“Don’t go to street markets!” warned our Chinese guide from Viking River Cruises. “Dangerous. You get sick.”
I get it. Nobody wants tourists to have a bad experience. Viking in particular caters to an older, affluent crowd who prefer fine dining and luxury experiences.
Enter me, a well-traveled adventure junkie who isn’t good at following the rules. I adore street markets, and have safely sampled the food all over the world. In fact, it lights my hair on fire when people say they refuse to try street food. Eating street food is synonymous with absorbing the culture. It’s my comfort food away from home. There are, of course, some true-and-tried rules to follow, which I will reveal later on.
China is legendary for its culturally-vibrant open-air markets with offerings that run the gamut from sinfully sweet, temptingly savory, nose-running spicy, to downright bizarre. Here are my market adventures.
Jinzhou is an ancient city with 2,000 years of history and culture. On my visit to the local market, I was the only non-local in the entire market. Housed in a large hall, the stands were small, each with a counter and a small floor space for displaying pig noses, squiggling eels, chicken feet, butchered cow heads, fish heads, and flat-pressed ducks. Oh, and produce, too.
I entered the market and was astonished to see the hanging skinned carcasses of….dogs. In some Asian countries, dogs are raised on farms for consumption like other animals. The practice of eating dog meat is controversial, though, with some cultures touting it as traditional while for others it’s clearly taboo.
I strolled around the market and then tried a rubbery, cooked chicken foot. I gagged.
Luckily, just a few steps outside the market, I spied a small storefront selling fresh, handmade noodles. I ordered a bowl of extra spicy and relished the 5-alarm lusciousness.
Read the rest of China’s Street Food in GoNOMAD.