For the Western traveller, China is perhaps the country that offers the most expansive culinary experience. Shenyang is no exception to this rule. As well as the foods that we might recognise from a local Chinese restaurant back home, Shenyang can provide those with a taste for the weird ample opportunity to test their more adventurous side. It’s true that weird food is not for everyone, and some travellers choose to stick to cuisine that they know and trust. But travel is all about new experiences and new adventures, so why not be brave and try something you’d never get to try at home? You never know, you might like it.
1) Barbecued Hearts, Balls and Bugs
The barbecue restaurant is to Shenyang what the chip shop is to Britain. Barbecues are ubiquitous throughout the city and are a great place for daring diners to test their mettle with some of China’s more challenging foods. Aside from the familiar chicken, beef and lamb, all served on skewers; there is a variety of more creative options.
Chicken feet and chicken heads are a staple of the Chinese diet, but do little for the Western palate. Chicken hearts, however, are absolutely delicious and are the best place to start for those wishing to tempt their weird taste buds. These hearts are more delicate than most offal and barbecuing makes the most of their natural juices. They’re either served whole on a skewer or butterfly-cut between two. Whole hearts are juicer so take this option if you can.
But it’s not just chicken that brings some adventure to the barbecue, lamb also has a lot to offer. Eyeballs seem a bit scary at first, you worry they might stare back at you from the plate, but when well marinated and cooked they’re just a pale meatball. Their texture is a lot like scallops, only a little tougher. Another ball on offer is yangdan, or ‘lamb eggs’, which are basically testicles but don’t call them this lest you offend your waitress. The ‘eggs’ are better than the eyes; the flesh has a stronger taste but is still delicate and pale. When cooked well, these meaty little morsels can be the best meatball you’ve ever had in your life.
However, don’t think barbecue is merely limited to mammals. There are a host of other creatures available for your dining pleasure. A particular favourite is barbecued scorpions, not least because they look so deadly, but also because their intricate little exoskeletons make them so satisfyingly crunchy. In Chinese medicine, eating scorpions can help remove a bad fire from within you. Great news if you’re suffering a bout of heartburn.
As well as arachnids there are insects on offer like crickets, grasshoppers, locusts and silkworm pupae. Though you might be more tempted by the crickets because they’re smaller, bite sized bugs are not always best and crickets do have a dubious aftertaste. I’d recommend the locusts and the silkworms over the other options. Silkworm pupae, when fresh and live, wiggle their little tails, but aren’t able to do much else as they’re partway through their metamorphosis. When barbecued or stir-fried they are crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside, a bit like un-skinned, roasted cloves of garlic. They’re better fried because when barbecued they can taste slightly bitter. Locusts are flavour neutral so everything is down to preparation. They’re best cooked, but not charred, with a flavoursome marinade. These bugs are rather large, too big to fit a whole one in your mouth, but if you put one in head first, and bite in exactly the right place (somewhere around the waist) its legs and wings will open at once, splaying from your lips; a huge amount of fun, especially if you’re dining with someone rather squeamish.
There are barbecue restaurants all over Shenyang, but I can particularly recommend Gao Jia Shao Ge Zi for a more contemporary take on barbecue, and the Nanying Street market north of the TV tower for something more rustic. This entire street is dedicated to barbecue, but the two examples mentioned above, near Bawei Road, are the best.
Gao Jia Shao Ge Zi – 高家烧鸽子 View In Map
Add: Jiuwei Lu, near Bawei Lu, Heping District, Shenyang
Tel: 024 2381 5789
The Night Market by the TV TowerView In Map
Add: Nanyijing Jie, near Shisiwei Lu, Heping District, Shenyang
If you prefer seafood to meat or insects, then look no further than Xita, the Korean district of Shenyang. This is the area of town you are most likely to find octopus sashimi. There are two options here. Either order one live and squirming in a bowl of baijiu, wrap its legs around a chopstick and eat it whole, or you can also order a raw octopus that has just been dismembered. Be warned though, just because it has been cut up into many pieces does not mean that it will stay still on your plate. When an octopus has just been killed but is still raw its tentacles keep moving, squirming across the plate, writhing between your chopsticks, wriggling in your mouth. The suckers on the octopus’s legs are still active, so the tentacles may attempt to attach themselves to your face while you eat. They might sucker themselves onto your tongue, your teeth or the roof of your mouth. It truly is a strange sensation and can bring great hilarity to the dining table. You may wonder, why eat octopus sashimi at all? Like so many raw foods, it has a clean, fresh taste, like the raw oysters we so adore in the West.
Qianhui Sashimi View In Map
Add: Hunchun Lu, near Xita Street, Heping District, Shenyang
Price: 50 RMB for octopus sashimi
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Keywords: strange food in Shenyang strange Chinese food eating octopus in Shenyang barbequed insects Shenyang
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