After visiting a few of Taiwan’s most popular night markets, I was eager to see how the ones in China would compare. A handful of us from the tour group ventured out to explore the night life as it was just a quick subway ride and walk from our Beijing hotel. The short journey brought us to a dimly lit alleyway, the entrance to the small marketplace. As I walked in, the flow of the bustling crowd pushed me along the narrow path. Vendors yelled to get the attention of passersbys, and the pungent smell of stinky tofu swirled in the air. On display lay piles of chestnuts heaped on top of each other, glistening candied fruit on sticks, noodle and soup stations with all the condiments you could want, and Chinese pancakes fresh off the sizzling grill.
While all of these foods were interesting to see, the most memorable offering was the scorpion skewers. That’s right, one of the stalls sold sticks of scorpions, pierced right through their bellies, so fresh and alive that their pincers still waved in the air. I was too squeamish to put one of these exotic and dangerous looking arachnids into my mouth- getting close enough and taking this pictures was more than enough for me.
A small path led off the main alleyway through another offering of food, and ended at a small stage. A lone women dressed in a kimono and a full mask of makeup slowly danced to traditional Chinese music. As I watched, I kept thinking that something looked odd about the performer’s movements, and it wasn’t until after our guide told us that the performer was actually a man that it made more sense.
I didn’t eat much at the market, just a few chestnuts. We had been warned to avoid most of the oily foods as they commonly made tourists sick. Hungry and ready to eat a full meal, we left the small market and headed to a large food court. At the food court, there was a neat payment system where you deposit money in exchange for a card to use for all the transactions. When you leave, you simply give back the card and any remaining balance is returned to you. So simple, so efficient!
There were so many options to choose from in the court that I took a first lap around all of the stalls before making my decision. I finally chose to indulge in a hearty soup and noodle dish, being drawn in by all of the different condiment choices.
The chicken soup stock boiled in large metal vats, the chicken carcass bubbled right along inside.
My dish included rice noodles in a spicy chicken stock topped with quail eggs, mushrooms, tree fungi, tofu, and chili peppers. Although the bowl was larger than my head, but I wasn’t too surprised when I finished it all since it was d-licious.