(Photo: Ceasaigh’s Flickr photostream)

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in local culture when traveling is to eat from street vendors with the locals.  That’s fine with dumplings, noodle soups, banh mi, tamales and other street food that has found its way into our culture.

But what do you do in places like China where they serve spiders, snakes, scorpions, lizards and all sorts of stuff that Westerners are not accustomed to?  That depends on your intestinal fortitude and sense of adventure.

Travel Wire Asia had an article on the most bizarre street foods in Beijing.  Casey Hynes had the pleasure of sampling some of these items at Beijing’s Wangfujing Commercial Street.

Even the most adventurous eaters might balk at some of China’s gastronomic offerings, but if you’ve got the stomach for it, there’s plenty here to challenge your palate including:

These venomous arachnids come in both large and small sizes, but don’t worry, their poisonous body fluids are cooked out of them before they’re served. No doubt eating a scorpion ups your street cred, but that’s actually all they’re good for. The burned to a crisp texture flakes apart with one bite, and the taste is surprisingly bland.

If the eager merchants imploring you to try them are to be believed, snakes will keep you beautiful and are “good for your skin”. Snake fare along Wangfujing tends to be of the skinny, garden-snake size variety, but they’ll satisfy if you’re just looking for a quick out-of-the-ordinary nosh.

Perhaps even more interesting than eating a scorpion is devouring a lizard, and you’ll have ample opportunity to do that along Wangfujing. If you can get past the empty eye sockets that seem to haunt you where you stand, drop a few kuai on a lizard carcass and see what your taste buds think of scaled flesh.

Roasted and glazed baby pigeons are truly not for the faint of stomach, or heart. Vendors will assure you of their excellent taste, and may even offer you a free sample if you’re nice. If you can take it, good for you, but those tiny beaks and bodies may be too much for some animal-lovers to handle.

A heaping pile of intestines may seem less than appetizing, but the taste actually isn’t bad. The texture is quite chewy, but if you can get past that, and add a little flavoring, they can be rather tasty. Nab a bowl in Wangfujing, or visit a hot pot restaurant, where you can order up some intestines among your list of ingredients.

Starfish and Seahorses
These sweet sea creatures are probably the saddest sight you’ll see in the market — tied, perhaps, with the pigeons — though they’re available in abundance and vendors will passionately attest to their tasty flavor.

(Photo: Ceasaigh’s Flickr photostream)