51 Interesting Things Found At Chinese Street Food Markets


Different Foods From All Over The World

Many travelers look forward to experiencing different foods from different cultures and regions. It is exciting to experience the different types of foods and their flavors. Any food-lover would consider this a dream come true.

Everyone knows that a trip to China means a variety of surprising and questionable cuisine. You are likely to find some foods that you have never seen in your life before but may be brave enough even to try. However, we wouldn’t blame you if you choose to avoid them.

Silkworm Pupae

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Something you may never have considered is one of China’s street food specialties- silkworms! These creatures are well-known for producing silk for luxurious fabrics but would you ever have thought of eating them?

In Chinese cooking, silkworm pupae are most often found on fried and on skewers. At first glance, they don’t look like the most delicious food, but those who have tried have described the taste as like shrimp. The cooks try and help travelers by adding salt to the food to help them forget what they are eating.

Flying Lizard

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If you were told that lizards were on the list of menu choices, would you consider that as something to eat? We all know how different Chinese food choices are from our own, but we never expected flying lizards to be something we could eat. Even more surprising is how common they are in Chinese street food markets.

Flying lizards are prepared similarly to silkworms by being salted after they have been fried. They are then skewered to be sold in markets in Hong Kong and other parts of China. These are foods that are easily accessible throughout the country.

Snake Soup

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Soup is a dish many enjoy when the weather is cold, and you’re looking for something to warm you up. These dishes are usually made with broth, vegetables, and on occasion, a choice of chicken or beef. But have you ever had soup with a snake in it? To make snake soup, chefs shred up the snake meat and sometimes make soups that still have bones.

The dish was first made in Southern China, and if you were searching for it, you would find it in Se Wong restaurants. Se Wong means “snake kings,” and the chefs in these restaurants have had special training to execute these dishes.

Thousand-Year-Old Egg

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These eggs aren’t a thousand years old, as the name suggests. The egg is designed to look like it has been aged for that duration. They are often found in Chinese markets and are called “pidan” if you ever find yourself brave enough to try them.

They are coated with ash, clay, salt, and lime before fermentation. The fermentation process could take a few weeks to a  couple of months. Some have described the smell as a vinegar and stinky cheese smell. Whether this looks appetizing or not, you can make the judgment for yourself.

Roasted Cat

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We all know that Chinese cuisine comprises unusual meat selections, but have you ever heard of a roasted cat? Travelers are bound to be frightened when they decide to visit a restaurant only to find a cat roasted on a skewer!

Not many would agree that seeing a cat served for dinner is the right way to go, but people from China seem to have been raised differently. Cat meat is not uncommon there and can even be found in China’s surrounding regions.


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By now, we expect that you aren’t all surprised by what this meal is made of, considering roaches are one of the most accessible insects to find. Every food market corner seems to have them on hand.

It’s difficult to picture them in a meal, especially if you are one of those who are terrified of seeing them scuttering about. However, if you have it in you to try it, people from China have said that they are an excellent source of protein and enjoy the flavor.

Roasted Crocodile

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A roasted crocodile is not something you see every day, even for special occasions. However, it’s another story in China. This is considered a common delicacy among the people.

They seem to enjoy the meat but choose to roast the entire thing instead of stripping it for the meat. It could be considered a positive that Chinese cooking uses everything and leaves nothing wasted. However, seeing an entire crocodile like this can be a startling sight.

Sheep Head

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Sheep is a meat source we can most likely get behind, considering what we have seen thus far, like roaches, snakes, and crocodiles. However, when it comes to Chinese food, we must remember that things are not as they always seem.

If you were to order sheep, I think it’s safe to say you may get more than what you bargained for. Sheep heads that are boiled and then roasted are often found in Chinse cuisine. By roasting them, the cooks can ensure the flavor is there.

Stinky Black Tofu

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It’s no surprise that tofu makes it into many Chinese dishes, but not many know about the stinky black kind. If you consider trying it, be warned that it will be a flavor you will remember for the rest of your life, and it may not be because the taste was good.

This tofu has become a specialty in Chinese food markets. The people in China seem to love the stuff, but many tourists would have to disagree. They find the black mold-encrusted tofu to leave a horrible taste in their mouth.


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Here we have one of the safest food options on our list – pigeon. The meat can be described as chicken in terms of texture and taste. The Chinese culture often serves this on special occasions.

