Category Archives: Extraordinary Eats
These Milk Bikis Milk Cream Biscuits might just be the creepiest teatime snack I’ve ever seen.
Like the John Wayne Gacy of high tea.
The first time I saw the menu, I was lost. Sure, I knew dosas and idlis, but that was as far as it went. The other items were utterly alien to me.
And so I did the only thing I could: I decided to eat them all.
It took longer than expected. Tasted better than expected. And added more pounds than I would have thought possible. But here they are…
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The Beijing Penis Restaurant, officially known as Guolizhuang, doesn’t just serve cock. You can get absolutely anything there.
Stewed Deer Face. Sheep foetus in brown garlic sauce. Peacock claws. It’s like a Guangzhouren’s wet dream.
And the peacock’s name was as poetic as the plating. It was called A Set of Palms from Heaven and Earth.
I almost gagged.
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“Why not start today with a plate of freshly-fried old enema,” I thought. It was bright, garish, and advertised on the wall. “It must be good.”
Dripping in oil and yet crispy enough to snap a molar, it tasted like a bad plate of pork cracklings. The dipping sauce — chopped garlic in water — left it with a flavor and me with a breath from hell.
I’d assumed “enema” was a gross mismangling of “sausage” — 灌肠 can mean either. But I was wrong.
The name was an augury of what you’d need after lunch.
“I’ll have the AIDS soup,” I said.
It wasn’t officially called AIDS soup. Not now. Shortly after I’d blogged about their deviant menus, the restaurant had crossed out every appearance of the word “AIDS” with a sharpie. Now it was simply “Strong Tibetan Sheep Placenta Nourishing Soup [XXXX].”
Still a mouthful.
But I’d had a few beers, and scraped at the sharpie with my fingernail. The AIDS came back. Now I knew what I was getting. Strong Tibetan Sheep Placenta Nourishing Soup AIDS.
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Headline says it all, if you ask me.
Michelle’s first words after a pull were more like shrieks.
“Oh my god,” she cried. “It’s like an ice cream float in a bottle!”
Softly vanilla-scented and creamy, barely carbonated, sweet but not too sweet, it was just lovely.
I added a strong pour of Mongolian vodka, and a twist of lime.
Now that’s a Beijing summer.
The Professor just cycled by this brand spanking new Wangjing eatery. “Shuttlecock shaped plates?” he offered. “Badminton-racket-strained spaghetti?”
As long as they allow hairpin net shots, I’m in!
Sitting in the back of my fridge, I just found a pair of abominations: lemon juice beer and pineapple flavor beer. Where they came from, god only knows.
But it was time to get rid of them.
Brewed in Beijing — out in the chic and rural Shunyi, in fact — the Yanjing-brand lemon juice can was filled with nature. Malt, rice, hops, sugar and apparently real lemon juice… I was impressed! Granted, there was “edible flavor,” but the small print insisted “Quality Grade: Excellent.” I was sold.
And yet, it was as hideous as you’d expect. Chemical, plastic, foul, and far too sweet.
“Wow,” said Michelle. “This is great!”
Granted, she hadn’t slept in three days, and was actually hallucinating slightly. She was also sampling alongside a huge slab of chocolate cake. I don’t think that’s how professional tasters work.
“No, it’s fantastic. I really like it.”
She took another sip.
It reminded me of the Chinese nouvelle-flavored potato chips we’d tried, bizarre twists like lobster-cheese, lemon-tea, or cucumber, mass produced for virgin audiences. Those were almost all awful.
And yet the pineapple beer — Great Value brand, but ingredients in Chinese only — was even worse.
I’d suffered a fever as a small child. The same night, my mother had made pineapple upside-down cake. For years I associated pineapples with crushing sickness. This can of beer brought all of that pain flooding back.
“Whoa,” howled Michelle. “This one smells pineapple-y!” She took a sip. “Wow, it’s great! You could serve it at a picnic.”
I was seriously wondering what I’d gotten into. It was crisp and sharp and utterly foul. It overwhelmed the senses with a big rush of intense plastic pineapple sugar.
Michelle took another big bite of chocolate cake. She smiled. She was in heaven.
“You ever feel like you’re stuck in a wind-up music box?” Michelle asked. The walls were pink. The waitresses were dressed as dolls. Piano keys tinkled softly. There were balloons and glitter and an off-season Christmas tree. We were trapped in a music box.
That’s how Hello Kitty wants you to feel.
Welcome to Hello Kitty Dreams.
Chefs wear toques under Kitty-dressed walls…
Surfaces are pink or padded or bedazzled or glow…
And little girls pose dutifully over and over again.
The frilly Antoinette cuteness only gets cuter from there. His ‘n Hers Kitty-cupped cappuccinos, flecked with powdered likenesses.
A greasy chicken curry watched over by a plonk of Kitty-rice. Eyes of bean, nose of corn, bow of strawberry jam. (What culinary kawaii kitsch!!!)
And the strawberry mousse? Completely Kitty!
“Where do I start,” worried Michelle. “The ear? The bow tie?” She plunged into the cheek, a triple-stroke of chocolate whisker. Soft sponge deliciousness! And those plates? To die for!
The wonderful Sienna wrote in City Weekend, “They could serve poop, and we’d still love it… Unfortunately, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.” I was sad to read this. But on returning to Beijing, I was thrilled to find their act was perfected. This meal was glorious. Sure, no Maison Boulud… but what do you expect from a Japanese cutesy cat in a Chinese shopping mall?
