Maggie asked me about any dietary/cultural/American food restrictions that I might have. I told her that there were none at all and I would like to try all kinds of Chinese food. Maggie took this as a challenge!
The picture below is one of our first meals. Starting from the 1:00 position and working clockwise: A salad - not that much different than an American salad. Then at 4:00 there's Choudoufu. This translates as "Stinky Tofu" but I think a better name would be "cowpie surprise". Basically it looks and smells like something you could find in a cattle field and it tastes just like it smells. In between the choudoufu and the salad is a dish of hot pepper that you can dip the Choudoufu in to take the edge off.
At the 6:00 position is pig lung in hot oil. In the 8:00 position is the
internal organs of sparrows. This has a relatively normal kind of taste but
with strange shapes and textures. In the 10:00 position is something Maggie
described only as "beef". I had some and said that this and the salad are
the only things on the table that most Americans eat. Then I ate one of the
vegetables with the beef and made a face and Maggie smiled. The Chinese name
for the vegetable translates as "Bitter Vegetable". Later we found that the
American name is Balsam. I told Maggie that as far as I know, Americans only
use Balsam in shampoo.
A plate of duck's tongue. They look a bit like little alien creatures. The
two pointy bits are from the back end of the tongues.
And Maggie having one. You have to bite around for a "knuckle" to cut the
tongue in half and then bite through and separate the meat from the bones
with your tongue. Maggie was much more efficient at this than I was.
Conch shells. The most difficult thing here was picking them up with chopsticks.
They're hard, round and oh so slippery. Tongue and suction separates the
muscle from the shell once you get them to your mouth.
Crabs on rice cakes. With these you take a very crunchy bite and then separate
the hard and soft parts in your mouth. My tongue got a real workout.
Maggie decided that I did so well with the first duck tongue that we should
try a more challenging version. These tongues are basically just steamed
with no sauce to disguise them.
The most challenging dish: They set down a dish in
a brown sauce and I thought they were being sloppy because some of the brown
sauce spattered my way. Then more spattered and I could see that some of
the ingredients of the dish were moving . A few minutes earlier, the waitress
had come by with a bag of live Shrimp for our approval. I said "Those are
going to be dead when we eat them right?" and Maggie smiled and said "yes".
Never believe a Chinese woman when she tells
you your food will be served dead! They were
alive and kicking, and squirming, and there's something about eating food
that's looking at you...
Well this was quite an experience. Unfortunately, I snapped this photo in
what appears to be a moment of resignation on the shrimp's part but generally
they did put up a good fight. After a half dozen of these, Maggie decided
that I was a brave eater. (Note the shrimp trying to escape of the far side
of the bowl.)
Pig brain (the gray part - I can't remember what the orange part is.)
Duck chins. (bills.)
Another form of Choudoufu (stinky tofu). This one is more sneaky because
it looks like some kind of lemon custard but it's full of chunks of the stinky
tofu and chunks of a strong smelling fish. Maggie says this stuff is very
popular and given how many times the smell of a cattle field passed by our
table on the way to someone else's, I have to admit that she is correct.
Tails of some animal. (To the left is a dish of bamboo in hot oil.)
King snake. We had eaten two pieces before this photo..
It was very tasty and very slow to eat. There's a lot of bones in snake.
For a snack, I'm eating Tweety bird on a stick.
Warning unlicensed hotpot operator! Fortunately, I had Maggie with me to
let me know which foods take a long time to cook and which dissolve after
a few seconds. Maggie put her bottle of Pepsi in font of me to add more color
to this photo. I was drinking tea. Wo3 bu4 yao4 he1 Mei3guo2 de yin3liao4!
(I don't want to drink American drinks! - not in China at least)