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Noodles and critters al fresco

lau-andree-52.jpg
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.

critters.jpg
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?

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From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.

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Amber Hildebrandt Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.

Andrea Chiu Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.

Tara Kimura Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.

Andree Lau Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).

Jessica Wong Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.

Kevin Yarr Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.

Elizabeth Bridge Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.

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