[Qingdao] Starfish, Sea Urchin and Other Exotic Foods

Qingdao

This is a mega-post on everything worth eating in Qingdao.

I’m a total travel foodie, and hence made it a point to visit Qingdao’s two most popular street food haunts: Pichai Courtyard and Taitung Night Market,

For all who’s seen my Instagram stories, yes, starfish is actually edible!! Despite its tough outer skin, a cooked and dried starfish is easily broken apart. The edible texturised bits are all in its legs, so you’ll need to break its golden armour to get to the soft and moist goods, which would taste like savoury mushy walnuts soaked in soy sauce if you can imagine. I wouldn’t exactly describe this as particularly ‘tasty’, but it would be an interesting experience for your taste buds.

Qingdao
Fissures in the center of the starfish’ legs so you can access the dried edible bits.
Qingdao
The greyish-brown bits are the edible parts!
Qingdao
Once you crack the fissure, you can break open the entire leg.

Where we were at is the Pichai Courtyard (劈柴院in Qingdao, a hidden alley bustling with street food vendors and eateries offering some of the freshest seafood in the city, and exotic food appealing to the adventurous pallet. We spent a good 1.5 hours walking back and forth the street market. It’s not the most comfortable place to linger at, so I wouldn’t recommend allocating too much time in your itinerary for this location. What I do enjoy about Pichai Courtyard is the wholesome cultural experience. You’ll also get to appreciate premium Chinese tea, watch authentic Chinese opera, and purchase vintage souvenirs and trinkets all in the same alleyway.

Qingdao
Seafood is of the abundance in this market.

If you’ve got a huge appetite, the sheer variety of different seafood cuisines will most definitely fill your belly! A more common dish is served in shells of sea urchins, filled with edible egg yolks (made from the actual egg of the sea urchin). When eaten warm, it tastes like a less salty version of the Japanese chawanmushi.

Qingdao
Qingdao

For the less adventurous folks, you’ll find lobster roe dumplings, carrot cakes, sausages, fried rice, steamed cockles, pig organs soup, rice cakes, etc, being offered by all these tiny stalls.

Qingdao
This shop is named 爆肚, literally meaning ‘exploding belly’, and serves soup of pig organs an various innards
Qingdao
Beancurd skin – a very well-loved Chinese ingredient in hotpot, and can also be eaten independently
Qingdao
蟹黄汤包 – Lobster roe dumplings! A must-try over here
Qingdao
Lady selling sea urchin egg yolks, and savoury crispy pancakes
Qingdao
Fresh seafood on display outside an eatery
Qingdao
More sea urchins and fresh seafood on a stick
Qingdao
Fresh oysters / river prawns, clams for RMB18 per plate, do the math!
Qingdao
Are you hungry yet? These seafood dishes are ready-cooked to be served on the go.
Qingdao
Rice cakes, Qingdao-made yoghurt, and organ jellies (no idea about the latter, really, someone please enlighten me)
Qingdao
Grilled fishballs, anybody?
Qingdao
Some stalls also offer Korean rice cakes . In many ways (weather, food, people), Qingdao reminds me of Korea, but a lot less touristy than Seoul
Qingdao
Some of the fried goodies you get for cheap: fried crab balls

Exotic foods are abound, and at the famed ‘昆虫宴’, which can be loosely translated to ‘Banquet of Insects’, you can literally feast on all the bugs you can ever imagine eating. Fancy some fried scorpions, spiders, caterpillars, silkworms, lizards, locusts or grasshoppers?

Qingdao
昆虫宴, loosely translated to ‘Banquet of Insects’
Qingdao
Hungry yet?
Qingdao
Scorpions are a hot favourite

None of these were palatable to me, so no thank you. Perhaps one day I’ll find the courage to crunch on a fried scorpion.

So back to the more appealing foods, the beancurd with fried rice was one of my favourites, as well as the gigantic flavoured squid legs on a stick. And everything can be washed down with a cheap pint of Tsingtao Beer available from most stalls. I was a tad disappointed by the smelly tofu we chose from one of the stalls, which ain’t as smelly as I would have liked. I do wish I had a bigger appetite though, there was just too much to try.

