Many people enjoy traveling the world because it provides them with the opportunity to taste new foods from different cultures and regions. Discovering new food flavors and types is often the most exciting part of traveling, especially for people who love good food and a nice dinner with new friends.
When you decide to travel to China, you might be surprised by the variety of strange and unique food you can find at their street food markets. Here are 30 Chinese delicacies you might stumble upon on your trip!
Silkworm Pupae Skewers
Do silkworms typically make you squeamish? Then we guarantee you won’t enjoy this Chinese street food specialty! For those who don’t know, silkworms produce luxurious silk fabric. However, in China, they serve another purpose in specific cuisines.
The Silkworm Pupae is a customary Chinese meal that is sold on skewers. People who have tried it before claim that it tastes a lot like shrimp despite how unappealing it looks. It’s no surprise that they use a lot of spices in these little snacks. These spices can easily make you forget that you’re actually eating a worm!
Flying Lizard Skewers
In a culinary context, lizards don’t sound very appealing. Some Chinese meals consist of lizards, more specifically, flying lizards. Many people are unfamiliar with this kind of lizard, but it does exist, and you can eat them fried at most Chinese food markets.
These flying lizards, generally known as flying dragons, are served on skewers just like the silkworms we mentioned earlier. They are usually deep-fried and salted for flavor. If you want to try a flying lizard as a meal, head to the food markets in Chinese regions such as Hong Kong.
There’s A Snake In My Soup
There's nothing better than a delicious, warm bowl of soup on a cold evening, but have you ever heard of snake soup? Yes, you read that right; snake soup is a real thing! The name basically summarises the dish - a bowl of soup made from shredded snake meat and bones.
This dish originated in Southern China, and there's even a restaurant specializing in snake meals called Se Wong, which translates to "snake kings." However, snake dishes aren't easy to prepare and require special training. This is why there aren't many restaurants that offer these meals.
A Century Old Egg
Don’t get confused. The egg isn’t really a thousand years old. The meal gets its name from the fact that the egg is supposed to look like it is a thousand years old. We sure are glad it’s not, though! Another name for this strange egg is “pidan.” This is the name it typically goes by in Chinese markets.
These eggs are fermented for weeks or even months at a time. They get preserved in a coat of clay, ash, salt, and lime during the preparation process. It’s said that the inside of the eggs smells like vinegar and stinky cheese. How appealing does this sound to you?
When eating out in China, be on the lookout for roasted cats. In most parts of the world, cats and dogs are considered precious pets. In China, however, you can find Mr. Whiskers roasting at most restaurants.
Do you have the heart to eat a cat from a plate? Considering our cultural background and perspective, that seems like the most peculiar and worst thing you can possibly do. But in China and some surrounding areas, cat meat is a typical meal.
Considering all the disgusting foods we’ve listed above, this one is no surprise. Roaches are often considered the most common insects worldwide, and it would be strange if they didn’t feature in Chinese food markets.
If you have a phobia of roaches, we can’t imagine how you might feel with a plate of them in front of you. Some people in China think these insects are delicious and packed with protein, but apparently, we didn’t get the memo!
A Whole Crocodile
We’re not sure what exactly happened for someone to decide that roasting an entire crocodile is a good idea. This isn’t the typical animal you’d expect to see roasted at your friend’s barbeque night. But for people in China, this is an ordinary meal.
Logically, we would think that they strip the crocodile for meat, but in this case, they end up roasting the entire animal. It seems like they leave nothing to waste in Chinese cuisine. Sometimes, not wasting something can be good, but not when a real-life crocodile is involved.
An Entire Sheep Head
Between crocodiles, snakes, and roaches on plates and sticks, sheep might seem like an everyday meal choice. This is Chinese cuisine we’re talking about, though. There has to be some kind of twist to the food.
In this case, Chinese restaurants serve whole sheep heads instead of just eating sheep meat. It might seem a bit extreme, considering it’s an entire sheep head served on a plate. The head is boiled and roasted before being served to bring out the best flavors.
Stinky Black Tofu
Tofu is nothing out of the ordinary, but this tofu is stinky and black. It is nothing like the typical bland tofu you might be familiar with. This kind of tofu is sure to make your trip to China stick out, but hopefully, you won’t regret trying it.
