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Although most Chinese people are adventurous eaters, Guangzhou people are famous for being willing to eat anything, no matter how odd. I was raised in a family that taught you should eat everything set before you and with a few rare exceptions have managed to do it. Although the fact that people eat some of these foods might appall some people, I view it as a testament to the frugality of the people. During the Cultural Revolution, there was a widespread shortage of food. Families managed to scrape by because they wasted nothing. For us it might be strange to eat these things, for them it was necessary. A use was found for every piece of every animal and a variety of cooking methods were introduced to flavor these sometimes difficult to ingest dishes. Without further ado, here is a list of the 10 weirdest Chinese foods I have eaten.
Chinese Weird Food #1 – Cow Stomach
This was one of the first Chinese foods I experienced. A group of extremely hospitable Chinese students treated me to a genuine Chinese meal. In retrospect, it seems they may have been testing just how brave this foreigner was since almost every dish was abnormal even by Chinese standards. The taste of cow stomach is rather bland actually. The problem lies in its texture, which is extremely rubbery. It takes a long time to chew so that you can thoroughly enjoy it.
Chinese Weird Food #2 – Pig Ear
The same group of zealous students ordered pig ear. I did not know what it was at the time. Sliced up into hard strips, it gave no clue of its true origin. It too, was rather chewy and tasted vaguely “piggish.” Since then, a local has told me there have been scandals by vendors selling fake pig ears which are manufactured in factories! This just goes to show that inventive people can figure out any way to make money.
Chinese Weird Food #3 – Duck Intestines
One of my friends delights in teasing me by ordering duck intestines whenever we go out. These long, stringy organs resemble noodles, that is until you taste them. By then, you recognize just too late that they are indeed, not noodles. In addition to duck intestines, pig intestines, and cow intestines are popular treats.
Chinese Weird Food #4 – Fried Wasps
A trip to Yun Nan province featured some of the most interesting food experiences of my time in China. The highlight was a dish composed exclusively of crunchy fried wasps. These may have been yellow jackets, but I am not entirely sure. Once you got past the idea of consuming flying insects, they weren’t that bad.
Chinese Weird Food #5 – Dog
A relative-in-law served a dish filled with meat that looked a little different from anything I had seen before. His mysterious and vague answers to my questions about the dish tipped me off that it may not be from one of the basic meat groups. A mouthful reinforced this conclusion. I am a firm believer in the truth that God created all animals for us (so there is nothing morally wrong with eating them). Still, there is a little bit of a mental block to eating dog. While it was not terrible by any means (a bit tough though), it was not tasty enough to lead me to search out for local places for buying dog meat.
Chinese Weird Food #6 – Donkey
Another relative-in-law kindly purchased a bag of donkey as a gift from a trip to another province. This is apparently a specialty of that region. The meat was sliced thinly and very red. Amazingly, if I didn’t know it was donkey, I would have guessed corned beef. That is what it tasted like. This would have my vote for “best Chinese food I didn’t think I would like.” I would happily eat more.
Chinese Weird Food #7 – Cat
A very kind retired lady brought a dish of this as a gift for my wife and I. Once again, there were mysterious and vague answers when I inquired what it was. I was ensured that is “very good for your health.” Never one to shy away from a challenge, I hesitantly nipped at it. Ugh. The meat was greasy and had an unpleasant odor. While it does still strike me as a bit weird to eat cats, it is not the mental block that will keep me from doing it again, but the taste. That dish never quite got finished.
Chinese Weird Food #8 – Frog
When I say frog, I don’t mean frog legs. It didn’t taste like chicken. Let’s just leave it at that.
Chinese Weird Food #9 – Chicken Feet
One culture shock we had when arriving at China was the popularity of chicken feet. These are enjoyed far and wide as a must-have delicacy. The most shocking thing is that they are way more expensive than chicken breasts. Not only used for making soup, they are also munched on directly. One sight you might not expect is that of elegant, petite, Chinese girls chowing down with a chicken foot in their mouth. Put me down in the unenlightened crowd as I still don’t get what there is to actually eat on a chicken foot.
Chinese Weird Food #10 – Fish Head
I will admit that I am kind of cheating with this one. Although I have probably had soup made from fish heads, I cannot remember actually eating one. This hasn’t been for lack of effort by my hosts. They believe that the fish head is the best part and therefore try to give it to me each time. Out of respect for them as host, I insist that they have it. Sometimes I am too kind, but those are the sacrifices you have to make when you care for people.