Amar'e Stoudemire, power forward for the New York Knicks, recently said this about his trip to China:
Spent my last few days getting the local flavor of the people and culture of Beijing by visiting the Chinese Street Market. I was starving, but there was no way I was messing with these. They deep fry them here. I am going to have to pass!That was accompanied by this picture of Mr. Stoudemire looking dubious by a street food vendor.
He went on to note that it was the sea horses, silkworms, scorpions, lizards, snakes, and tarantulas that particularly turned him off. "I think I am ready to land in LA and hit up In & Out burger!," he quipped.
Really? Look, folks, I can understand that there is a gross-out factor for Westerners when it comes to eating animals with more or less than four legs. I've also never tried an In & Out burger, although everything I've heard says they are a must-try delicacy in California. That all makes sense. But seriously...what a missed opportunity! There are lots of street foods that don't involve lizards. There are fried breads and steamed buns, there are pork and chicken skewers, there are hundreds of varieties of tofu. The point is that even if you are squigged out by the thought of eating something with tentacles (keeping in mind, of course, that lobsters have tentacles...), you can find a street food to try. I hear a lot of people, including Mr. Stoudemire, talk about actively avoiding street food while in China, and it truly makes me cringe. Not only does it make me cringe, I just don't get it. If you are soaking up the local color, like Mr. Stoudemire was, and you skip the street food, it's like you've taken in a rainbow but ignored the green. You're not getting the whole experience. Why would you purposely avoid part of the cultural palette? Like I said, I recognize that there are a number of reasons that people skip the street food while they are in China, but I really encourage anybody to give it a go anyway. It doesn't have to be scorpions...there are absolutely more familiar entry points. There's a whole world of flavors out there, and it's a real shame to miss them.
Direct message to Amar'e Stoudemire: next time you go to China, give the street food another chance. I don't think you'll be sorry.