In Yunnan and the rest of China, people like to eat lots of things that seem strange to us westerners. Although a lot of them may look or sound weird, most are not as bad as you might think.
Thousand Year Old Eggs 皮蛋
Thousand Year Old Eggs or Pidan are preserved chicken or duck eggs and are considered a delicacy in China. From the outside they look like they were rolled in mud and straw, but the most stunning part is the inside: The yolk has a gray-greenish color and the egg white has become a translucent Coca-Cola color. Unlike its name, the Thousand Year Old Eggs only take several weeks to months to process. There is a misconception that says those eggs were made by marinating them in horse-urine, rest assured, this is completely wrong. This myth probably originated from the strong odor emanating from the eggs.
Pig’s Ears and Chicken Feet 猪耳朵和鸡脚
Pig ears, pig feet, pig face and chicken feet and all other parts most of us don’t eat are quite popular in China. They can be served as a cold dish, snack, soup or appetizer. Especially chicken feet, also called Phoenix claws, are so popular that China has to import feet from all around the globe. Most of them are sold marinated with soy sauce, vinegar or chilli. You can even buy one chicken foot in a sealed package as an afternoon snack. To some of us it may sound disgusting, but at least no parts of the animal are wasted.
Fishy-Smell Herb 鱼腥草
The fishy-smell herb or Houttuynia, is a plant with many uses. In the southwest of China it is used as a root vegetable. As it has a really strong ‘fishy’ taste, it is not universally enjoyed, even by Chinese people. But you could give it a try anyway, because some people just love it. In traditional Chinese medicine it can combat inflammation of the respiratory system, clear heat and resolve toxicity, reduce swelling and abscesses, promote urination, help against radiation poisoning, improve appetite and cure constipation...
Blood Tofu 血豆腐
Blood tofu or blood pudding is made from boiled coagulated pig’s blood. It is most popular in the south of China. It can be eaten by itself, in salad, in soup or as a snack on a stick. In Sichuan province there is a dish called ‘prosperous hair and blood’ which is made from blood tofu, cow stomach, luncheon meat, eel, pig lung, intestine and bean sprouts, all boiled into a spicy savoury soup.
Hairy Stinky Tofu 毛豆腐
Hairy Tofu is a kind of stinky tofu, popular in Anhui and Yunnan province. This kind of fermented tofu is covered with more than centimeter-long hair, a bit like blue cheese. Due to it’s fermentation it has a strong and pungent odor. Luckily Chinese have a saying for this: “Stinky when you smell it but tasty when you eat it.”
Last but not least...
The first time I came to China and ordered duck, I got exactly that, a duck!!! A whole duck! In China whether you order chicken, duck or fish, you are likely to get the whole thing. Why? Just because Chinese like it. Sometimes during new year a whole chicken or fish symbolizes a full year, with a beginning and end. But mostly Chinese people just like to eat the heads, tails and other parts.