A Chinese wedding banquet (is always a small adventure)

A Chinese celebration is a special thing. We’re grateful that we occasionally get to take part in them. The way they’re done — the ‘family style’ dining, the toasting, etc. — really is fun when done well.

And, of course, there’s the food. Weddings will have special dishes, fancy dishes, expensive dishes — and for Euro-Americans that often means eyebrow-raising dishes.

There are two kinds of adventure eating in China. It’s one thing to deliberately go out of your way to seek out some crazy-to-your-home-culture dish — like dog or máodàn or cányÇ’ng or starfish — and share the photos on social media, regardless of how common those are to locals (Canadians eat bull testicles — did you know?). Sure it’s cliche but whatever, have fun. You’re not hurting anybody.

The other kind of adventure eating is the the kind that seeks you out. You’re just going about your business, accepting a neighbour’s dinner invitation or attending a friend’s wedding feast, and you’re served “cicada monkeys” 知了猴:

cicadanymphdish
Cicada nymphs, a standard restaurant menu item in Shandong province.

Or this:
weddingbanquetpighead
#somepig #terrific #radiant #humble

Both of those were last weekend for us, at a friend’s wedding banquet, which was lots of fun.
Chineseweddingtoast

Cheers, in miniature China style

Had a birthday party with some preschool kids, and when we turned around they were doing Chinese-style cheers on their own:
Chinese preschool cheers 1
Chinese preschool cheers 2

Wait wait wait… we’re supposed to *spit out* the exoskeleton?

This Chinese seafood buffet lunch party was already getting out of hand…

silkworm chrysalis
Silkworm chrysalis (蚕蛹), a common BBQ option in Qingdao, China.

…when I noticed that the guy I was eating silkworm chrysalises with was spitting out the exoskeletons — like they were watermelon seeds or something. According to him and another friend I asked later at a different event, most people don’t swallow the exoskeletons of these big ones (the small ones, apparently, everyone just crunches down.)

The next day at the gym one of the trainers brought it up because he’d seen my Weixin post. So I told him how this other guy said most people spit out the shells, and both the trainer and the woman he was coaching replied, “No! We always eat the shells! The shells are good!”

Either way, I wish I’d known the exoskeletons were optional the first time we ate these — these take a long time to chew! And the whole time you’re thinking: “There’s a big squishy bug in my mouth… I’m chewing a big squishy bug in my mouth… I’m chewing a big squishy bug in my mouth and I can feel it… I’m chewing a big squishy bug in my mouth and I can feel it and I’m gonna swallow it…” (But no one thinks to tell the lÇŽowài these kinds of things…)

seafood plate

Starfish, dog, and pretty much whatever else, I can eat without thinking about it. Except the silkworms-on-a-stick — those still take some mental effort.

Crabs-on-a-stick, Qingdao, China

We were on a date walking along the ocean and saw this:

crabs on a stick
Been in this town three years, but this is the first time I’ve seen crabs-on-a-stick.

So I asked on Weixin (微信 aka WeChat; what China does instead of Facebook) and got mostly positive responses, like with the starfish but unlike with the chicken fetus, where responses were decidedly mixed. (Dog meat also gets a wide range of reactions among our Chinese friends and acquaintances, as there’s a social class dynamic at play there.)

Best comments about the crabs-on-a-stick were these ones:

I’ve not only eaten them, I’ve roasted them myself. You have to roast the crabs belly-up, only this way will the juice not leak out and be wasted.
我不仅吃过,还亲自烤过。要把螃蟹肚皮朝上烤,这样汤才不会漏出来浪费。

Seeing this I feel it’d cost some teeth!
看看就觉得费牙

A Chinese meal done right is a very special thing

As much as the Chinese obsess about food, it’s not really about the food.
Ganbei!
dinner2
dinner1

Seafood restaurant display

Restaurant Fish & Octopus
Qingdao restaurants often display the live and recently-alive seafood right inside the front doors — in this case, big fish and a bucket of octopus.