Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Gourmand's Guide to Wangfujing Street

I have adopted a very successful eating policy here in China: Don't Ask - Just Chew. So far it has proved a perfect philosophy for navigating the local restaurants in Beijing - the food has been fantastic and I have not had one bad meal -every single dining experience has been immensely enjoyed right down to the last hundred-year-old egg and crunchy lotus blossom. The only disappointment, so far, has been the weight gain from the never-ending, mouth-watering dining. Who knew!

Last night I was in a bit of a quandary. I left the office a little too late to find hunger-staving refuge in any of my favorite restaurants - and I was starving. The concierge suggested I take advantage of the Dong Hua Men Night Market just a short stroll from the hotel. The night market allegedly specialized in a sort of Chinese shish-kabob - steak on a stick, so she said. Sounded good to me -- off I went - rumbling, raging hunger in tow.

In no time at all I arrived and found well-groomed, friendly waiters ready to assist. I saw what looked like mouth-watering noodles and savory soups piping hot and ready to be served. What would I choose? And where was that steak-on-a-stick? All the locals seemed so busy trying to make up their minds.

The steamed crabs looked good - until I noticed everyone was eating them by hand - shell and all. Now that's some fiber. It was a little too messy for me - so I continued on.

In no time the vats of noodles simmering on stoves disappeared and I wasn't quite sure what was being served on down the line. Finally, I found a menu with an English translation - much needed for helping me understand what it was I was about to eat.

Hum, let's see - according to the menu I can choose.....fried scorpions, spicy hot crawfish or fried cicadas.
Or silk worm larvae - why not?

Sea Horses? But in what kind of marinade?

For a dollar, one can eat a scorpion -- but is the proper etiquette to spit out the stinger or swallow? That one sounds too complicated.

Perhaps these smaller scorpions are more savory. But once again we have the stinger dilemma - to eat or not to eat?

I was about to settle on the locust. I figured they had aged 17 years like a very fine glass of scotch - mellow and begging for a cohiba on the side.

These guys were so helpful and in perfect Chinese they said to me, "All we ask is that you let us have it your way"! Let me have what?, though, was the question from the floor.

Aha, the market specialty: Snake on a Stick! Oh, I must have misunderstood that for "Steak on a Stick". I think I'll pass on this one. Still hungry though.

Qing Li says that it all goes down better with a little fresh squeezed watermelon juice. I'll keep that in mind.

The last of the menus. What to select? Fried centipedes? Bee Cocoons? Actually, I was torn between the sheep penis and the sea snake.

The daily special was fried star fish - not regularly on the menu. The fried sheep penis and centipedes behind looked like they might have been sitting out too long. I think there are some food health and safety issues to take into consideration here before ordering.

All that good skewered food and no one wants tea. Suk Yi seems troubled by the lack of sales.

In the end, there were just too many decisions to make - it was definitely time for a Big Mac.

Snake, It's what's for dinner!!
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