This meal is called “squab” and consists of deep-fried pigeons; however, you can also purchase them live. Although you can often find these in food markets, they are reserved for Chine New Year for everyone to enjoy.


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This is a meal choice that can easily be found in the Philippines as well as China. It is an egg embryo – usually from a duck – boiled before being eaten with the embryo still intact.

The flavor is added to the egg when Chines chefs add vinegar and salt to it, but many struggles to stomach the meal despite this. Some have managed to take a bite or even eat the entire thing and say it tastes like a delicate mousse or cream cheese.

Fried Tarantulas

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Arachnophobes, be warned! Where the people of China find these to be delicious snacks, your stomach would be sent churning, and your body would be overcome with waves of anxiety.

The tarantulas are deep-fried, as has been the practice for centuries. Other regions started making the dish too after 1990, which has led to what we can find on the internet today. You would be surprised to know that you can find numerous recipes for when you want to try your hand at preparing a spider dish for yourselves.

Fermented Tofu

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Tofu is often found in Chinese and East Asian cooking recipes, but we haven’t heard much about it being fermented. The fermentation process makes the original tofu sticky, and the reasons are straightforward.

Even amidst the aromas of all the foods in the Chinese street food market, the smell of fermented tofu is something not to be missed. To ferment the tofu, it has to be cut into cubes and smoked in a mixture of milk, vegetables, meats, and herbs. It can take several months of fermentation before the tofu is ready to be eaten.

15Sea Cucumber

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Sea cucumbers are a Chinese specialty in food markets, with many of the populace enjoying the slippery sea animals. There are different kinds of sea cucumbers, some with bodies covered by spikes.

The spikes do very little to deter Chinese chefs. They enjoy making meals out of them to feature in their menus despite them being said to have little or no flavor. Sea cucumbers tend to adopt the taste of sauces or the food surrounding them.

Tuna Eyeball

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We are used to tuna fish meat but did you ever try a tuna eyeball? Neither did we! However, tuna eyeballs are a popular treat in China where the chefs don’t like to waste any part of the animal. Everything has to be eaten, including the eye.

Some describe the tuna eye as tasting comparable to egg white, but we’ll still have to pass on this one. Besides, the tuna eyeball is probably the largest eyeball you will find when it comes to sea animals so the portions must be quite generous.

Bird’s Nest Soup

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You’ve heard of the snake soup but are you ready for bird’s nest soup? Also known as the caviar of the East, this dish is actually very rare in Chinese cuisine. Given its rarity, you can assume that it has a very high price for a soup.

Once again, the name of the dish did not disappoint since the soup does contain an actual bird’s nest in it. We’re talking about the nests of the swiftlet that are made from bird’s saliva. That’s even worse than the nest made of little leaves and branches. Just imagine eating bird saliva soup!


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If 100 legs doesn’t scare you, then you can grab some centipedes for your next snack! Let’s not forget that centipedes are venomous, but not even that will prevent Chinese chefs from turning them into a treat.

You will find all sorts of centipedes at Chinese food markets, including salted ones, dried ones, fried ones, and even fresh and powdered ones. Some claim that these insects taste a lot like seafood, although we don’t wish to try that any time soon!

Dog Meat

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If you have a dog, this might not be the best example for you to see. You might already know that China is one of the largest consumers of dog meat in the world. They eat dog meat like it’s chicken. It’s sad but it is also a normality in all Chinese regions.

What is even sadder is that selling and eating dog meat in these regions is not illegal. They even hold a Dog Meat Festival every year in China where locals and tourists get together to try different dishes and specialties.

Bamboo Worms

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Believe it or not, bamboo worms are actually very good for you. As disgusting as they might look, these worms are high in protein and they can make for a really healthy snack. That is, until you remember that you’re actually eating worms!

We’ve never tried this snack but we’ve heard that bamboo worms have a milky flavor with a creamy texture. It might sound like some dreamy dessert but don’t forget that we’re talking about worms here!

Caterpillar Fungus

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If you thought the foods we showed you earlier were bad, prepare for the caterpillar fungus. This fungus can live inside a caterpillar to take over its resources and drain its energy. Once done with its host, the fungus just comes out of its head and carries on with its business.

This very fungus is available in restaurant menus all over China and Hong Kong. Even though it does not have a distinct flavor, it is considered a specialty and thus has a very high price. A single pound of this seemingly disgusting fungus would cost you a thousand dollars!

