Saturday, June 6, 2009

I Feel Like a # 5

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Chicken that raises as many culinary visions as Brain Fry. are we talking chicken brains? if so, that's an awful lot of chickens to fry up to get enough to fill an empty stomach.

I've gone on record with my food stories from China, although I have yet to have brains. Not sure why this is not on a Chinese menu, since everthing is grist for the stomach mill, as it were.

Beef tendon is a "treat" I like to avoid -- no, not beef tenderloin, but tendon, as in the semi gooey stuff of connective tissue that is almost see through. The stuff that we liked to avoid as kids, the grizzle kind of stuff. Try a whole plate of that as a specialty. I've had it several times and still cannot get used to it.

Then there is the chicken soup story I like to tell. We were all having a great time at dinner one evening. I think it was the same dinner when I got my official Chinese name -- after 3 bottles of wine.

My friend and colleague Wu zimin and I were conversing about all kinds of things, an especially interesting feat since neither of us knows the other's language. Much laughter accompanies our efforts, but on this particular evening I was glowing with good cheer -- liquid and otherwise.

As I've said in other blogs, there is little order to a traditional Chinese meal [that is not officially a banquet]. Stuff simply comes to the table as the cook prepares it -- veggies, meat, fish, even sweats - may appear at any time and in any order. You simply eat and have fun.

There are two exceptions: the fruit platter comes at the end as a signal that the meal is over [dessert is not common and there is no lingering over coffee]. The other is soup: it usually comes after a lot of dishes have been consumed because it is a digestive. You eat soup in order to make room for more food.

On this particular occasion, all aglow with good cheer, the chicken soup was particularly luscious and flavorful. I really enjoyed it, which is a bit unusual for me because I'm no great lover of soup. This soup was clear, rich, unfettered by stuff floating around in it...and I kept dishing it out into my soup bowl.

At one point, I noticed my colleague take the ladel and somewhat surreptiously scoop something out of the soup kettle. He was very cautious about not showing it to me. But I being the curious -- naive -- western took the opportunity to peek over his elbow to see what he deposited on his plate out of sight. It was the full head of a chicken. This was the base of this soup I was gorging on.

I wasn't particularly revolted since the Chinese eat everything. And up to that point I had already eaten duck tongue and duck web, even if I eschewed eating chicken feet.

I suspect, however, that my friend was saving me from myself: either he was afraid I would be disgusted when I found out that this thing floated at the bottom of the kettle or, even worse, he suspected I would try to eat it if I should happen to scoop it up into my bowl -- an act that would have disgusted everyone else. Oh, to be saved from embarrassing food incidents.

So while chicken rool might be tempting, I still don't know what you do with chicken brains...if anything...except make damn good soup from them [along with the bill, eyeballs, head, comb, etc.]

Enough said....Victor