You might think you know a lot about foods from China.
After all, you’ve watched cooking shows on television and seen lots of YouTube videos on the internet.
But the truth is, you’ll find a lot of things in China are different to what you would expect. One of the biggest surprises is the food.
Don’t get me wrong – most Chinese food is delicious. But some of it is just downright strange!
So, here are 10 foods from China that will gross you out.
1. Chicken feet
Billions of people around the world eat chicken meat. But China is one of the few countries where people also eat their feet.
Part of the overall grossness of this dish is the appearance. You can’t really hide a pile of bony feet attached to a cut-off leg.
This dish comes in a few different flavors including a spicy one that will peel the skin off your tongue.
The warm, crunchy ones actually aren’t too bad. They’re like eating chicken skin, as long as you don’t mind that you’re peeling the skin off the bone with your teeth.
You’ll also find cold, boiled chicken feet that’s been cooked in some kind of dark sauce.
Peeling off that cold, floppy skin truly is one of the grossest experiences of my time in China.
China isn’t the only country that eats blood, but that doesn’t really make it any more palatable.
There’s something about the idea of hoeing into a meal of warm, scarlet blood that sets your teeth on edge. That’s why many foreigners actively avoid this dish.
But it doesn’t actually taste that bad. In fact, it doesn’t taste like much at all.
It’s just the thought of eating blood that can make you feel sick.
Chinese people often eat duck’s blood, but you may see other types as well. It’s typically served in hot pots, in cubes with noodles, or in soup.
3. Stinky tofu
This is one of the most famous foods from China. And it’s not just foreigners who shy away from it, a lot of Chinese people don’t like it as well.
This is the kind of dish you will smell before you see. And that definitely isn’t a good thing!
In China, the smellier the tofu is, the better it tastes. So, it’s supposed to be good if your nostril hairs curl.
Traditional stinky tofu is fermented in milk and a meat, fish, or vegetable brine. To add to the flavor the brine is supposed to be weeks or even months old.
Most of the stinky tofu you find in Chinese hawker stands and food stalls is factory produced. It’s only soaked in the brine for a few days, but the smell and the taste are about the same.
This dish is served in a variety of ways and with different toppings, but it’s often cut into small cubes and served on a plastic plate.
The taste of this dish isn’t as bad as the smell.
If you want to have the experience of eating it, then dump lots of toppings on it and hold your nose. Otherwise, just marvel at the smell and find something more appetizing to munch on.
You wouldn’t think that a fruit could smell bad, but this one proves otherwise.
Durian is a large green fruit with spikes all over it. And it smells like rotting flesh. That isn’t an exaggeration.
During durian season in China, you’ll smell the fruit the moment you enter a grocery store.
In fact, the smell is so bad that the fruit is banned on public transport in Thailand, Singapore, and Hong Kong, because passengers complained too much about the smell.
The taste of Durian isn’t as bad as the smell. In fact, it has a creamy taste that is almost the opposite.
It’s still an acquired taste though, and lots of foreigners hate it. But just as many enjoy it and are willing to put up with the smell for the treasure within.
5. Bird’s nest soup
This dish looks like ordinary soup with noodles, but it’s actually a little stranger than that. It’s made using the nest of a small bird called a swiftlet.
When the bird makes the nest, it uses its own saliva, which hardens in the air. And when it’s cooked, chicken broth is added to make the soup.
This dish is an expensive delicacy in China. Luckily, you can find a cheaper version made with a fungus and without the bird’s nest.
Despite the strangeness of the main ingredient, it actually isn’t a big deal. The dish tastes quite sweet and to be honest it isn’t really worth the expense.
But it’s still a little gross if you take a bite and then think of bird spit.
6. Century egg
This is a slimy green and brown egg that looks like it went bad a century ago. It would actually be kind of pretty if it was some sort of rare stone.
Eating century eggs goes back hundreds of years to the Ming Dynasty. It’s a kind of comfort food in China.
The duck, chicken, or quail egg is soaked in a liquid mix that gives it a unique flavor and appearance. The liquid often includes strong black tea, salt, lime, and freshly burned wood ashes.
The egg soaks for anywhere between seven weeks and five months in that mix before it’s eaten.
It smells a little like ammonia, which isn’t that appetizing. And it’s definitely an acquired taste.
You’ll find this egg in restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores and even at roadside markets.
Can’t make it to China to try this? Good news – century eggs are one of the foods from China that you might be able to find in your local Chinatown.
If you have a weak stomach or just like baby animals, then don’t even think about this dish. A balut is a duck egg that contains an embryo inside it in various stages of development.
You can get some eggs where the embryo is little more than a crunchy dot, and others where it’s almost large enough to hatch.
People in China boil the egg and spoon the yolk and embryo out. So, as you’re eating, you get a mouthful of half-developed wings and tiny bones as well as the soft part of the egg.
This dish is popular across a lot of places in Asia including the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The locals love it.
Foreigners, on the other hand, can’t usually stomach this dish. It tastes incredibly salty, and if you’re eating one of the later-term eggs, crunching down on that little form is unbelievably gross.
8. Shark fin soup
This soup carries incredible cultural significance in China. Up until recently, it was served at official banquets and it has a long history stretching back centuries.
At first thought, this soup doesn’t seem like a big deal. The shark fin is in it just for texture. The actual taste comes from the broth.
But it’s the environmental impact that’s a problem with this soup.
Sadly, around 100 million sharks are killed every year for their fins, with the rest of the meat often going unused. This puts the species at extreme risk of extinction.
And it’s all for a part of the animal that has no nutritional value. It may actually contain enough heavy metals to be dangerous for the health of the people eating it.
If you’re traveling around China at some point, please do not try shark fin soup.
9. Chicken testicles
You’ll find this disgusting dish in a lot of restaurants in Hong Kong. It’s literally what it sounds like.
They look like big white beans and they’re either boiled or fried and served on their own or in broth.
The worst part of eating them is the moment when you bite down and break the testicle and the fluid gushes out into your mouth. It’s difficult not to make the obvious connection when this happens.
The testosterone is another problem you may have when you eat chicken testicles.
Some people report that they experience faster hair growth and even increased aggression from eating these delicacies.
There’s no evidence to back this up though.
10. Animal penises
Keeping on the same theme, you may also find animal appendages on the menu. Eating animal penis is meant to be a natural aphrodisiac.
At food stalls, you’ll find sheep penis threaded onto a stick, grilled, and served hot. And in certain restaurants you’ll find the same part from a variety of different animals.
This is definitely not a dish for the squeamish, but if you’re determined to try everything while you’re in China, then it must go on your list.
Grossed out by some of this food?
When you travel to other countries, you can expect to eat some strange dishes. But once in a while you’ll encounter a dish that’s so different to what you expect that your stomach will just refuse it.
That’s all part of travelling, and especially in Asia.
So, if you don’t like the idea of some of these foods from China, just move on and find something less gross.
If all else fails, you’re bound to find a McDonald’s!
One more quick thing
Are you traveling to China soon? If so, make sure you download the best apps on your phone before you go.
It’ll make your trip easier and more enjoyable.
If you enjoyed reading about the Chinese food that will gross you out, you’ll love the one I wrote about why Chinese people drink hot water (and do other weird things). Check it out!