Noodles and critters al fresco

by Andree Lau, CBCnews.ca

My father, as with many people his age who have discovered the internet, loves to forward me amusing photos and jokes. This week, it was a slideshow of outdoor food stands in China.

It immediately brought me back to my first street stand experience. I was about 10 and visiting Beijing with my mother. Despite lecturing repeatedly about the potential risks of eating al fresco in China, she finally gave in to my pleas.

I had a steaming bowl of dan-dan mien — spicy noodles with sesame sauce. Standing there in the crowded street, I remember the noise and the traffic fading away, as I slurped the noodles and the tangy Sichuan peppercorns tingling on my tongue.

Crunchy critters on display at a Beijing food stand. (Andree Lau/CBC)

Beijing was also the site of my greatest gastronomic defeat. A few years ago on another visit, I encountered a stand proudly displaying critters (scorpions and such) on sticks, before they were deep-fried and served with gusto to a busy lineup of school kids.

I usually pride myself on trying anything once, but I couldn't do it.

Here at home, street stands are a bit tamer, mainly of the hot-dog variety. But there are the temporary food stalls that come along with the summer festivals that dot the country.

The Richmond Night Market, outside of Vancouver, has drawn thousands of visitors every summer weekend with dozens of outdoor stalls, hawking curried fish balls and satay sticks.

In March, the landlord declined to renew the lease with the event organizer for the past eight years, but another company is trying to revive it.

What's your favourite street stand food? What have you tried in the past?