So you are going to eat hundkatzemaus* in China? My brother chuckles at his own joke, obviously relieved that he can stay home with a lovely plate of steak & fries. I laugh along, but deep down I am not too sure. What if there is nothing else than hundkatzemaus to eat in China? What if that is what they call Chinese delicacies? After all, I have seen people eat frogs, insects and yes, dogs too before and Finnair who invited me on this trip did make sure I wasn’t a vegetarian.
*The name of a German television program, meaning dogcatmouse and also a synonym for a general group of animals.
I shouldn’t have worried. The Chinese food that I got to eat for the next week was absolutely amazing. So amazing in fact that my new friend Vijay from Effilee magazine kept on asking for more real Chinese delicacies. Where are the freaky chicken feet??
I use the term ‘freaky’ in a very loose, loving and also slightly ironic way. I think one cannot go to McDonald’s and innocently eat Chicken McNuggets but go around calling a chicken foot freaky. And in any case, we never got to eat any chicken feet and unlike Vijay, I wasn’t too sad about it . Mind you, there is plenty of other freakiness to go around on a Lazy Susan (I have never seen so many Lazy Susans in my life. The inventor of it must have gotten very rich on Chinese sales alone!) in China. Here is what you can/should/must try when in China and want to get your inner fear factor on.
That one is deceptively pretty to look at – who would guess that egg white can turn into brown jello? I was keen to try a little piece and happy I didn’t have to eat a whole for breakfast. The flavor was okay, just really ‘eggy’ but all in all not so great that I would be patient to wait
a 1000 years months that it takes being preserved neither would I pay a lot of money for it.
From throat to liver, you can find pig everything here. Yummy? I think that depends on your definition.
I loved the pig’s liver we had on our last night, thinly sliced and fried with lots of onions, but then again I like liver in general. The pig’s throat in our hot pot was apparently a bit chewy and not very flavorful and the pig’s ears weren’t crispy enough for my liking. Love it or hate it, for someone who thinks that pig = bacon there will be a steep learning curve here – you can really eat it all.
We had a lot of tripe. It came in big pieces too and for someone who has only eaten it in a nice sauce, cut into small pieces and hidden under a puff pastry hood – me – that was a bit unnerving. Let’s just say it is not very pretty and a single rose petal doesn’t change that. To eat tripe with chopsticks is quite a task too, you better sharpen those incisors otherwise you will end up with a whole mouthful of
On our last evening, we had a soup which was announced to us as a vegetable soup but really it came with a bit of everything in addition to some veggies: tripe, squid, tofu and blood tofu.
That last one is especially deceptive for vegetarians because it is called tofu and it is most definitely not made out of soy. Instead, you get duck or pigs blood, basically, it’s blood pudding. Meanwhile, it still has a lot in common with regular tofu – it doesn’t taste like much on its own!
I had lovely jellyfish at my favorite Japanese restaurant in Cape Town so I didn’t mind the idea at all. The worst part of the jellyfish heads we ate in Xi’An was an overpowering garlic sauce. But still, some of us thought it was just fair to eat a jellyfish after being stung by one garlic or not.
From what I saw at the Chongqing food market, there are also toads/frogs (not sure what those are) on the menu as a Chinese delicacy. Luckily I didn’t see any on my plate.
There is something about frogs that makes me not want to go there. Same goes for snakes. I am terrified of them. So much so that I clench my fists and hold them to my ears underwater when I see one. Someone once told me that while sea snakes are poisonous they have such a small jaw, they can only bite you between your fingers or on your earlobes. So fists clenched covering my ears I feel safe. And yes, I probably also look very funny but if you ever see a diver like this, you know a snake is near and can quickly get a away. But I digress… I don’t like snakes and if you think eating one would somehow create equilibrium, you are wrong. I don’t like them on my plate either, I don’t want them anywhere near me. So when our lovely guide Ken kept on announcing snakes for the next dish I was terrified and almost excused myself to the loo (and that says something – little more terrifying than a squatting toilet!).
All around me I saw exciting faces. Apparently I was the only one who was really not keen on eating snake. Only after the dish was presented did I realize that Ken was speaking about a snack which came in form of lovely steamed buns that one fills with vegetable.
Snack not snake, somehow that got lost in translation for me and kept on getting lost twice more on this trip. Each time to my greatest relief.
If you go and are keen to try chicken feet, please report back to me. I was already too puzzled by the logistics of eating one to even want to go there. But according to Vijay you take the whole thing into your mouth – no thank you!, chew – no thank you!, and spit the bones out – no thank you!
He wasn’t clear on whether you spit them back on your plate or in a serviette, but I am sure that might just be a regional difference. As I said, I wouldn’t be keen to try myself but curious enough to hear a first-hand account.
For the love of dog
For those who mostly
warned me asked me about eating dogs – I did not see any dogs on a menu or anywhere near a plate. In fact, the Chinese seemed to be quite keen on their pet dogs. Mind you, I couldn’t read most menus and who really knows what goes into a dumpling? But what happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen and I am quite alright with that. Have you been to China? And what was the freakiest food you ate there? I’d care to get some more inspiration for my next trip!
Are you looking for some Chinese delicacies that are a little easier on the eye and on western taste buds? Check out this awesome post by my friend Noel who made it his mission to eat 32 dishes for his 32nd birthday in Chengdu.
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