Bat Soup

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Here’s another soup that you might want to avoid the next time you travel to China or surrounding regions. This is a real bat soup with an actual bat bathing in the plate as you eat. Bats are some of the most commonly consumed animals in Chinese food markets so we’re not surprised to find them in a soup.

The most common places that serve bat dishes include Guam, Palau, and Indonesia. They usually grill the bat as a part of the preparation process before serving it. However this dish is prepared, we will still find it very unappealing.

Duck Blood Soup

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We’ve talked about soups and blood above but this dish combines both of those. What you’re looking at here is a duck blood soup and it is nothing different than its actual name. The red blood is served along with veggies and meat to create a more fulfilling meal.

However, we’re not sure how filling this can be since, after all, we are talking about real, raw animal blood. Don’t be surprised if you come across all sorts of blood products in China, including blood pie and even blood blocks that are commonly used in cooking.

Fried Cicadas

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Here’s another disgusting bug that’s described more like a fine specialty in China. Cicadas are some of the most adored insect snacks in this region and we don’t quite understand why. For the rest of us, these little bugs are nothing but nasty creatures we want to get rid of.

However, people in China love a good plate of fried cicadas, especially when they are crunchy enough so you can hear the sound of their little legs in your mouth. If this doesn’t make the hair on the back of your neck stand, then you might have what it takes to try traditional Chinese cuisine.

Giant Octopus

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Octopus is a popular seafood dish all over the world but the way they prepare it in Asia is the next level. In most countries, you will find smaller octopuses served in restaurants with trained staff who know how to deal with live creatures on plates.

However, in Asia, they like to go for the biggest octopus they can find. In fact, the bigger the octopus, the better the meal is going to be. Most Chinese meat markets sell giant octopus and people seem to love these chewy dishes.

Sea Serpent

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No, a sea serpent is not some sort of mythical creature out of the books. It is an actual animal and you already know they serve it in most Chinese food markets. Even though they’re small, sea serpents are quite scary-looking!

You’d be surprised how fearlessly the workers at Chinese sea markets handle these animals. They chop them up like it’s nothing! Some even say that sea serpents are very delicious and considered a high-class meal in China!

Sheep Genitals

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In some countries and cultures, certain parts of the animal anatomy are not meant for consumption. But in China, it is common to find several different parts served as dishes to food market visitors. Among these odd dishes, you will encounter the genitals of the male sheep.

Supposedly, eating the penis of a sheep will increase the libido of men and is often asked for by a great portion of the Chinese population. The dish is usually steamed and spiced with curry.


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Served as a dessert, the formal name for this dish is Guilinggao but is also known as Turtle Jelly. It is common to find in China and will range in price according to the source of the turtle or tortoise used to make the dish. Inexpensive versions are sold on the street, while some of the more expensive versions are reserved for high-end restaurants.

This delicacy is believed to hold multiple health benefits, including improving circulation and kidney function. Some women even consume Turtle Jelly on a regular basis to improve their skin health.

Monkey Brains

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At first, people did not believe the rumors that surfaced from China about a tourist who witnessed monkey brains being sold on the streets at a food market. However, it is undeniable that monkey brains are in fact being served on menus in China, and it is considered a delicacy.

It primarily served as a main dish at important banquettes. But lately, it has found its way onto the streets. Monkey brains should preferably be eaten either raw or lightly fried.

Devilish Sausages

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In Britain, black pudding is a popular dish that contains blood. But in China, it is enjoyed in several different dishes, including the street delicacy Devilish Sausage. Recipes vary based on the region, but all Devilish Sausages contain pork blood.

While some recipes will only use blood, others add a variety of different ingredients, composed mostly of meaty bits which are seasoned with peppercorns, salt, and white pepper. In winter, this dish is often enjoyed as a stew with Chinese cabbage and pork belly.

Pickled Jellyfish

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We have all seen Patrick and Spongebob go on a jellyfish-catching adventure a couple of times, but the next street dish that is enjoyed in several Asian countries puts a dark twist on these cartoon characters’ favorite hobby. In most cases, it goes through a long process of dehydration and is then pickled.

It is eaten in a variety of dishes, most commonly as a salad. It is consumed in China, Japan, Thailand, and several other countries in Asia. Pickled jellyfish is even offered as a main dish on some airlines.

