Eating insects in Beijing

I call my local guide on the third evening in Beijing. I feel like exploring and he suggests Donghuamen night market located in the northern end of Wangfujing. He is a jolly chap in his 20’s. I had bumped into him on my first evening in a restaurant along Jonguancun Avenue. Sometimes this Karma thing is true…how else do you explain walking into a restaurant and the first thing you see is a guy in a checked shirt, eating a mix of potatoes, beans, chicken, peas, cabbage and rice in a gallon of thick brown broth? The menu immediately sells him out and I salute “mundu wa nyumba”. Opposite him is his friend in another checked shirt eating all those constituents in a gallon of thick brown broth. I must say I didn’t have to pay for my dinner that day…i was home away from home! That’s how I met Denoo my guide…he became the go-to guy. He happens to be a graduate student from Kenya on a UCAS scholarship! God bless China!

It’s easy to confuse the place for your typical food market. The place is always jammed with locals and tourists eating, chewing half mouth, chewing full mouth, talking, taking photos, others amazed by the mass and variety of food in just one 200-meter-long food street landmark. The food stalls are steaming with fresh food. As I get closer to one of them, I noticed that the food was not your typical type. It’s Chinese cuisine mostly. It is a hot spot for daring foodies giving more than what I expected or even bargained for. I realized that my taste buds might never forget this culinary experience.

the-donghuamen-night-market-2
Donghuamen market

So there I was, standing in this small alleyway, an array of unnerving food in front of me, and I had to pick some for dinner. It took me a while I can tell you. I saw it, smelled it, walked past it once, walked past again, clicked away on my new Chinese branded phone though they didn’t quite like the clicking.  I was enthralled. I had harvested, cooked and eaten insects before but I didn’t expect to see the options I had before me. My options were many: cicadas, sea stars, and sea horses, locusts, silk worms, snake, lizard, centipedes, frogs all on a stick!

Well, I was hungry and I was here to experience some new flavors. My first choice went to locusts on a skewer. They didn’t look too bad. Not too adventurous I know but it was a beginning. We eat them where I come from after all. I could go with eating the Cricket as well. I farm millions of those and chew five toasted ones every morning. The snake was alright, the flesh smelled between chicken and octopus. It was not bad, quite flavorful actually. Now, this is when it got interesting! One display got my attention. Scorpions on skewers! When I asked the man behind the counter if they were fresh, he pulled out a bucket from under the table, a big smile on his face. Tens of these little guys were crawling all over.

crickets
Crickets on skewers

I hold the bragging right to being entomophagous in the South of Sahara; a daring edible insect’s enthusiast but NO. Scorpions wouldn’t do not matter what the vendor says. Not even if the vendor told me that frying the scorpions neutralizes their poison and their tail ironically is the most nutritious part rich with omega 3 fats. No! My mind was working 150%, trying to find a good reason to swallow a seahorse on a stick.

Well, I was here for adventure. I settled for sea horse and scorpion after writing my will and safely depositing it with my now legal guide, Denoo. I opened my mouth, and took a good bite. Most were crunchy and tasted a bit like fried chicken and roasted nuts. The rest went down very quickly! Denoo kept wondering what kind of curse had come upon me. He thought I should be taking photos. Only. I came to see not eat. One day he will understand…maybe he will.

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11 thoughts on “Eating insects in Beijing

    1. By the way…did you ever go back to the market and try the scorpion? It has this euphoric feeling of kuwa mnoma kama scorpion

    1. haha…i wanted kuwa mkali kama scorpion. it reminds me of those days we used to feed our village dogs live wasps…ati ndio zikuwe kali!

  1. Great read, at least the fact that am reading this is a testament that you survived to tell the story. Great work with insects research though.

  2. I bet this needs an expert to work on them well by removing unwanted parts before cooking and consuming or Iam I mistaken?

    1. good thing is, you can consume a whole insect without removing any parts. So chew the whole cricket with no worries. Read this post to see what i mean

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