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 cányǒng 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:
Both of those were last weekend for us, at a friend’s wedding banquet, which was lots of fun.
This Chinese seafood buffet lunch party was already getting out of hand…
…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 lǎowài these kinds of things…)
We were on a date walking along the ocean and saw this:
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.