Friday, October 03, 2008

The Sting of the Scorpion

Four years ago, our Beijing tour guide took us to this night market where they sell all kinds of street food. As newbie westerners, the vendors all tried to ply us with some pretty tame foods, like lamb, pork, and chicken skewers. (These are made in the Beijing style, which is very different and not nearly as good as the Xinjiang style that we love so much.)

While all of this was going on, all of the Chinese around us were eating foods that are, shall we say, a bit more exotic. Starfish. Silkworms. Squid. Cicadas. Sheep penis. It turns out that all of these foods (and more!) can be placed on a skewer and dropped into a boiling vat of oil.

At the time, we were appalled. It looked disgusting. It smelled disgusting. Lisa, in fact, started heaving in this one particularly heinous place. (Hi, Lisa!)

Fast forward four years. We have been raring to get back to the night market, this time to dip our toes into the culinary possibilities. And so we ate our way from one end of the market to the other. Pot stickers. Roasted corn on the cob. Pumpkin cakes. (You know Desi couldn't pass that one up.) Muslim baked bread. Candied apples and strawberries on a stick. A nice nosh session.

And, then, there I was. Looking at the cicadas and the silkworms. What do they taste like and feel like in your mouth? Could I eat them without barfing?

Eventually, the boys convinced me that the scorpions on a stick would be a better choice. I insisted that I needed someone to go buy a drink before I actually ate one. But then, in the meantime, I decided I'd better act before I chickened out. All of a sudden, there it was, a skewer of three scorpions in my hand. Sniff, sniff, sniff. It doesn't smell so bad. You know what...I can't wait for a drink. So grab a little creature in my teeth, slide it down the stick, and dig in. Hmm... not so bad. Before long, pretty much everyone else in the group had grabbed a small piece. Julie's take? "Tastes like paper."

Maybe it'll be sea horse next time...

~Steve

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