Today I’m fighting a cold and need some lighthearted reading and writing in my life. So I present to you this list of Chinese delicacies and their many applications, inspired by my friend who was thoroughly disgusted at my eating some mochi from a Korean store on our visit to NYC last year. (She’s the least adventurous eater I know.) She ain’t seen nothin’ yet. I enjoy all of these foods in the right context…which is generally once a decade.
When a food both looks a macabre and has a challenging texture, it’s never going to win a popularity award in America. But in Asia most of these are revered for their taste and nutrition while signifying wealth.
First up is chicken feet. Battered and fried or made in a soup, these are terrifying in a fabulous way, especially the ones made from black chicken. One of my life goals is to throw a goth Thanksgiving, where I serve only black food, which is almost too easy to find in Chinese cooking.
Also topping the list of black, gelatinous and sinister-looking foods is century egg. I think I came around to this when I was 15 at my grandparents’ house, where it was diced and thrown into a rice porridge like this. It smells like sulfur and tastes like it met its maker a very long time ago–a bland jello egg “white” and a pungent yolk that carries an acidity and vague bite not unlike wasabi. Do you like soft cheeses? Then you can’t give me crap about century eggs.
Seaweed in all its forms are glorious. Thick and meaty, thin like pasta, or crunchy curly like kale. When our planet reaches critical mass and have to resort to eating sea vegetables and bugs for survival, I’ll be first in line.
Sea cucumber is a gelatinous blog that absorbs any flavor you put on it. It’s one of the highest protein, lowest fat foods around. At this point Asians have eaten so many that they’re going extinct. Way to miss the memo, western hemisphere.
Moving away from black foods, we have pork (and other meat) floss. I mean, this is truly an engineering marvel. It smells like pork, feels like fur, and tastes like salty shredded hemp, but of the most addictive sort. It’s like jerky with a fun texture–do not be scared.
Pig ear in spicy chili oil. Imagine a porky and delicious rubber band. This is way better than that. One of dozens of Awkward Pig Part + Spicy Chili Oil cold appetizers you can find in any Szechuan restaurant, and they’re all great.
To round out the list is the only food I still have trouble with, bitter melon. I probably just need to try it prepared the right way, which is stir-fried with egg and a lot of seasonings. When it’s simply boiled and salted by my mom, this physically beautiful vegetable is vile. If this makes it to goth Thanksgiving, it will be for symbolic reasons.
Well, I feel a little nauseous right now. That’s all for today!