Duck Tongue

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In most western countries, just mentioning eating a duck’s tongue would be absurd. Not only because it sounds like an inedible part of the fowl’s anatomy, but also because it is so small and practically meatless. Or is it… In China, it is a dish often served at street restaurants.

Most often it would be added to dishes that contain a few more other strange parts of the duck’s anatomy, which include the webbed feet. It is considered a delicacy and is widely eaten across different classes of society.

Fish Lip Soup

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A dish quite often enjoyed at street markets in China is Fish Lip Soup. But contrary to the name, it does not involve cooking the lips of fish… Or at least not only the lips of fish. In most cases, it involves the cooking of the entire fish head, though some recipes call for the use of Garoupa fish lips.

Usually, the fish head is chopped into pieces and brown fried in oil, then added to boiling water and served with tofu as a soup.

Pork Lungs in Chili Sauce

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Pork lungs in chili sauce is a traditional meal in China that has grown popular among street vendors. This is mostly because it is served at room temperature or chilled, and all the ingredients are prepared beforehand.

Contrary to the name, it does not always contain pork lungs. But traditionally, it consists of strips of tenderly prepared pork meat, heart, tripe, and tongue. It is soaked in a bowl of chili oil and served with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Pork, Goose, or Duck Fried Intestines

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It might not sound delicious to most westerners, but in China, the intestines of certain animals are a favored delicacy. Intestines of animals such as geese, pigs, and ducks are widely enjoyed by the greater part of the Chinese population. It has also grown popular at street markets and is usually served deep fried with spicy and hot sauces.

Sometimes it is also used as hot pot ingredients for several appreciated soups that are also sold at street markets. In some places, it is stewed or stir-fried to improve the juicy textures.

Frogs and Toads

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Somethings that most people outside of Asia find disgusting are widely enjoyed delicacies in Asian countries. Frogs and toads can be found on the menus of street vendors in China and other Asian countries, including Vietnam.

Taiwan Bullfrogs are most popularly used, and in China, many people eat the Huang Shuang Black Stone Frog. In fact, the common Chinese name for the Taiwan Bullfrog is ‘Field Chicken’, and is a main ingredient in many soups and stir-fries.

Snow Fungus

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Snow Fungus, also called White Fungus, is an ingredient used for numerous dishes in China. It is revered for its impressive medicinal qualities and high nutritional value. White Fungus is not a mushroom but is a fungus that commonly grows in China and is harvested for cooking.

It is usually soaked in water to soften it and then boiled in spicy water with other ingredients. It can also be used to make a variety of desserts and is a popular ingredient in many street vendor dishes.

Chicken Testicles

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Everyone loves the taste of chicken, unless, of course, you are a vegan or vegetarian, but in certain places of China, they serve the testicles of chickens as a delicacy. It is said to improve the libido of men and give women the smoothest skin they could dream of.

This dish is usually served with noodles and rice and is only lightly cooked to maintain its tenderness. It is best enjoyed with all its juices and is available in two variants, either white or black.

Turtle Soup

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In China, the turtle is a respected animal associated with longevity and health. But that does not keep them from being eaten – in fact, it is quite the opposite. Turtles are often consumed in a soup made from three different turtle species found on the coasts of China.

It is said to be as delicious as it is healthy. Plus, it is a superfood that is often given to sick patients in hospitals. It can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, but at street markets, you would usually only find it in soup form.

Dried Lily Buds

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Used in a variety of soups and stir-fries, the following ingredient may not sound as strange as most of the others on this list. It is actually a delicious, sweet ingredient. In many cultures, certain flowers are used in cooking.

In China, the dried buds of yellow lilies are used as a food source. It is also called the golden lily, or tiger lily, and has been used as medicine and food in China for more than two thousand years. (Hydroxyzine) It can mostly be found in the stir-fries available at street markets.

Stewed Moose Nose

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Although this is a dish most familiar to Alaskans, Stewed Moose Nose has become a popular delicacy for the Chinese people of the Northernmost province of Harbin in China, and it is sold on the streets of the local area.

It is slowly stewed and served for the better part as a soup with soybeans or noodles. Both the lips and nose of the moose are used for these soup recipes, and it requires a period of tenderizing before it is cooked.

