5 of the Strangest Snacks in South China

By Tristin Zhang, May 7, 2018

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It’s widely known that folks in Guangdong rarely shy away from unusual bites. From pig guts to pupae, eating out in the Pearl River Delta can often feel like an exercise in one-upmanship. This month, we challenge our readers to take a walk on the 'culinary wild side' with these out-of-the-ordinary street snacks.

1. Fish Skins 鱼皮

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Popular along the length of China’s coast from Shandong in the north down to Guangdong in the south, snacking on fish skins is a deep-rooted tradition. These piscine pelts can be found at back alley eateries throughout Guangzhou’s more historic quarters. The crispy, deep-fried version is considered more approachable, while the chewy, cold rendition – tossed with scallions, ginger, soy sauce and peanuts – can be a challenge to the palate for first-timers. 

2. Pig Blood Curd 猪血

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In the 1990s, old women carrying wooden containers of homemade pig’s blood soup were a common sight on Guangzhou’s streets. Known in Guizhou as ‘blood tofu,’ the curdled treat can be eaten on its own or as flavor-boosting addition to hot pot and congee. Steeped in a peppery soup and seasoned with diced scallions, this is iron-rich Southern comfort food at its best. 

3. Cow’s Three-Star 牛三星

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Don’t let the genteel name fool you – this time-tested dish is made up of less than glamorous ingredients. Composed of a cow’s heart, kidneys and liver, ‘cow’s three star’ is a soup for those who like their viscera with a side of scallion and pickled cabbage. It’s become so popular over the years that this medley of innards can be found at nearly any Cantonese restaurant in the Guangzhou, but to find the dish’s authentic roots one must make a gutsy pilgrimage to the historic Xiguan neighborhood of Liwan. 

4. Pig’s Trotter with Ginger 猪脚姜

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This time-honored stew is said to have come into existence more than 600 years ago during the Ming Dynasty. Believed to be of great benefit to women after childbirth, it’s often given to relatives and neighbors as well as new mothers to celebrate the arrival of a newborn. The knuckles of a pig’s trotter are marinated with vinegar and ginger before being stewed with eggs and brown sugar until rubbery.

5. Water Cockroaches 水蟑螂 

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There are some lines that, even in the name of journalism, we are not willing to cross. While we have not sampled this highly nutritious snack first hand, some Guangdong natives will swear by so-called ‘water cockroaches’ (in fact, a member of the beetle family) as a protein-packed, low-fat treat that is also eaten Mexico, Japan and Thailand. In Guangzhou, it’s usually found in seafood restaurants where it is fried with salt and pepper or cooked with wasabi. 

[Images via Tristin Zhang, Sohu]

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