There is an old Chinese saying that roughly translated into English means “The Chinese will eat anything that has four legs except a table, anything that flies except an airplane, and anything that swims except a submarine.”
Walmart Super Stores found in the United States, import and mostly sell goods that are made in China. While there is a grocery section in American Walmarts; it is not the main focus of the stores. Unlike their American counterparts, the Chinese Walmart stores are huge, local food markets. About 95% of the goods, which are on display for sale, come from the surrounding areas in China. Very few things in a Chinese Walmart are imported from outside of China.
If you go to a Walmart in China, be prepared to fight your way through the crowd. These stores are always jam-packed with people looking for a bargain. It is not unusual to see up to thirty people in each checkout line at the cashiers. Many Chinese, especially older women, will physically push you out of the way to try to steal your place in line. They feel entitled to go ahead of others and most of the time they get away with this.
Chinese like their food to be fresh. Many times, with seafood and other animals, this means still alive. Butchering a duck or a turtle or cleaning a live fish in the home is considered routine preparation for a meal. They also eat every part of the animal including the head, the feet, and the entrails. There is nothing like a steaming hot plate of pig’s head, brain, feet, heart, and guts to really stir up the appetite at a banquet!
Here are a few of the most bizarre things, according to Westerners tastes, we found on sale at the Chinese Walmart.
15. Duck, Possum, And Geese
Peking Duck is a classic dish eaten by millions of Chinese. The ducks are butchered, cleaned, and then fried with the head and feet still intact. Duck meat is more greasy than chicken, so you have to be careful when handling these slippery things when you buy one or you may drop it to the floor. For this reason, sometimes they put the ducks on a stick to make them easier for the customers to pick them up.
14. Barbecue Mystery Meat on a Stick
These open piles of mystery meat can be many different kinds of meat, including squid, duck, chicken, dog, cat, horse, or rat. Incomplete pieces of animals are thrown in a mixed pile together and sold at a discount. For those who do not care about what type of meat they use for their meals, these bargain bins are quite popular.
This meat is preserved by being salted, smoked, fried, and/or barbecued. Dog meat was recently banned by the Chinese government; however, it still makes it into the food chain. There is an annual dog meat festival where tens of thousands of dogs and some cats are killed in the most brutal ways. Due to massive international pressure from animal rights groups, in 2017 the Chinese government made this practice illegal; however, it remains to be seen what type of enforcement will be used to make sure the Chinese people comply with the new law.
13. Self-Serve Live Capture of Fish
If you want the freshest fish you can buy in the Chinese Walmart, you have to catch your own. Handy nets are provided for customers to use in order to catch a live fish from the tanks. It is a bit disturbing to Westerners when they take a live fish home and their shopping bag is moving around. Also, there is the need to kill it, gut it, clean it, and de-scale it after taking it home.
12. Live Turtles
Just like fish and other small creatures, live turtles are available in bins. Just grab the ones you want to use to make a turtle soup. These are the kind of turtles that many Westerners have as pets, especially for their younger children to care for, so if you are going to cook them, be sure not to let your kids see what you are doing.
In order to prepare them for cooking, you have to stick a sharp knife into the shell to scrape them out, which makes an ugly mess that needs to be washed and cleaned off to remove the entrails before chopping the meat into small pieces to make a turtle meat soup or dish.
11. Dried Starfish
If you have ever played in a tide pool by the ocean, chances are that you ran across some starfish. Few Westerners think about eating them; however, the Chinese like to dry them and then clean them and use them for starfish soup. They also like to fry them. The Chinese like to eat sea urchins that are found in the same tide pools as well.
Eating starfish is similar to eating crabs. The outer parts of the starfish are very tough. The only part that can be eaten is the soft meat inside. You have to break off a leg and then use a small fork, knife, or your tongue to get the meat out in order to eat it. The meat part is the olive green mush that fills the inside of the starfish. It tastes similar to the brain of a crab or the insides of a sea urchin.
10. Pig’s Head
The Chinese enjoy cooking and eating the heads of many animals including ducks, chickens, cows, and pigs. It is a little unsettling to less adventuresome eaters to have a barbecued pig’s head served on a dinner platter with its dead eyes staring back at you. The pig’s brain is the favored part for its slightly salty flavor and mushiness.
The Chinese also eat the pig’s feet, its skin, and all of its entrails. Pig entrails are sometimes served as a bright red, bloody-looking dish because they are boiled in pig’s blood. They have a kind of gamey flavor and the consistency of a soft sponge.
In Italy, they cut up the squid into little pieces, bread it, and then fry it to make calamari. The most tender and delicious squid that can be used for this dish are the baby ones. This is much more palatable than the Chinese method of serving squid pieces that are stir-fried. They look like cut up sections of the monster from the Alien movie series.
