It's just an hour after dinner but I've convinced my baser foodie self that we're both hungry enough to head out to Beijing's famous Donghuamen Street - site of its colorful and popular night food market.
The last time I was in Beijing, I went to Donghuamen and had the ubiquitous candied strawberries on a stick.
This time, I wanted to find a snack that would be savory, more substantial and yes, vegetarian.
It's a cold chilly night but lots of locals and foreign tourists alike are strolling through the food street -- the row of food booths stretches all the way to the end of the block.
Bizarre foods may seem more sensational but a lot of the stalls have things everyone eats -- like skewers and skewers of tofu, chicken parts, beef, mutton, pork, prawns -- the un-exotic, everyday stuff.
The cooks and stall servers yell out, barker style (in chinese of course) to each and everyone, trying to catch our attention, trying to make a sale. Since most of the stalls sell the exact same things, everyone has to work a little harder to attract the customers.
I wonder what starfish taste like? Wouldn't they be spiny and hard and unpalatable? I guess I'll never know!
Yum! These steamed crabs look fat, fresh and delicious! However, my vegetarian conscience pulls me away from this scene.
I'm still looking for vegetarian options that go beyond the usual fruit skewers and boiled corn and shaved ice sweets. This stall sells mounds of sliced tripe but right beside it is a wok of plain fried noodles!
I order a small plate and through sign language, agree to make it spicy. The noodles are sauteed very quickly along with sliced cabbage and chili. Before the cook ladles it onto the styropor plate, he liberally douses it with black vinegar. By this time, I am salivating as the aroma of oil, noodles, chili and vinegar wafts through the night.
I stand off to one side to eat. The first spoonful just slides down -- the noodles are oily but very tasty. By the second spoonful, my mouth is feeling warm -- it's spicy and sour and wonderful -- all at the same time. I can't believe I was able to eat the entire thing.
The cold night air registered 0 deg C but inside my mouth ... it was a blistering 40 deg C!