A few days ago Billy received a text from another fellow EF teacher asking us if we wanted to eat bugs for dinner. Our obvious answer was, “ heck yes!”. I had previously read about this specific area in Beijing where you can walk down a long street and try lot of different exotic dishes such as scorpion, starfish, spider, lizard etc. Some of the dishes are ancient Chinese traditions rooted in the times when food was scarce in the northern provinces. Many of the northern cities, like Beijing, are not surrounded by water and the winters are harsh.
We hopped on the subway and got off at the “DongZhiMen” station and had to switch lines once before we arrived in the area. Walking out of the station, one wouldn’t think that this was a place where you would find bugs for sampling. There were tall buildings and fancy restaurants everywhere and the streets were crowded with Chinese women carrying their little dogs and men sporting their (fake) Gucci shoes and talking on their iphones. But, the trick in Beijing is – you have to know where to look. We peered down a small alleyway that was littered with bright Chinese lanterns and crowds of people. We thought we were headed in the right direction. We entered the alleyway and suddenly there was an intense aroma of delicious food and everywhere we looked men were roasting various foods over an open flame. Walking up to a vendor, I noticed that the scorpions were still alive! I swallowed my fear and told the vendor that I wanted four cooked scorpions. He grabbed four of the live scorpions and threw them on the grill and then put them on a skewer. I watched the live scorpions move their tails and bodies just as they were thrown to their peril on the grill. I tried not to think about the fact that they were alive two minutes ago. Surprisingly, it tasted like anything that has been fried which tastes like, well, fried food.
starfish, lizard and seahorse on skewers
All of the other EF teachers tried them as well and Billy even tried a Cicada bug! He said it was pretty damn good. So, now I know what to bring home for dinner. We kept wandering down this small alleyway and were bombarded with people asking us to try their food. There were men selling fried clams, roasted chicken and barbecued lizard and vendors were offering local noodle dishes with basic fixings like bean sprouts and chilis. Just smelling all of the food was an experience alone. I only tried a very small scorpion but by the end of the year I hope to try the black tarantula that is the size of my fist. But hey, I have time for that.,