Monday, April 2, 2018

Wangfujing Snack Street.

Scorpions on a stick.  Do you dare try one?

Beijing has a fair number of night markets where you can come and sample all sorts of tasty, okay maybe not tasty for everybody, delights.

On my 2009 visit, our tour guide brought us here so we could experience the night market and sample of the unique food offerings - roasted scorpions anyone?

I wanted Bro and SK to experience the night market so after our time at the Lama Temple, we took the subway to Wangfujing Street.  Again, I never arrived here by subway so when we first got out of the subway station, nothing looked familiar.


We made our way over to the start of the Wangfujing pedestrian street and I immediately recognized a landmark - a McDonald's and its soft serve ice cream window.  I've eaten that ice cream so I know this place well ๐Ÿ˜


We decided to take a short break here as Bro wanted to get a cone of that ice cream.  In the end, the queue was a tad too long for him so he skipped out on the dessert but we still sat for a few minutes before taking a short walk into the commercial part of the street.  It is filled with shops here and seemingly thousands of  people milling around.

My eyes caught sight of a Quanjude shop, named after the famed restaurant that specializes in Peking duck. I had planned for us to celebrate Bro's and Yim's birthday on April 4th with a duck dinner.  Maybe we'll have it at Quanjude.  I wanted to check out the store as I know it sells packed roast duck.  I'm already thinking ahead to our days in Xinjiang where the food may not be quite as tasty and a roast duck or two might just hit the spot on days when we want some *comfort food*. I had told Bro that on my 2009, I had bought a packaged duck and pretty much ate the whole thing over the course of a couple of meals.  It wasn't the best roast duck because the skin is no longer crispy but this is Beijing and they are all about the duck here so even packaged is pretty good.  I wasn't ready to buy a duck quite yet but it was good to check out what the offerings were and what the prices were.  You can get 2 ducks for 98 yuan which is about $7 USD for a duck.  In the US, you can't even buy an uncooked duck for that price let alone a cooked one!  I can barely buy a chicken for $7!  So,  we left the store but at least we had some idea of what we might have to pay for a roast duck.  In all honesty, I was tempted to get one to bring back to the apartment but....not in the mood to lug one around until we got back home.

Though I remembered that the entrance to the snack street was somewhere near the McDonald's, I couldn't remember exactly where so we walked a bit further into the heart of the pedestrian street and then I spotted what looked like the snack street.  How to tell?  A lot of people, a lot, a lot of people!  Also, the street is marked by an entrance arch that you can't miss.   The main part of the snack street is just a narrow alleyway with food vendors lining both sides.


Thus began our time on Wangfujing Snack Street.  The first vendor we stopped at was the insect guy.  The scorpions are for tourists which is what we are.  As expected, Bro and SK were very surprised to see the skewered scorpions.  Even more surprised to see that some were still wiggling.  Both had to take a closer look to confirm they were indeed real.  Yep, they are!


But no self respecting insect snack vendor would only sell scorpions.  Grasshoppers and silk worms are up for the tasting if you dare!



The silk worms were particularly fat and juicy looking!


I was surprised that it did not take much to convince Bro to try the scorpions.  I have to say, with each trip that we go on, he gets bolder with trying the not so usual food items.  It was a challenge getting him to eat just one grasshopper in Mexico.  Today, a stick of three scorpions. 


SK also took a bite and declared they weren't bad but might have been even better with a sprinkling of curry powder.  That comment made us giggle.  She's so funny when it comes to food.  But no takers on my offer to try the silk worms.  Gee, I wonder why. ๐Ÿ˜




We didn't make it very far before Bro made his next purchase from the stuffed cuttlefish vendor.



After our nibbles, we continued our walk, checking out the food offerings along the way.

The roasted chestnut guy.  You think he's got a few to sell?


Pretty lanterns decorated some of the alleyways that intersect the street.



Our next stop was at the Old Beijing yogurt stand.  Okay, I don't usually eat or drink yogurt when I am at home but this stuff is something different.  I am totally obsessed with it so I had to get myself one.  The yogurt itself is not so tart and it's also lightly sweetened.


I find it quite refreshing and I can suck down a jar's worth in no time!  Not to mention, I want to bring back home a few of the containers as souvenirs.  SK had a sip and she quite liked it too.  I told her that when we get to Xi'an, there will be a lot more bottle designs to choose from.  Tonight, I just went with the plain white jar.  Everything about this jar is environmentally friendly except for the straw.  The Chinese need to come up with a solution for replacing plastic straws with something that is more bio friendly.  If there is anyone that is innovative enough to do that, it would be the Chinese!


