Pulling a Fear Factor Challenge in Beijing
WARNING: NOT FOR THOSE WITH WEAK STOMACH
Growing up in the Philippines made my guts tough as leather. My early memories of my balut eating days is as vivid as and LED screen (Balut is a boiled duck embryo). My mom has to cover my eyes while I ingest the helpless unborn little tweety bird inside. I hated those nights. but I grew up, and it became a staple beer nibbler and it’s one of my secret weapon to induce an instant hypertension to my enemies (hahaha kiddin).
I was also trained to eat chicken, not just its meat but every single part of it. I went through a phase when these delicacies became part of my daily snack menu. Grilled heart, lungs, spleen, liver, and intestine kebab (isaw). I ate this poor creatures entire anatomy, Literally head (helmet) to feet (adidas), I used to love the helmet because of the rich smoked flavored brain and the feet for it’s barbecued sticky skin and ligaments. And oh! The pig blood stew (Dinuguan) is also my favorite even up to now.
I thought Filipino cuisine is the most bizarre in Asia, well I guess our neighbors got their own share of this unusual taste and gastronomic eccentricity.
After my momentous (tiring) walk on the great wall, we went back to Beijing. Since Marlena and Justin were both lone travelers just like me, so we decided to reconvene at the hostel after 2 hours of rest. We thought of going around the city for a late night walk. After days of popular Chinese meals, it actually became boring. So we decided to go on a little food tripping, and we all uttered the same food destination–WANGFUJING
I once told by a Chinese friend that Chinese eat everything that flies, except airplanes; everything with four legs, except tables; and everything that swims, except submarines – and visitors to Beijing’s fast-food market will be left in no doubt of that.
A stroll along the food stalls of Wangfujing Snack Street, not far from Tiananmen Square, reveals delicacies of every conceivable kind. The side street was filled with foreigners and I can pretty smell someone will get ripped with the food prices. I intentionally joined Marlena and Justin so that I can take some photos of this exotic attraction, Just to take pictures. But Marlena was so adamant that we should try everything! That’s when my tummy hardened, as stiff as a board. I was a bit worried, because anything with more than four legs freaks me out. Two meters away from the street food stalls, I can see all sorts of creatures on bamboo skewers.
Oh no! beetles, worms, seahorses, snakes and various arthropods like crickets, roaches and (gulp) scorpions.
It made me step back a little but Marlena suggested that we should try it. Justin refused with a solid “HELL NO!” while I softly uttered “hoh my god!” I wanted to pull a ninja disappearing act right then and there, just go home without them knowing. But Marlena’s enthusiasm and bravery made me feel ashamed of my so called “machismo” (don’t argue!). So Justin and I had no choice but to grow some balls.
After trying to devour a chewy, skin-y, slimy grilled snake skin, we moved to the next in line and tried several others. Some of them are OK some are not so convincing. We paid a hefty tourist price of 8 to 15 Yuans per stick, but I know from the get-go that we weren’t paying for the taste but for the experience so I didn’t complain.
Scorpions are some of the creatures I dreaded ever since I was a child, I squirm by merely picturing them in my head. In our clan, we all have a non-negotiable fear of anything with 8 legs. Scorpions, being a member of the arachnid family is of no difference with their tarantula cousins. So never in my wildest dreams did I even perceived that I will be sinking my teeth on these creepy crawlers.
But as they all say: In China everything is possible.
My tummy literally trembled like it is about to pass an enormous amount of gas enough to obliterate half of the crowd of Wangfujing, and I felt a bit dizzy while I was holding the stick. I took a deep breath, ready to shout “here goes nothing!”, closed my eyes as I bit off the legs first… It felt like cockroach’s legs in your mouth, chewed it a bit and swallowed it quickly. Then I saw the sting at the end of the tail and it’s still intact. I was so scared of getting sick because of the venom. So I tried cutting it off before eating the whole scorpion. That’s when I pricked my finger with its sting… GREAT!
I didn’t want to let the crunchy leg segments of the insect linger in my mouth, so I tried swallowing it as fast as I could. So don’t ask me what it tastes like because I quickly chewed the whole thing while chanting the words “Think Shrimp! Think Shrimp! Think Shrimp…” before totally swallowing it.
Whew! I survived!
It wasn’t bad, neither it was good. I find it hard to say it was yummy when I was picking morsels of what seemed like cockroach legs in between my teeth. Wangfujing also offers a selection of snacks for those who are not so adventurous like chicken gizzards, octopus tentacles, sea urchins and candied fruit deserts which I, by the way, personally don’t recommend, because scorpions are more edible than those.
Visiting Beijing could be a once in a lifetime experience, so why should play safe? I am glad I went for this Fear Factor-ish adventure, I did it and followed the Flip’n Travels Creed #1.