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New Chinese Adventures of Gastronomic Delight

Not Hot Pot for my Scot! We find Szechuan Heat and unsavory meat . . .

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Our favorite guidebook (Frommer’s) had precious little to suggest for the city of Chengdu, and justifiably so. While it’s a city of almost 11 million, it definitely lacks many cultural opportunities. Of the few, one was a gastronomic suggestion: to experience ‘hot-pot’. During our travels, we have resolved to try as many regional dishes, delicacies and styles of cooking as possible. For me, this task is pretty simple, for Jacquie, perhaps a bit more of a challenge (with her more discerning tastes . . . ). In short, I’ll eat pretty much anything, and have, and Jacquie has valiantly tried just about everything in her path, thus far. And then there was Hot Pot . . .


Bad enough we really only had a tiny bit of knowledge as to what it was. “It’s like fondue with broth and meat, right?” Right!?! Up for the adventure, Jacquie, Martin and I armed ourselves with inadequate knowledge (we asked the concierge where he thought the best hot pot in town was) and headed out to Chengdu’s finest Hot Pot restaurant. The restaurant was very nice – certainly the type of place I would suggest if I were a concierge. And so we were seated, ordered drinks, and then were handed menus to make our selections. Luckily there were pictures, as well as English, to help guide our selections from the menu. But that is pretty much where the luck ended.
At first we were unsure how or what exactly to order. The menu offered numerous types of broth in which you cook your meat, veggie or “other” selections, but we had no idea which to try. After a few tense moments, we settled on the simplest broth suggested by the waitress: the “Stewed Spring Chicken with Seahorse and Shelled Shrimps”. Moving on to the meat selections, we turned the page to find the following: Ostrich Meat (okay, that’s not so bad .. .) Then, Ostrich Gizzards (alright – people eat that . . .). But from here it went to goose intestines, Chicken blood, duck webs, duck tongues, pig artery, pig brain . . . you get the idea now.


There were also some rather benign offerings, of which we decided to partake, and thus ordered: Chicken (breast meat, not eyeballs or beaks), Catfish (of course I expected catfish fillet. We got little baby catfish fry, with heads freshly removed, and that’s about it), and then Shrimp. For some reason the shrimp took almost 30 minutes to get to us. Turns out, they had to go out and pull them out of a pond, so that they could bring a bowl of live shrimp (literally jumping in the serving bowl, and then into the cooking broth . . .) to our table. To round it out, we had cabbage and asparagus which both Martin and I enjoyed cooked in the spicy broth – a hot, black churning concoction with myriad red chili peppers boiling up from the very bowels of hades . . . yes it was spicy!


Jacquie tried a piece of chicken, which, being cooked in a broth adorned with a floating Seahorse, was not a winner. Needless to say the (practically) squirmy little catfish were not going to be a hit either. Jacquie did manage a shrimp or two, but we have firmly established that this will not be a cuisine to repeat. At least not with seahorses bobbing out of the broth looking more like witches brew than something we would normally eat. I ended up eating quite a few shrimp (those little guys sure can jump!), a baby catfish or two (too darned many bones to make it worthwhile) and a good bit of cabbage and asparagus. We have high hopes for future cuisines, but we can certainly tick the box as: Hot Pot - DONE!

Posted by lloydthyen 22:03 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world

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Suicidal Shrimp in China! Who would have thought?

by GregW

Interesting indeed. More adventurous than I would have been. However, consider yourselves fortunate that you haven't been served a platter of baked scorpions, locusts and grubs. It only took one glimpse of that in my trip out to the countryside of China to convince me that there are aspects of Chinese food that I would rather not experience. So what do seahorses taste like - chicken?

by rathyen

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