Even though they are dead and dried, when hanging in the Chinese Walmart aisles, these squid look like they could come back to life at any moment, jump on your face and attach their tentacles around your throat. The very large ones are truly intimidating and could be the subject of nightmares.
8. Live Toads and Fresh Rabbit Meat
Do you want some freshly butchered rabbit meat to go with your boiled toads? Cute, furry rabbits are butchered on site in the back of the store and brought out to be put in a big bloody bin. Customers select the juicy piece of rabbit meat that they want using their bare hands to fill a plastic bag with enough meat to make a meal.
Along with snakes, crabs, lobsters, turtles, and lizards, in the Chinese Walmart, you can buy live toads. The French eat frog legs; however, they are considered a rare delicacy in France. In China, toads are very common. The Chinese eat these large toads and cook them by putting them in boiling water, which causes them to screech in the most horrific sounding way.
7. Shark’s Head
The most dangerous creature on Earth is not the shark, not even a great white shark. There are about fifty shark attacks worldwide each year. However, humans kill upwards of five million sharks or more annually.
A soup made from shark’s fin is a delicacy in China and considered an aphrodisiac for the men who partake of it. Cubes of shark meat are used as a substitute for scallops in many dishes. Shark steaks are popular all over the world but eating the shark’s head and its brain is something enjoyed more in China and not in most other parts of the world.
6. Black Fungus
Chinese black fungus is also called wood ear fungus. It has a lightly pungent, earthy aroma, and taste. Many Chinese like to add this fungus to their foods, especially soups and rice dishes, as a spice. This jelly fungus is sometimes used in salads. It also has some medicinal qualities. It can be used to treat high blood pressure, cancer, and hemorrhoids.
It grows in wet, evergreen forests, in the branches of trees, out of tree stumps, and on rotting logs. It is often dried and then when used for meals, it is reconstituted with water. It is prized for its slippery, yet crunchy texture, which survives most cooking processes.
In many parts of the world, people eat crocodile and alligator meat. However, there is something a bit unnerving about seeing the full animal on display for sale in a Chinese Walmart. They look like they are sleeping and could awaken at any moment to bite down on your arm.
The Chinese have special crocodile farms where the animals are raised to sell for their meat. The crocodile skin is very tough; however, the inner meat, when prepared properly is very tender. If you eat enough of this meat, you can save the skin, tan it, and use it to make a handbag, a hat, or a pair of boots.
4. Donkey Meat
Horse meat and donkey meat are common in China. These animals are raised for meat exactly like cows. Donkey meat is usually prepared by shredding it and then cooking it with many spices. The cooked meat is served in a large sandwich with a big, greasy, bread bun.
The practice of eating donkey meat probably began during the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century when the emperor’s soldiers were starving so badly that they killed and then ate their horses. Horse meat was too expensive to do this for long, so the peasants started eating donkey meat instead and found it very tasty. Today, in modern China, it is considered a popular meat along with beef and pork.
3. Pork Fat
The Chinese like to eat fried pig intestines cooked in pork fat. This dish is also made in the southern part of America, in states like Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia, where it is called “chitlins.” The intestines smell horrible when being cleaned and contain dangerous bacteria called Yersinia that can make people very ill from simply handling it. This dish also smells very bad while being cooked. It must be cooked thoroughly to avoid illness when eating it.
2. Using Your Hands
When Chinese Walmart customers choose what they want to buy, it does not matter if they are selecting walnuts or bloody rabbit meat; they use their hands to grab it. Some of the Chinese people turn a plastic bag inside out and use it as a sort of temporary glove. Others do not bother with such measures and simply grab a handful of what they want.
Healthcare professionals should be worried about cross contamination in Chinese Walmart stores. When so many customers are handling the foodstuffs with their bare hands, it is very likely that bacteria and viruses are easily spread between them. An outbreak of antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as the virulent E-coli can easily cause serious problems. If you go to a Chinese Walmart be careful what you touch with your bare hands and wash your hands as soon as possible afterwards.
1. Shove Your Way Through The Crowd
The only way to get in and out of Walmart is to shove your way through the crowd. There are too many people in the way and therefore pushing and shoving is commonplace. Elderly women, who look a bit frail, will push you out of the way, which is surprising to most Westerners.
The Chinese also do not queue up in line in an orderly fashion. The mob of customers approaches the cashiers and squeezes through the process like meat going through a meat grinder.
The Chinese are voracious eaters. Many of the craziest foods that they eat are considered by some Chinese people to have magical properties. There is a restaurant in Beijing that specializes in serving the cooked penises of animals, such as a horse, pig, goat, sheep, or bull. While we could not find any penis meat in the Chinese Walmart; however, just about every other part of many creatures was offered for sale. Bon appetit!
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