I’ve been to Beijing before, of course. I was here in 2010, taking the chance for a few days of holiday to travel around the country after being in Shanghai with work. Its lovely to be back actually – this is a spectacular city which, if you can spot it through the perpetual smog, never stops for a second.
Last time I came I was pretty shocked by the Beijing night market – not just the sight of scorpions on sticks, deep fried giant spiders and skewered centipedes being nibbled at by gleeful locals, but by the pungent smell that infuses every foot of the place, and the trademark minor-chaos that seems to go along with everything China does.
Thus I am delighted to say some things never change: upon returning to the night market two nights ago, and this time doing so having very happily spent an hour eating one of the most astonishingly delicious meals I’ve ever eaten, I was pleasantly sickened to discover that I remain unable to stomach the concept of eating snakes.
‘They taste just like fish’, our Chinese guide gleefully told us. And I don’t doubt that they do. Alas, I couldn’t tell you for sure, because I’m not about to do something as daft as eat a snake. Not even for your entertainment. Sorry.
Nor am I about to sample centipedes, cook my own tarantula or boil a cheeky bit of beetle. I’m an open minded person, and I’ll broadly normally close my eyes and hold my nose when it comes to trying strange foods. See my previous post re: fermented mare’s milk. But the line needs to be drawn somewhere, and the scorpions / spiders / snakes line seems to me to be a good place to do just that!
Just before visiting we’d been for dinner. It was mostly conventional: Peking duck, chicken, beef, vegetables. But we did try a pot of stewed donkey. Jokes about the sorry demise of Eeyore abound throughout. But you know what? It turns out donkey is actually pretty bloody tasty! They served it in a stew on a platter, beneath which was a flame, meaning the stew bubbled away throughout the meal. It was essentially slow cooking the donkey. The longer the meal went on, the better it got!
But yes, to return to my original point: the concept of eating snakes still utterly turns my stomach, and I hope it does yours.
…But give donkey a go some time.