skewers much like satay but the arachnids were wriggling away as they were still alive!
It turns out that if you chose to eat the scorpions, the vendors would actually put them in a fryer first to cook them, and then add some spices to the crunchy things. Since I have eaten scorpions in Bangkok before and could still remember what they tasted like, I didn’t think I needed to try them in China.
Also sold at the same stall were tiny turtles, seahorses, baby rattlesnakes, starfish, centipedes (yikes!) and the more “common” bugs like the silkworm and grasshoppers.
But enough about edible bugs and insects. The Wangfujing Snack Street also offers other more familiar – as well as delicious and cheap – food items like dumplings, Peking duck pancakes, bao, meatballs, sausages, sweet cakes and rice cakes.
However, if you can’t speak Mandarin or read Chinese, it might prove to be a little difficult for you to figure out what’s what. It is probably not advisable for Muslim visitors (or even folks who are vegetarian/vegan) to try anything savoury from this place, but there are a lot of sweet treats like candy, caramelised fruits, yoghurt drinks and ice cream available.
Here are some pictures of the delicious-looking food you can find at Wangfujing Snack Street.