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Yes. That would be me eating fried snake on a stick.

Probably the most memorable novel food experience on our China trip was the Donghuamen night market that pops up every night on Donghuamen Street in one of the luxury shopping areas of Beijing, China. The market serves pretty much anything you wouldn’t normally think to eat on a stick. Don’t believe me? Take a look: This stand had English labels, but you could mostly tell what things were. And if in doubt, vendors waving sticks at you and yelling “Testicles!! Lady, testicles!!!” at you enticingly is a good indication of what might await you. There were indeed testicles (from cocks and bulls, I believe), and also snakes, eels, whole baby sharks, centipedes, silk worms, honeybee cocoons, sea stars, sea horses, sea urchins, various squids and other cephalopods, stinky tofu (essentially tofu gone bad, and believe me, your nose will tell you if you’re even getting close!) and plenty of other things.

As a customer, you select as many of these items as you want and the vendors will dip them into an intensely flavored spice rub and either fry (most common) or grill (much rarer) them for you. While it’s certainly a lot to process for your brain, everything tastes pretty much just like that incredibly overpowering spice mixture, though things like silk worms and scorpions might add a textural component to the experience. It’s neither too diet-friendly nor too tasty, if you ask me, and not even because I don’t enjoy snake/squid/what-have-you, but simply because that spice rub was probably 95% salt and 5% hot spices. Nevertheless, it’s something any curious foodie should try at least once when in Beijing!

Now, once the foodie quota is met, you can distract yourself with steamed or fried bao zi (stuffed buns) served with a variety of dipping sauces:

And for a sweet finish, there are fruit, also served on a skewer, though not fried or rubbed in salt:

The Donghuamen night market has been around since the early 1980s and is a popular draw for Chinese and foreigners alike, though the Chinese tend to seem more enthusiastic about the offered wares in general. Do expect to be aggressively advertised to by testicle-sellers if you are foreign, and maybe be advised that “bu yao!” means “I don’t want it!”. Other than that, it’s certainly a memorable experience to try out one night in Beijing, and will provide you with glorious photos to show whenever people ask about your trip.