Skip to main content

Visiting Donghuamen Night Market in Beijing

Rob is an avid traveller and self-professed 'man of the world'. He is passionate about his home city, Manchester, & travelling the world.

Scorpion on a stick at Donghuamen Night Market

Skewered scorpions in Beijing

Skewered scorpions in Beijing

It’s one of the most recognised stereotypes in the world: they eat everything in China. Although the menus of most Chinese restaurants in western countries are reasonably tame and predictable – read chow main; foo yung; satay; black bean sauce with meat; prawn crackers etc. – a visit to some restaurants in China and a walk around the local street food markets will make you understand that this common stereotype does indeed have some legs (and that includes frogs legs!).

A visit to the Donghuamen Night Market at Wangfujing Street in Central Beijing will give the visitor a first hand introduction to eating snake on a stick, eating scorpion on a stick, and even eating a tarantula on a stick.

Chinese Delicacies Poll

Eat Scorpion, Eat Tarantula, Eat Snake...at Donghuamen Night Market

It’s no surprise then that in the industrious, enterprising China of today there is a market, catered directly towards the tourist dollar, which serves up the most grotesque and scream-provoking creepy crawlies and animal body parts the likes of which most of us would never normally consider eating. Of course it's a tourist trap but at the Donghuamen Beijing Night Market it's all about eating bugs, eating insects and generally eating weird things - and getting that Instagram shot or posing for photo to post of Facebook.

When you visit the Donghuamen Night Market on you kind of feel like you have to at least try eating bugs. The produce on offer on are all referred to as Chinese delicacies. Curiosity has brought you this far so you know you have to follow it through to its logical conclusion: try something.

You’ll walk along the length of Wangfujing Street, being asked if you want to eat a sheep’s penis; eat a tarantula on a stick; eat dog meat (in the most literal sense); eat crickets; eat snake; and eat many other equally unappetising 'chinese delicacies'. You’ll walk the length of the Beijing Night Market once; then you’ll walk the length of the Beijing Night Market again, all the while agonising over whether you should take the plunge and eat a grasshopper, eat a sheep's penis or some such other exotic delight.

Chinese Delicacies

Selection of 'Chinese delicacies'

Selection of 'Chinese delicacies'

Chicken Feet Snacks

A popular snack in China is jizhuayazhua (chicken and duck feet). These are almost always served with a spicy flavour often with added pepper or a barbecue glaze. Chicken feet snacks are sold in supermarkets in bags in just the same way potato chips are sold and consumed in the west.

trying-weird-and-wonderful-delicacies-at-the-beijing-night-market

Eating Scorpion in China

You’ll pause over whether to eat tarantula and give some serious thought to eating crickets and grasshoppers. You’ll decide against it but then feel like you've bowed to the pressure, even though the pressure is coming from no one but yourself. Eventually, you see a guy eating scorpion on a stick. You overhear people asking him what it tastes like. He says it tastes good and it’s really no big deal to eat scorpion. He's already eaten a tarantula! If it’s no big deal to him then it’s no big deal to you either. Let's eat scorpions!

Eating a Snake at Wangfujing Snack Street

Eating a snake

Eating a snake

Eating Scorpion

Eating Scorpions

Eating Scorpions

What does scorpion taste like?

I can’t really articulate the flavour. It just tasted fried. There’s a part of me that still thinks this is all an elaborate con and everything on offer is made of some synthetic substance and you're not really eating scorpion or eating a tarantula at all. I also tried eating a snake and this tasted strangely similar to eating a scorpion. But I think that’s just the oil that they fry them in.

There’s another market in Beijing, a bigger more authentic market that serves the actual needs of local people but that sells all the same weird and wonderful produce and much more. However, the Donghuamen night market at Wangfujing Street was enough for me.

Wangfujing Street Location

Where is Wangfujing Street and the Donghuamen Beijing Night Market

The Donghuamen Beijing Night Market is on Wangfujing Street at the Northern end of the street. It is only a few blocks away from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and can be walked to or from either. There is a subway station nearby too. It's actually quite a welcoming environment and doesn't suffer from overcrowding like many Asian markets. This is partly due to the fact that Wangfujing Street is completely pedestrianised and so there is lot's of space in which to wonder around free from the fear of being run over.

Many backpackers and tourists stay in the Wangfujing area as there are many accommodation options as well as restaurants and transport links, including the Beijing Metro/Subway system. Wangfujing Street is one of the main high street shopping areas in downtown Beijing. Here you will find hundreds of Chinese stores as well as a large shopping centre that includes a number of global brands. There's even a McDonalds in case you just want something familiar and less adventurous for your dinner.

Scroll to Continue

If the Donghuamen is not your thing but you're keen to try some 'safer' Chinese street food then head to the Wangfujing Street Food Market which is located towards the Southern end of Wangfujing Street. It's a super busy place but you can pick up a range of tasty snacks including jianbing, roujiamo, baozi, youtiao, shaokao, and many more. Most snack items are priced at around 10 Yuan.

Wangfujing Street Food Market

Buying Jianbing on Dashilan Commercial Street

Buying Jianbing on Dashilan Commercial Street

Comments

Robert Clarke (author) from UK on March 20, 2013:

Yeah give it a try alwaysontheway! What's the worst that could happen?

Thanks for reading

Julie Cao from Windsor, Ontario on March 20, 2013:

Your so brave. Looks like you enjoyed the local delicacy. I remember been in BJ last year and saw the live scorpion in the market. I didn't even dare to try it. Maybe I should give myself a try the next time I go there.

Robert Clarke (author) from UK on March 15, 2013:

Thanks for the prasetio30. I don't think I'll be trying anything like this again either.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on March 14, 2013:

Nice report about weird food at the Beijing Night Market. Actually I had watched about this before. Personally, I don't want to eat all of them. Just enough from the pictures here. Thanks for sharing with us.

Prasetio

Just call me, Rick from Asia, and all over on March 12, 2013:

haha...you're absolutely right! Reminds me of a funny story of going into a restaurant and ordering my meal by pointing at what someone else was eating. I'll write and post it today.

Robert Clarke (author) from UK on March 12, 2013:

Cheers Chinared. Yep, pretty much anything goes in Chinese cuisine. Sometimes felt like I was entering some kind of food lottery when ordering in a restaurant. Often I didn't quite know exactly what I was eating.

Just call me, Rick from Asia, and all over on March 11, 2013:

Great article, remember it all too well! Didn't have the stomach or the courage to try them though. Anything with legs or a head is fair game for them. Great job!

Related Articles