The Food

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.

Peace pigeon.

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.

Maggie demonstrates.

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.

Maggie demonstrates.

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)