A few Chinese markets sell this stinky black tofu with a black mold crusting. People consider it a great delicacy, despite how disgusting it sounds. Some tourists have even claimed that it tastes like rotten garbage.
Pigeon is by far the least weird Chinese food on our list. In fact, if we had to choose one of these foods to eat, we would probably go for the pigeon since it is most likely similar to chicken meat. These birds are even served for special occasions in Chinese culture.
A pigeon meal is commonly known as squab, and it is mainly served for the Chinese New Year. If you head over to a Chinese food market, you will either find deep-fried squabs or live pigeons ready for sale.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding Balut, one of the most popular meals sold in Chinese street markets and also in the Philippines. If you’ve never heard of this dish, Balut is actually an egg embryo, usually from a duck, that is boiled and eaten along with the embryo inside.
It surely doesn’t sound appealing, although Chinese chefs try to make it more inviting by adding salt and vinegar to it. Some reviewers claim that Balut tastes a lot like cream cheese or a tender mousse.
This is by far the craziest meal on the list, especially if you are terrified of spiders. Tarantulas are large and hairy spiders that can make the hair or your neck stand up just by thinking about them. Believe it or not, people in China are not scared of tarantulas. In fact, they consider them a delicious snack.
Deep-fried tarantula has been a common Chinese dish for centuries. However, it only became popular outside China during the 1990s. Today, you can find all sorts of spider recipes on the internet if you feel like making some homemade spider stew.
Tofu is a common ingredient in many cuisines, especially Chinese and East Asian ones. With that in mind, you’ve probably heard of tofu in one form or another but have you ever heard of fermented tofu? This food is often called “stinky tofu” because, as you can imagine, it has a very unique smell.
If you ever come close to fermented tofu at the Chinese food markets, you will most likely ask yourself, “what’s that smell” before you even see it. To make fermented tofu, manufacturers let regular tofu cubes smoke in a mixture of fermented milk, vegetables, meats, and herbs. This process can take several months in order to achieve the right level of fermentation.
Yes, these slippery sea animals that look a lot like slugs are actually one of the Chinese specialties found at most food markets in the region. There are many types of sea cucumbers you can come across, including ones with spikes over their bodies.
However, a few spikes won’t stop Chinese chefs from preparing their usual meals on the menu. Those who have tried sea cucumber meals claimed that this dish is actually very tasteless, and it usually tastes like the food or sauce it is surrounded by on the plate.
We are used to tuna fish meat but did you ever try a tuna eyeball? Neither did we! However, tuna eyeballs are a popular treat in China, where the chefs don’t like to waste any part of the animal. Everything has to be eaten, including the eye.
Some describe the tuna eye as tasting comparable to egg white, but we’ll still have to pass on this one. Besides, the tuna eyeball is probably the largest eyeball you will find when it comes to sea animals, so the portions must be quite generous.
Bird’s Nest Soup
You’ve heard of the snake soup, but are you ready for bird’s nest soup? Also known as the caviar of the East, this dish is actually very rare in Chinese cuisine. Given its rarity, you can assume that it has a very high price for soup.
Once again, the name of the dish did not disappoint since the soup does contain an actual bird’s nest in it. We’re talking about the nests of the swiftlet that are made from bird’s saliva. That’s even worse than the nest made of little leaves and branches. Just imagine eating bird saliva soup!
If 100 legs don’t scare you, then you can grab some centipedes for your next snack! Let’s not forget that centipedes are venomous, but not even that will prevent Chinese chefs from turning them into a treat.
You will find all sorts of centipedes at Chinese food markets, including salted ones, dried ones, fried ones, and even fresh and powdered ones. Some claim that these insects taste a lot like seafood, although we don’t wish to try that any time soon.
If you have a dog, this might not be the best example for you to see. You might already know that China is one of the largest consumers of dog meat in the world. They eat dog meat like it’s chicken. It’s sad, but it is also a normality in all Chinese regions.
What is even sadder is that selling and eating dog meat in these regions is not illegal. They even hold a Dog Meat Festival every year in China, where locals and tourists get together to try different dishes and specialties.
Believe it or not, bamboo worms are actually very good for you. As disgusting as they might look, these worms are high in protein, and they can make for a really healthy snack. That is until you remember that you’re actually eating worms!