At least it was better than the ads made it look:
Hello Kitty Dreams Restaurant, Shimao Mall, Gongti Beilu, Beijing, China.
Almost all of these photos were likely taken by the glorious Michelle.
Sure, every restaurant may have a maggot-filled dish called Insect Story, and what’s a Chinese restaurant without a Jacopetti-inspired Monkey Head offering (even if it is just a bowl of fried mushrooms).
I don’t know, however, of a single other Beijing restaurant that boasts acquired immune deficiency syndrome sheep placenta soup.
That’s right: AIDS soup, the most improbably-named dish at the inconsolably-named Forgotten Perfume restaurant. The small text opens with the words “A fish sex sweet,” and continues to boast this soup is great for those with “frail body, hepatosplenomegaly, and tuberculosis embolism.”
I’d also like to point out the Ecological Bullfrog Stocking…
and perhaps the meanest fish I’ve come across, the Oriental Sheatfish.
We didn’t eat there, but we were tempted. Anyone else try it out yet?
Lobster and Cheese! Melon! Lemon Tea! Chinese potato chips enter a mad world of flavors… but are they any good? I invited over a dozen wary friends, and put these crisps-of-amazement to the AsiaObscura taste test…
Oishi Melon Flavor Corn Curls
Baked, not fried! 14 minerals and vitamins! 0g Trans Fats! The box screams how healthy these chips are. The audience screamed, too. One taster actually vomited. Just a little. “God, that’s disgusting!” “It’s like a dry sponge from Lush Cosmetics!” Existing somewhere between perfume-flavored and watermelon bubble gum, these bizarre penne-shaped curls were unforgettably awful.
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Asia’s newest Hello Kitty restaurant, Dreams Hello Kitty, may not be open yet, but it’s getting reeeeeal close. We snuck inside for a few sweet pix before getting ousted…
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Found this fellow in an alleyway behind my house the other day, roasting corn on the side of the road.
“What’s this machine called?” I asked. I was amazed, watching him flip the cobs from one tube to another, moving them closer and further from the flame below. Constantly he was rolling the tubes, handling the cooked corn with discarded husks.
He took a while to register the stupidity of the question, before answering, “It’s a roast corn machine.” (烤玉米机) Ah.
His awesomely rusty roast corn machine was screwed on top of a large beat-up tricycle, and powered by sticks of wood and wheels of coal.
“I built it himself,” he said. Not surprising — the chimney on the top of the machine was clearly banged together from spare bits of scrap metal. He sells 200 or more ears a day, he said, with a massive bag of uncooked ears at his feet. At 4 RMB a pop (60 cents), he sold 10 or 15 while we stood there.
It finally happened. We ordered the horse sashimi.
“You want what?” said the waiter, unsure.
“Horse meat,” I slurred in Chinese, that last bottle of sake harming my already-poor pronunciation. “Raw horse meat.”
The waiter looked at WooLand, who wasn’t listening, and then at me, and he finally shrugged and wrote it down. Clearly this wasn’t a dish foreigners often ordered.
马肉刺身 (Mǎròu cìshēn) is apparently a delicacy in Japan, and I’d long been dreaming of ordering it here. It’s served up sliced thin like carpaccio, with mashed ginger and scallions and onions and soy sauce. There, it’s called basashi (馬刺し).
Back home in the States, however, it’s completely illegal. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Senator, has been working with The Humane Society to make sure no-one enjoys a nice plate of mare. His latest bill, pushing it further, will see that no more “children’s ponies are inhumanely transported and slaughtered, their meat shipped to places like France, Italy, and Japan for human consumption.”
Good thing I wasn’t in France, Italy or Japan!
Here in Beijing, the plate arrived an hour later, the steed gorgeously laid out with thin slices of garlic riding it like little sashimi cowboys.
“No horsin’ around here,” WooLand cried, as she carefully lifted a slice. It was a full, deep red. This is the color of meat. In Japan, the meat is called Sakura (桜), or Sakura Meat (桜肉), because it reminds people of cherry blossoms.
It was also chewy. And dripping, almost as if it had been injected with water.
“All the farmers do this,” my friend Little Yellow had told me, a few days earlier. “They inject their animals with water, so they can sell the meat for more money.” Steaks from our local grocery are heavy, but so bloated they can be ripped apart with your hands.
“I don’t think this is done to horse meat, though,” she told me later. “Beef, and pork, but not horse.”
This sliced stallion maybe was a frozen ride. That hour we waited, an hour of defrosting. I didn’t get the feeling this was a dish many people ordered.
We rolled it up tight around the garlic and scallions, and dipped it in soy sauce. Wrapped in so many flavors, like a burrito, the meat was reduced to a delivery mechanism. A thick and chewy tortilla of spicy glory. Maybe Lindsey has it right. Perhaps this is an inhumane use of a healthy children’s pony.
Next time I’ll try the donkey, and see if that’s any better.
Izaka-Ya, 4 Gongti Beilu (across from Rock and Roll Club, in the alley behind the Bookworm), Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
How could you pass this by? That’s advertising, all right!
Unlike I Dismember Mama, that old grindhouse yawner, this Guangzhou 海鲜 palace was as gory as promised. I only wish they’d handed out barf bags like the movie theaters did. This time, they would have actually been useful!
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Pickles Sr, my China-based pa, recently stumbled across this classic headline in the CAAC Inflight Magazine. The CAAC, of course, is the government organ that’s tasked with enforcing “the unified supervision and regulation on the civil aviation activities of the whole country.” Glad that they’re promoting such tasty treats! Now if only the inflight meal had been as interesting (or even as identifiable) as this.