You Go Down Smooth 王府井小吃街

Would I be lying if I said you were too sweet 
Though I'm quite sure you've got a bite 
I could say that you were just a special treat
Though we both know that's not right
-Lake Street Dive

On two recent occasions, I ate scorpions. No, I was not stranded in the desert with limited food options and asked myself, “What would Bear Grylls do?” then quickly come to the life-saving conclusion that scorpions are an excellent source of calories. My reason for eating these predatory arthropods is much more simple. While strolling down Wangfujing Snack Street with visiting Americans, the scorpions seemed to beckon, “Eat me.”

After all, the grasshoppers, cicadas, and silkworms that I have eaten in the past just seem so benign—so boring—compared to eating a scorpion.

Watch me eat a scorpion!

Wangfujing Snack Street (王府井小吃街) is a popular culinary alley selling everything from the common to the bizarre. Common foods would include barbequed squid on a stick, cow stomach, and stinky tofu. Yes, those are all common street snacks (in China, that is). Bizarre foods include starfish, seahorses, and scorpions skewered and grilled with cumin and salt. Both Chinese and western tourists alike giddily snap pictures of the writhing scorpions awaiting their imminent demise.

These buns do not have any dog meat in them!

So do people actually eat scorpions? A simple internet search yielded little detailed information. Some articles mention that China, Singapore, and Thailand prize fried scorpions as a delicacy. Only a fraction of the over 1,000 species of scorpions are poisonous, so scorpion epicures need not fear dropping dead. The Wangfujing scorpions are farm-raised for eating—sort of like farm-raised shrimp sold in American superstore Costco.

Honestly, I have longed to eat a scorpion just so I could say, “Been there, done that.” To do so, I just had to be around the right people. BirdMAN is not one of those people. He would rather, in his words, “go get something good.”

The K Family happens to be the right kind of people. For 15 RMB, we picked out a skewer of three small live scorpions to share. Xiao K was unsure if she could do it, but at my egging, she couldn't resist scorpion cuisine. Mr. K savored his scorpion, as we should expect from a red-blooded Cantonese guy. Cantonese people eat everything! Mrs. K ate a skewer of three by herself—actually, I am not sure if she actually swallowed one. After chewing, she'd gag and spit the poor half-chewed artho out. She did that three times. She is either a glutton for punishment, or she hoped the taste would improve. I don't think it did.

Three weeks later, I found myself again strolling Wangfujing-- this time with fellow Californians and husband and wife team, C & J. They had been very generous to me that day. I had forgotten my wallet and didn't even have a miao* on me. They had bought me a Starbucks coffee and a fancy dumpling lunch at a fancy dumpling restaurant—not to mention they also had delivered 10 pounds of quinoa and tortillas from California (thank you, Auntie C!). I owed them at least a bit of entertainment.

Scorpion Savory Summary

Small Golden Scorpions
  • Taste: Like a fried potato, crunchy, salty, soft filling that pops in the mouth with a mild medicinal taste
  • Cost: 15 RMB
  • Tasty Rating: Eatable, more good than bad (Mrs. K may disagree)
Big Black Scorpion
  • Taste: A very hard exoskeleton requiring a lot of chewing. The salt seasoning is gone after chewing for such a long time, leaving a lingering bitter, medicinal taste. Someone with strong gag reflexes would gag.
  • Free Radicals Free Advice: Have a coke nearby to wash the taste away
  • Cost: 20 RMB
  • Tasty Rating: Gross
Maybe fried scorpions will catch on in the US?

* Miao – unit of Chinese currency, about $0.02 USD.

Read More:
Scorpion Kebab--Its fast food Beijing style
5 Creepy Crawlies People Love to Eat

Chinese Word of the Blog: 害怕    hàipà  
English Translation: to be afraid / to be scared

Example Sentence: 别害怕吃蝎子 Bié hàipà chī xiēzi 
English Translation: Don't be afraid of eating scorpions.

Freshly killed, freshly cooked scorpions
Wangfujing Snack Street entrance
This is a true Cantonese Man
How many chews to get to the center of a giant scorpion?
Nothing like a youzi cha to wash away that nasty-nast scorpion taste
All that scorpion eating made us a little loopy