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A Taste of China’s Exotic Cuisine


In regards to Chinese cuisine, a famous Cantonese saying states that, “Anything that walks, swims, crawls, or flies with its back to heaven is edible.” There are indeed many unusual delicacies favored by the Chinese. Brace yourself for what I am about to present.

Stinky tofu

This dish begins with a several months-old brine fermented with shrimp, vegetables and salt. Tofu is soaked in the brine for a few hours, becoming “chou dofu.” Like its name suggests, the dish has a distinct, pungent smell that is definitely an acquired taste. On the upside, you’ll have no trouble locating the stinky tofu vendor on the street.

Thousand-year-old eggs

Fortunately, the eggs are not literally a thousand years old. Also known as century eggs or hundred-year-old eggs, these are duck eggs that are preserved in ash and salt for 100 days. The egg white turns into an ancient-looking dark grey color, and the eggs carry a pungent smell and a strong salty taste. Thousand year-old eggs are usually cut into small chunks and cooked with congee to add flavor to the white rice porridge.

Birds nest soup

The main ingredients in the soup is the nest of the swiftlet, a small black bird that lives in caves in Southeast Asia. The swiftlet makes nests from its own saliva; the nests are rare and hard to obtain. Even though swiftlet nests taste bland, they gain popularity because they’re believed to be a health tonic and aphrodisiac.

Bugs and sea animals

This may be the most cringe-inducing food category of all. You may expect to see seahorse, starfish, scorpion, cicadas and cocoons in a biology lab, but the Chinese are familiar with them fried or roasted on skewers. For instance, scorpions, which have long been used as survival food by different cultures, now become a delicacy. Travel blogger Harrison Jones thinks the taste is a cross between snake and lobster. The question is, can you get over the creepy appearance of the bugs and taste them?

Photo: Flickr user babe_kl

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