You might think you know a lot about Chinese food.

After all, you’ve probably eaten some tasty dishes at your local Chinese restaurant, like sesame chicken and fried rice.


The truth is, you’ll find a lot of things in China are different to what you would expect. When I moved there, one of the biggest surprises was the food.

Don’t get me wrong – most authentic Chinese food is delicious. But some of it is really gross!

In my humble opinion, here are the most disgusting Chinese food dishes (with pictures).

1. Chicken feet

Steamed chicken claws - one of the gross foods from China

Chicken’s feet are a tasty treat in China. Image by Connie Ho on Shutterstock.

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 have been cooked in some kind of dark sauce, like soy sauce.

The first time I peeled off that cold, floppy skin I almost heaved. It was one of the grossest experiences of my time in China.

2. Blood

pig blood soup from taiwan

Open wide and have a spoonful of blood. Image by YamisHandmade on Shutterstock.

China isn’t the only country that eats blood curd, 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.

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But it actually doesn’t 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 blood, but you may see other types as well, such as pig blood. It’s typically served in a hot pot, in cubes with noodles, or in soup.

3. Stinky tofu

Stinky tofu China

Hold your nose as you eat stinky fried tofu! Image by ApinBen4289 on Shutterstock.

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.

The taste of this dish isn’t as bad as the smell. But when I was in China, I still tended to shy away from it.

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 strong smell and find something more appetizing to munch on.

4. Durian

Durian hanging in a Chinese market

Durian fruit in a market. Image by Tom Fisk on Pexels.

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. This 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.

Like stinky tofu, the taste of durian isn’t disgusting. 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

It looks pretty but don’t be fooled. Image by Finchfocus on Shutterstock.

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 southern China, such as Guangdong province. Luckily, you can find a cheaper version made with a fungus and without the bird’s nest.

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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

century egg cut in half

Century eggs are unmissable with their dark green insides. Image by RDNE Stock Project on Pexels.

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 appetizing. I’d say it’s definitely an acquired taste (then again, I’ve only tried it once).

You’ll find this egg in restaurants, grocery 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.

7. Balut

Balut is the most disgusting Chinese food

Balut on a stick (because showing you the fetus would be disgusting). Image by Kharchenko Vladimir on Shutterstock.

Of all the disgusting things Chinese eat, this has to be one of the worst.

If you have a weak stomach or just like baby animals, then don’t even think about balut.

It’s basically 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 in some other Asian countries as well, like the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

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

shark fin soup

Shark fin soup is one of the most controversial Chinese dishes. Image by Suwarin Rachanikorn on Shutterstock.

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, millions of 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.

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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 lucky enough to travel around China, please do not try shark fin soup.

9. Chicken testicles

Chicken's testicles - more gross food from China

A fresh bowl of testicles. Image by del Monaco on Shutterstock.

You’ll find this disgusting dish in a lot of restaurants in Hong Kong. It’s literally what it sounds like.

Chicken testes resemble 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 up the so-called health benefits.

10. Duck tongue

spicy duck tongue

Spicy duck tongue is not for the faint-hearted. Image by Bonchan on Shutterstock.

I couldn’t bring myself to eating duck tongues when I was in China, even though it’s a delicacy and the locals insisted.

The kids seemed to love it, and were excited to gnaw on the meat while holding onto the bottom part of the tongue (kind of like a lollipop).

Peking duck, on the other hand, is something I did eat in China. And boy, is it delicious.

11. Snake pizza

chinese man eating pizza

Mmmm, snake pizza please! Image by Rachata Teyparsit on Shutterstock.

In late 2023, Pizza Hut in Hong Kong released a pizza for a limited time.

The special topping? Snake meat and shredded fungus.

It was that popular that some stores sold out!

I can’t say I was in Hong Kong at the time, but if I were, there’s no way I would have eaten snake pizza.

Give me a good old-fashioned cheese pizza any day.

A quick travel tip

Are you traveling to China soon? If so, don’t forget the internet is censored when using Wi-Fi.

So, to access all your favorite websites and apps (like Facebook, Instagram, Google, Gmail, WhatsApp, etc), you’ll need to get a virtual private network (VPN) before you arrive.

Otherwise, the signup page will be blocked in China.

Check out this VPN page before you fly over there, or tap on the button below for the one I recommend in China.

It’ll make your trip a lot easier.

Grossed out by some of this food?

possible chicken in China

Is this chicken? Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

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.

If you happen to visit China, don’t feel obliged to eat anything you think is nasty, but at the same time, try new experiences and don’t hold back.

You can always find something more palatable!

What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten in China? Let me know in the comments.

If you enjoyed finding out about the most disgusting Chinese food, you’ll like the one I wrote about why Chinese people drink hot water.

Keep discovering Chinese food

Chinese cuisine ain’t all gross! In fact, most of it is absolutely delicious.

Here are the Chinese foods you should try:

Main image credit: Supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

FAQ about disgusting Chinese food

Do people eat animal penises in China?

Yes, some people eat animal penises, such as sheep penis. At food stalls in parts of China, you’ll find the penis threaded onto a stick, grilled, and served hot.

Do Chinese people eat creepy crawlies?

Generally speaking, no they do not. You can find various insects, bugs and spiders at the street market, but these are to excite tourists and are not an everyday food.

What are some bizarre foods from China?

Weird foods (from a Western perspective) include chicken feet, stinky tofu, duck’s blood, and balut.

Where can you find strange street foods in China?

All the big cities have a night market where you can find a local Chinese delicacy or unusual dish. A highly unusual food such as scorpion is quite expensive as it’s only for tourists.