As large as the country itself is the wide variation of food choices in China. From your regular street foods to the high-end cuisines you find in the topnotch restaurants of Beijing and Shanghai, everything about Chinese food is interesting.

Here are a few of the most exotic ones you are bound to meet and might want to try:

Chinese aphrodisiac

The Chinese believe that starfish, seahorse, dung beetle, and cicada help increase your sex drive. They serve these tasty delicacies fried or roasted and skewered like kebabs in Chinese streets.

Do they work? There is really only one way to find: try them out! Perhaps these street foods could explain why the Chinese are the most populous people in the world.

Don’t be turned off by these exotic delicacies rather unusual appearance. Dung beetle, in particular, is reputed to be the best tasting of all edible insects in the world. (But yes, they do feed on cow dung.)

Dogs

Okay, perhaps, you may not want to try this one out – but the Chinese love them.

Some bestselling dog dishes in China are dog brain soup, which is reputed to be a rich source of protein, and roasted dog-liver-with-vegetable kebabs.

Perhaps, you would be a little relieved to know that the Chinese raise dogs specifically for eating; they do not abduct house pets to serve for dinner.

Then again, perhaps it makes no difference to you that these dogs were raised as “dog cattle,” not as pets.

On the other hand, it obviously makes no different to the Chinese what we think either.

Congee

Congee is not exotic Chinese food; it is Chinese comfort food, very similar to the Western chicken soup. Basically, it’s white rice that is boiled in chicken broth rather than steamed in plain water. Put in meats, vegetables, fish, ginger, eggs, or seafood, and you a tasty and nutritious rice porridge, which can be eaten every day, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, without your tastebuds getting tired.

And while it’s easy to make congee, it’s so much easier to get it from a restaurant. Fortunately, these are mainstays in most Chinese restaurants, even the high-end ones, so you’ll have no trouble finding congee in China.

Stinky tofu

The Chinese probably see stinky tofu in the same way that Westerners see blue cheese: The smell may be awful, but the taste makes it all worth it. (Incidentally, the older Chinese generally don’t like cheese. They find spoiled and curdled animal milk rather disgusting.)

One thing that makes stinky tofu production different from that of blue cheese is that there is no fixed formula for making stinky tofu. Different localities have different formulations for the brine they use for fermenting the tofu in. This makes the taste of stinky tofu different in in Changsha, Shaoxing, Shanghai, and Chongqing. Part of the adventure is tasting them all and finding which one you like – or hate – the most.

Stinky tofu is often served deep fried with sauce or as a condiment to soup or congee.

Jellyfish

First, if nobody told you it was jellyfish, you never would know. These things, when served, look nothing like the umbrella-shaped things we’re used to seeing in pictures. The first time we saw it as part of a Chinese lauriat appetizer plate, right between the century eggs and they sliced meat, we thought it was seaweed.

As for the taste, it has a somewhat rubbery texture, but easy to chew and has no rubbery taste. In fact, there is nothing unusual in the way it hits the palate – certainly nothing gross. And no, they don’t sting at all.

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