The insect vendors do quite well here but it's obvious that many tourists just stop by their stall to take pictures.....like I was doing here.  Before I could even take one photo, one woman shooed me away at the same time pointing to the piece of paper that was posted up clearly indicating no photography.


You have to admit, if it was you that saw these ribbons of what look like snake skin on a skewer, you would stop in your tracks and take a photo too!


The first set of scorpions look like food for babies compared to these monsters!  Bro passed up on the opportunity to try them.  Guess he was too full from the first skewer. ๐Ÿ˜



It's so funny.  We passed by many a vendor selling perfectly palatable food and in fact, food that we would ordinarily crave like these snow crab legs.  But compared to the insects, it all seemed so boring.


I suggested to Bro and SK to stay away from the skewers of meat as we will get plenty of them to eat when we are in Xinjiang.


Chinese love to gnaw on bones.  If there's cartilage left on the bones, that's a bonus!  If the bones are braised or stewed along with the cartilage.  That's heaven!  Honest truth.  


Tofu is always a snack....even for me at home.  Stinky tofu is also popular but that is really an acquired taste.


I think these were quails fried whole.  I didn't see anyone eating one.  I was curious.  Do you use the head as a stick to hold the bird?


Dumplings.  Always good....anytime of the day.  Even breakfast!


If you don't like one vendor's dumplings, there's always more to choose from.  Personally, I like the ones in the photo above rather than the ones in the photo below.  More crispy surface.


Soft tofu.  For the Cantonese, we usually eat this with sugar syrup but these looked like savory offerings.  They look pretty delicious.  I'm going to try this on my next visit.


Skewers of sticky rice.  I've never seen these before.  I will have to put this on my must try list as well.


Hot pot items.  Here, you pick what you want.  The vendor will cook it up in the broth for you and then you walk away with the skewers.....after paying, of course!


There were some food offerings that weren't odd to eat but seemed to be an odd combo of ingredients.  Like these quail eggs with shrimp tails sticking out of them.  Huh?  Maybe I will have to try of these as well to decipher exactly what they're about from a taste perspective.


The skewers of sugar coated fruit are still an item.  You would think the fruit is already sweet enough that you don't need to dip them in a sugar syrup but I guess not.  Either the Beijiners (?) love their food really sweet or else they think tourists do.  This seems to just be sugar overload to me.


Maybe the crunch of the sugar coating adds a nice bit of textureal contrast?


We did decide to take a break from the maddening crowded and headed inside a restaurant to share some dumplings which the Cantonese would call bao. 


When we arrived, it was still daylight and the place was already crowded.  When we finally decided to leave, night had long fallen and we were packed in like sardines as we made our way back towards the entrance. Crazy just how many people there are here!



We made our way back to the metro.  The entrance is through a shopping mall which was here in 2009.   I had to take the photo below just so I could have a photo of the shiny floor....so incredibly clean considering the volume of foot traffic that passes through this place every day!


Bro and SK got our tickets to get back to Andingmen station.  The metro here is well used but still very modern.  One thing that I've not seen anywhere else in the world are the video advertisements that play on the walls of the tunnels as the train passes through them.


I was trying to take a video of them but was never successful.  I found this YouTube video so you can see a snippet of one.  I don't know how they're designed to play at the speed that the train is going at.  Ingenious use of marketing.


They also have small flat panel TVs installed in each car.  This one was showing a cooking show.  Certainly kept me happily occupied for a few minutes.


From the station, we made our way back to our 'hood.  Thankfully, SK is like a human navigation system....much better than Bro even if he won't admit it.  I would've have certainly gotten lost in the dark but to my defense, when you have such a good navigator leading the way, you tend to not pay very careful attention to your surroundings so perhaps if I was doing this on own, I would find my way back.


The last photo of the day was the one below.  It's of the supermarket that's just outside the gate to our apartment complex.  I'm sending it to Yim right now as she will be arriving just around this time tomorrow night and I am pretty certain that her taxi driver will drop her off in the same location as ours did.  If she does get lost, then she can at least ask for directions to this place and hopefully, someone will point her in the right direction.  I am so excited that she will be arriving tomorrow as I have not seen her since we both came to China in the fall of 2016.  With her here, our travel group will be complete! 


Goodnight from Beijing!