XIAMEN, CHINA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Travelers know it's not just the sights, but the food that'll make your trip all the more memorable. I found that to be true in China. In every province, there are noticeable differences in the cooking but, before I begin, a disclaimer: some of the foods you're about to read about may be hard to stomach and I am not promoting them in any way.
Think the dishes you normally see on the revolving table define Chinese cuisine? Think again. Let me tell you what the natives eat.
On the southeast coast of China in Xiamen, they serve what looks like gray jello. Look closer and you'll see they're sandworms. Sipuncula Worms are encased in clear gelatin. It's a local favorite.
"The texture of it, because there was no taste, but the texture was what got to me ...it still tasted really weird," said Honolulu resident Austen Char.
"In China, we have a saying that anything that can move, we can eat. Like scorpions and we even eat spiders," said Xiamen resident Mason Peng.
Remember, there were long periods of extreme famine in China. People were desperate to eat anything! We'll get back to the scorpions he mentioned a bit later.
Next, we ventured to Beijing and Shanghai where we ate more meat, buns and all kinds of dim sum. The tasty food didn't seem to have any affect on the native physique.
"Chinese people are very slim I think because of tea. It's a good drinking habit. China is the largest tea consumer in the world," said Shanghai resident Jasmine Li.
Everyone slurped and savored the "Lamian", or stretched noodle, because of how much work we knew it took to make. This ancient method of stretching dough and making multiple strands of noodles by hand dates back to the early 1500's in China. Another centuries old dish and a familiar one to some in Hawaii is chicken feet.
"It's just about using everything they have and not wasting anything. I'm looking forward to a lot more exciting foods on the trip," said Honolulu resident Chantel Ching.
Now, back to those scorpions. We were surprised to find them and other critters on a stick alive on Beijing's famous Wang Fu Jin snack street. Customers can choose from sea horses, cicadas, silk worms, starfish, giant lizards and more for 5 to 7 dollars a stick.
Each skewer is deep-fried, seasoned and ready to eat. Keep in mind, these so-called snacks are not devoured for the taste but the medicinal and health benefits. Eating scorpion is supposed to be good for your libido. The silk worm supposedly contains the same amount of protein as an egg and the centipede apparently boosts a person's energy and stamina.
I won't eat scorpion but I agreed to try the famous rotten smelling "Chou Doufu" or stinky tofu. The stinkier the fermented tofu, the better it tastes, they say! A little sauce, a brave bite and it's like Agedashi tofu but I could certainly do without the strong odor!
One thing noticeably missing from a lot of our dinners was the rice. Some say in most regions eating rice is considered an insult to the chef who might think you'd rather fill up on the rice than eat the food prepared for you.