Granted that each culture has its specific tastes and predilections when it comes to cuisine, some of the exotic snacks offered along Wangfujing Street in downtown Beijing, which is full of street vendors, would never find their way into a local’s mouth.
Grizzly tales of silk worms, dried seahorses, roasted sparrows, cicadas, inside-out snakes, giant grasshoppers, starfish and the penises of various kind of animals, including sheep, abound.
Still, a visitor can only speculate as to the authenticity of the experience, especially when all of the food vendors speak English.
“This place is a rip-off for people who come to Beijing for the first time. None of the stores are run by locals, and all of them are very dirty. I have diarrhea every time I go there. Newcomers to Beijing, stay away. Wangfujing is just a shopping street for tourists,” states Dazhong, a leading Chinese food review site.
It would clearly seem that the best way to find authentic, good Chinese food is to ask a local where they might eat lunch (or follow one discretely if you are too embarrassed to ask). Consider these three pieces of advise as they may make your dining experience in China a bit more pleasant than it would be otherwise.
• If the vendors speak English, leave.
• If the place is full of foreigners, leave.
• Avoid expensive places and do not evaluate food costs in terms of yuan. Imagine prices in terms of in dollars or euros.
Different customs call for different palettes but Wangfujing Street in Beijing is no different than tourist traps found in any other city; American, European, Asian or otherwise.
Caveat emptor, and while you are doing that, be careful that nothing strange flies into your mouth.
Or in other words, look before you leap but also remember that he who hesitates is lost.