We’ve never tried this snack, but we’ve heard that bamboo worms have a milky flavor with a creamy texture. It might sound like some dreamy dessert, but don’t forget that we’re talking about worms here!
If you thought the foods we showed you earlier were bad, prepare for the caterpillar fungus. This fungus can live inside a caterpillar to take over its resources and drain its energy. Once done with its host, the fungus just comes out of its head and carries on with its business.
This very fungus is available on restaurant menus all over China and Hong Kong. Even though it does not have a distinct flavor, it is considered a specialty and thus has a very high price. A single pound of this seemingly disgusting fungus would cost you a thousand dollars!
Here’s another soup that you might want to avoid the next time you travel to China or the surrounding regions. This is a real bat soup with an actual bat bathing in the plate as you eat. Bats are some of the most commonly consumed animals in Chinese food markets, so we’re not surprised to find them in soup.
The most common places that serve bat dishes include Guam, Palau, and Indonesia. They usually grill the bat as a part of the preparation process before serving it. However, if this dish is prepared, we will still find it very unappealing.
Duck Blood Soup
We’ve talked about soups and blood above, but this dish combines both of those. What you’re looking at here is a duck blood soup, and it is nothing different than its actual name. The red blood is served along with veggies and meat to create a more fulfilling meal.
However, we’re not sure how filling this can be since, after all, we are talking about real, raw animal blood. Don’t be surprised if you come across all sorts of blood products in China, including blood pies and even blood blocks that are commonly used in cooking.
Here’s another disgusting bug that’s described more as a fine specialty in China. Cicadas are some of the most adored insect snacks in this region, and we don’t quite understand why. For the rest of us, these little bugs are nothing but nasty creatures we want to get rid of.
However, people in China love a good plate of fried cicadas, especially when they are crunchy enough so you can hear the sound of their little legs in your mouth. If this doesn’t make the hair on the back of your neck stand, then you might have what it takes to try traditional Chinese cuisine.
Octopus is a popular seafood dish all over the world, but the way they prepare it in Asia is the next level. In most countries, you will find smaller octopuses served in restaurants with trained staff who know how to deal with live creatures on plates.
However, in Asia, they like to go for the biggest octopus they can find. In fact, the bigger the octopus, the better the meal is going to be. Most Chinese meat markets sell giant octopi, and people seem to love these chewy dishes.
No, a sea serpent is not some sort of mythical creature out of the books. It is an actual animal, and you already know they serve it in most Chinese food markets. Even though they’re small, sea serpents are quite scary-looking!
You’d be surprised how fearlessly the workers at Chinese sea markets handle these animals. They chop them up like it’s nothing! Some even say that sea serpents are very delicious and considered a high-class meal in China!
In some countries and cultures, certain parts of the animal anatomy are not meant for consumption. But in China, it is common to find several different parts served as dishes to food market visitors. Among these odd dishes, you will encounter the genitals of the male sheep.
Supposedly, eating the penis of a sheep will increase the libido of men and is often asked for by a great portion of the Chinese population. The dish is usually steamed and spiced with curry.
Served as a dessert, the formal name for this dish is Guilinggao, but it is also known as Turtle Jelly. It is common to find in China and will range in price according to the source of the turtle or tortoise used to make the dish. Inexpensive versions are sold on the street, while some of the more expensive versions are reserved for high-end restaurants.
This delicacy is believed to hold multiple health benefits, including improving circulation and kidney function. Some women even consume Turtle Jelly on a regular basis to improve their skin health.
At first, people did not believe the rumors that surfaced from China about a tourist who witnessed monkey brains being sold on the streets at a food market. However, it is undeniable that monkey brains are, in fact, being served on menus in China, and it is considered a delicacy.
It primarily served as a main dish at important banquettes. But lately, it has found its way onto the streets. Monkey brains should preferably be eaten either raw or lightly fried.
In Britain, black pudding is a popular dish that contains blood. But in China, it is enjoyed in several different dishes, including the street delicacy Devilish Sausage. Recipes vary based on the region, but all Devilish Sausages contain pork blood.
While some recipes will only use blood, others add a variety of different ingredients, composed mostly of meaty bits which are seasoned with peppercorns, salt, and white pepper. In winter, this dish is often enjoyed as a stew with Chinese cabbage and pork belly.