TOMMO EATS SOMETHING TERRIBLE. For weird food eaters, Wangfujang Night Market in Beijing is well known as a culmination of many of China’s stranger “delicacies”. This maybe true, and if you have a large and frivolous wallet then perhaps you can afford to sample them all. Unfortunately we don’t, so I chose one of the cheaper options, Starfish (20 yuan – $3.75), and will have to come back to other strangeties such as seahorse and scorpion (for which they were asking $9 per baby scorpion) at a later date!
Starfish is certainly a strange menu option and not something you would necessarily think of as edible at all! The hard outer shell does not entice the potential diner but once broken open, the strange brown fish substance inside, with a texture in-between toothpaste and ground beef but a flavour of gone off seafood sticks, is edible, if not particularly palatable.
I also ended up trying the outer shell, which having been deep fried, tasted pretty similar to anything that had been deep fried – crispy and oily! It somehow neutralised the unpleasant taste of the fishy innards. With no subsequent food poisoning, it seems a bit of crusty shell is ok to eat even if it is not supposed to be!
Unlike some of the strange food I’ve chowed down on, Starfish is not something I will be partaking of again! One of our Chinese hosts insisted that the Wangfujang markets, being a massive tourist trap, were not worth the visit and that the food would fall well below par. Even in a situation where the starfish had been cooked to the highest standard I find it hard to imagine it being worth another go, but who knows!
Our host was certainly right though that the market was a horrible tourist rip-off. There really is only one reason to go there: If you are into weird food and don’t think you’ll have enough time in China to find what you want organically then at least you can guarantee its presence at Wangfujang, at a price.