You are here
Snake and Scorpion Liquor, a Perfect Present Strange Medicine 

Snake and Scorpion Liquor, a Perfect Present

On a trip to Laos, recently, my parents found the perfect birthday present for Michelle: matching bottles of snake and scorpion booze. Recognizing the fact that my mom doesn’t drink, this strange gift oozes with awesomeness. “Don’t drink it all at once,” my dad said. Unlike my mom, he’s a fantastic tippler. The Ayi now claims she’s too frightened to clean the bathroom, but she’d been too frightened to clean it for years. And what’s more Chinese than liquor infused with weird crap? (Remember my experiences with snake penis booze?)…

Read More
Why Chinese Pharmacies Sell Dried Sea Horses Extraordinary Eats Strange Medicine Top Stories 

Why Chinese Pharmacies Sell Dried Sea Horses

Sea horse makes for a terrible nasty meal.  Little sharp bits get caught in the teeth, the gums, and there’s a nauseating salt taste to it.  Plus, they just look weird.  Like little bone beasts. Most of China disagrees with me, though.  Here, they’re as popular as ginseng.  And just like ginseng, they’re used to enhance a man’s… well, virility.  They also reinforce the kidneys’ yang, I’m told. As the raunchy old Guangxi saying goes: “Eating sea horses keeps that 80-year-old granddaddy young.” “Chang chi haima, bashi gonggong lao lai…

Read More
Why Some Chinese People Still Eat Fried Worms Extraordinary Eats Strange Medicine 

Why Some Chinese People Still Eat Fried Worms

Just like the baijiu-soaked deer penis, earthworms are a legendarily royal remedy here in China.  They’re not even called worms, but something far more royal: Earth Dragons (地龙). It all started with Emperor Taizu of the Song Dynasty, who ruled China from 960 to 976. Apparently, he had a wretched case of shingles. All of the royal physicians were baffled and no one could find a cure. No one, that is, except a simple folk doctor.  He plucked a couple of earthworms — sorry, earth *dragons* — from the ground,…

Read More
Why Chinese Drugstores Sell Deer Embryo and Penis Extraordinary Eats Somewhat Perverted Strange Medicine 

Why Chinese Drugstores Sell Deer Embryo and Penis

Eating snake seems so sleazy, and eating ants is just gross. So much nicer than either of these? A young, innocent deer. That’s one of the most common sights in a Chinese pharmacy, and when you see one stuffed, it represents longevity, happiness, luck and benevolence. And every single part of that benevolent deer is valuable. The antlers are sold in elaborate gift boxes, almost like moon cakes. They’re not eaten whole, but ground up and mixed with warm water, until the combo becomes a thick glue, called Deer Antler…

Read More
Why Chinese Pharmacies Still Sell Ants Extraordinary Eats Strange Medicine 

Why Chinese Pharmacies Still Sell Ants

It turns out that, compared to $3000 snake penises, ants are a real bargain at just $30 a kilo. But who in their right minds would eat ants? Maybe the happiest emperor in the history of China, Emperor Qianlong? He died just before the 19th century began, at the pretty insane age of 89, and blamed his good looks and eternal youthfulness entirely on his diet of ants. This was the best photo I could get of ants… Someone bought these from the local pharmacy.

Read More
Why Chinese People Eat Snake as Medicine Extraordinary Eats Strange Medicine 

Why Chinese People Eat Snake as Medicine

Every time I pass by one of those classic Chinese pharmacies, I can’t help but stop.  You’ve seen them — the deer antlers and sea cucumbers sold in gift boxes; the dusty owls perched above the counter; the ants, sea horses, and snakes in cabinets.  You can’t help but wonder…  at least, I can’t…  why on earth would someone eat these things? A few months ago, I decided to find out.  I bought some traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) books.  I drank snake booze.  I spent hours at Beijing’s TCM university…

Read More
TCM 101: Cupping Strange Medicine 

TCM 101: Cupping

When she heard about my plan to get cupped, my old battleaxe of a language tutor was furious. “How can you make games of this? This is not a game! It’s serious!” And serious, it is. But it’s also pretty damn cool. Cupping draws bad blood to the surface, stimulating blood flow and qi. In the summer, you see huge black welts on men’s bare backs and women’s upper necks throughout China. Apparently, they last for days. Well, I felt like I needed a good qi fix, so headed to…

Read More