Qingdao
Lobster roe fried dough balls covered in various flavourings
Qingdao
Other local seafood favourites
Qingdao
Gigantic squid legs are a hot favourite here too, and very yummy indeed!
Qingdao
One for the road
Qingdao
Beancurd skin with fried rice
Qingdao
Beancurd skin with fried rice – my personal recommendation to all
Qingdao
臭豆腐 – Smelly tofu, which is a lot less smelly than those I ate in Taiwan
Qingdao
Beer, of course
Qingdao
This stretch of alley is very popular amongst locals and tourists alike

So I captured this shot below of the inconspicuous entrance to Pichai Courtyard, from Zhongshan Road. Keep your olfactory senses on high alert for the Thai-style fried Durians along this entryway, and you might just find your way into Pichai Yuan.

Qingdao
Entryway to Pichai Yuan

Where:
Pichai Courtyard 劈柴院
Zhongshan Lu, Shinan District, Qingdao (青岛市市南区中山路)

While Pichai Courtyard has been preserved to bear cultural significance, in contrast, Taitung Night Market is surrounded by malls, heavy traffic intersections and is the central hub of both shopping and entertainment for locals and tourists alike. The night market covers a huge area along Taidong Road and combined with its surrounding shopping area, this zone is one of the most bustling area in the city, with ~100,000 visitors every day. The entire street comes to life at 5:30PM and winds down early by my standards at 10:00PM, so best to get there early to enjoy the best of the city’s nightlife.

We didn’t have much stomach space remaining after a huge dinner, but we did try the 烤鸭肠 or grilled duck intestines on a stick (which were surprisingly chewy and flavourful), as well as the 肉夹馍 or meat pancakes (though some insist to call this the meat folder in English) and cheesy sausages covered in fried dough. The meat pancake was huge enough to be a meal on its own, and I highly recommend trying this particular stall with a really long queue of locals.

Everything at Taitung Night Market is really inexpensive, as compared to Pichai Courtyard. I mean, 120 sticks of duck intestines for just 30 yuan (SGD 5.70)?

Street food, night Market in Qingdao
Must-try!
Street food, night Market in Qingdao
We settled for 70 sticks of the duck intestines, they were soooo good.
Street food, night Market in Qingdao
We got them in spicy, but you could request for a less hot version of their sauce.

The meat folder/pancakes are essentially meat loaves flanked in croissant-textured outer skins, and grilled to golden-brown perfection.

Street food, night Market in Qingdao
The chefs very hard at work, as there was a long queue waiting!
Street food, night Market in Qingdao
Our share of the amazing meat pancake
Street food, night Market in Qingdao
Just 7 yuan for one of these

Some of these were actually Taiwanese street foodfare, as is this cheesy fried sausage we had.

Street food, night Market in Qingdao
Cheesy Taiwanese sausages covered in fried dough

You could have a fancier dinner in the malls nearby, and come to Taitung Night Market for its variety of desserts on offer. There’s just too much to choose from. Just some pictures I took before I indulged my sweet-tooth in a box of chilled durian puffs.

Street food, night Market in Qingdao
No lack of desserts along this street
Street food, night Market in Qingdao
Fluffy dog ice cream in chocolate and vanilla
Street food, night Market in Qingdao
Oh yes we had this too! Chilled durian cream puffs
Qingdao
Look at ’em buns

I can’t decide on a favourite street food, but if I had to choose, I’d say the meat folder/pancakes.
Let me know your favourite!

Where:
Taitung Night Market
TaiDong 1st Road (near McDonalds and Wal-Mart)
ShiBei District > TaiDong Shopping Area
台东夜市, 台东一路, 中国山东省青岛市

Published by VIKTORIA JEAN

"Do you see the story? Do you see anything?... It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream - making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream sensation... No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence - that which makes its truth, its meaning - its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream - alone." Marlow in Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad.

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