Sea Urchin With Boiled Eggs

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Last but not least, here’s another sea animal that you might not want to eat any time soon. We’re talking about sea urchins which, unsurprisingly, are served with boiled eggs. Not the normal eggs but the actual eggs of those sea urchins on the plate!

To prepare this meal, Chinese chefs remove the shells from the urchins and boil the insides, including the eggs and all the mushy, pudding-like stuff you can find inside. It definitely does not sound or look appealing at all, although some people say it is worth trying. If you were a tourist in China, would you have the courage to try any of these strange dishes?


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A starfish definitely sounds less unappealing than a silkworm or a rotten egg. Tourists and locals in China seem to love starfish specialties, especially the simple starfish-on-a-stick treat. Even though you might not feel like trying starfish anytime soon, keep in mind that people say it doesn’t taste bad at all!

Besides using it for meals, starfish are used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat conditions such as allergies, asthma, and heart disease. The inside of a starfish has a meaty texture but despite its potentially pleasing flavor, it must be difficult to snack on this meal without thinking that you are eating Patrick from Spongebob.


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What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of scorpions? It’s certainly not to eat them! Believe it or not, scorpions are actually one of the most popular treats at the Chinese food markets. Just like starfish and silkworms, scorpions are also served on sticks.

Many food reviewers describe scorpions as crunchy snacks on the outside but very chewy on the inside. Apparently, black forest scorpions are some of the best options on the market because of a barbecue-like flavor. Others are milder and saltier in flavor, very similar to shrimp.

Rat Meat

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While some people could never even imagine eating a rat, others enjoy this treat as if it’s some sort of luxury. Rat meat is very popular in China and it also helps families in challenging economic situations get out of poverty through rat breeding.

Many claim that rat meat is not unusual at all since it has a very normal, meaty flavor. However, if you think about it, these animals don’t seem like the best choice for your next dinner. At least they can provide a good source of income for rural families in China.

Shark Fin Soup

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If you ever go to China, you will find a ton of shark dishes and products sold at food markets and even in stores. One of the most popular specialties made of these terrifying sea animals is the shark fin soup that is often served for the Chinese New Year.

The soup contains all sorts of shark fins with different flavors. This meal signifies good fortune and it is served at New Year celebrations to ensure a brighter future. This dish has become so popular that an entire market for shark fin hunters formed around it.

Pig Brains

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While rat meat might not sound so bad, pig brains is where we draw the line! The brain has a mushy and soft texture similar to pudding and people use it as a side dish for many traditional Chinese meals.

Some have described pig’s brains as savory and just unpleasant. However, this dish wouldn’t have survived for centuries in Chinese cuisine if it wasn’t a popular one. What people like about pig’s brains is the versatility, as you can do a lot of things with this side dish including frying, sauteing, and boiling.

Blood Tofu

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This has to be the weirdest food you will see on this list. Yes, we are talking about actual blood products that usually come in the form of tofu-like blocks. Chinese chefs often use these products as ingredients of various soups and stews.

Something like this tastes exactly the way you would expect it to. The jelly-like structure might look like some candy but as soon as you take a bite, you will be overwhelmed by a blood-like flavor. Would you try something like this?

Drunken Shrimp

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Believe it or not, you can go to China and ask for drunken shrimp and you will be served Pad Kee Mao, a traditional Chinese noodle dish. This is a staple dish present in nearly every Thai restaurant. You can be surprised if you don’t find it on the menu!

The name is actually quite fitting for this dish since the shrimp in the bowl are actually swimming in an alcoholic substance. Keep in mind that those are live shrimps that will actually consume the alcohol before you consume them – alive.


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Many people have never even seen a seahorse in real life but locals and tourists in China regularly enjoy eating these unique animals. What’s interesting about these animals is that the male seahorse is actually the one carrying babies, not the female.

Either way, a seahorse is not something you would expect to eat for dinner or even as a quick snack. This dish is quite similar to a squid and it’s often served on a stick, like many snacks at Chinese food markets.


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Unlike tofu and pig’s brains, grasshoppers are more of a crunchy snack alternative. As you probably already know, insects are a very popular snack in Asia. The practice of eating bugs has been present in Chinese cultures since 2500 BCE.

Therefore, you shouldn’t be surprised if someone offers you a fried bug during your vacation in China. Some grasshoppers even get boiled or roasted to achieve a special type of flavor. Regardless, we will have to pass on this one.