Chinese Giant Salamander – a tasty treat!

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.

Korea’s Dunkin’ Donuts Ruins All the Fun

Imagine a future where donuts come in horrid flavors: carrot, tofu, spinach. Now recognize that the future clearly lives in Korea.  Now imagine how it could be worse…

Yep.  In Korea, they’ve introduced the Broccoli Donut.


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Celebrating Easter in China…

When you’re in a country that doesn’t officially celebrate Easter, like China, sometimes you get nervous.  Will the Easter Bunny get his visa yanked at the last-minute?  Are you sure those chocolate eggs are melamine-free?   Is the holiday even legal here?

Well, we had those same concerns too, but finally decided China’s gonna love Easter!

Good Friday
First, start your Easter right, with a large order of “Holy Fries” for Good Friday.  Weren’t chips Jesus’ favorite snack?  Even if they weren’t, they’ll go great with your Friday fish.

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Lucky Fruit (and Ain’t So Lucky Fish)

Yesterday, these little nectarines showed up at the market. Dyed (branded? scalded? waxed? greased up with dirty stinking chemicals?) with Chinese characters, they read tall (高), shining (照), a thing (事) and happiness (喜).

“No, no, no,” said Echo, a good friend. “You’ve bought the wrong ones, and got them in the wrong order. They should read ‘吉星高照,’ which means ‘good luck.’ It’s an idiom.” (The ones I ended up with, ordered as below, read something like “tall photograph of a happy thing.”)

“Or maybe they’re trying to say ‘喜事高照,'” she mused. “It’s not so correct but it’d still make sense.”

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Soy Sauce Kit Kats (and other awesome flavors)

I was a little confused about the Tokyo airport when I flew through there a few weeks ago. It seemed so… rundown. Ceiling tiles missing, chairs blocking entrances, stores closed. And then I saw this sign. Uh-oh. What had I missed during my media blockout?

Turns out the third reactor was about to go, so I did what any slightly-nervous very-jetlagged consumer might do. I bought Kit Kats. Lots of them.

You probably already know that Kit Kats are the lucky treat in Japan. The local name for them, kitto katto, sounds an awful lot like the pre-exam expression of goodwill, “kitto katsu,” which means “win without fail.” (Sweep the leg, Johnny!) So they’ve got a lot of them. Before every exam, everyone gives out kit kats. Woo tells me there are 80 200 different flavors.

Sadly, Narita only had six. But I bought them all. Continue reading “Soy Sauce Kit Kats (and other awesome flavors)”

Blood Hair Strength Stew

When they heard I’d never tried 毛血旺 (maoxuewang) Stew, my coworkers were horrified. Absolutely aghast. “What, you have to try it! You’d love it! It’s my favorite dish,” said Ginger.  “In English, it means ‘Blood Hair Strength.'”  Oh, I knew I’d like this.

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Kyrgyzstan things

In China, I adore the “foreign” vs “domestic” duality. I’m not sure that it’s any more skewed than our own is, but it’s definitely different. My girlfriend, for example, is a Bostonian, several generations back. But because she looks Chinese (and, three generations ago, her family was), here she’s Chinese. Just speaks her native tongue really poorly.

Meanwhile, the foreign is so confusing. In a village I spend time in, there’s a foreigner everyone knows as “The Thai.” He’s not actually from Thailand, but he’s lived there. And, unlike the country he actually comes from, the villagers know where Thailand is, and how to say it.

In that vein, here’s an ad for Kyrgyzstani churros I found in Tianjin this weekend. Presumably Mexico is too far, too foreign (maybe even unknown?) in Tianjin.

(Are churros even Mexican? Maybe they’re from Sacramento, or Kyrgyzstan, and the joke’s on me!)

Deep Fried Little Fishies

All the upscale restaurants I’ve been to in Hong Kong love giving you this gratis (well, gratis until the bill comes… maybe “unannounced”?) bowl of deep fried fishies and peanuts. And OMG, fantasticness.

This bowl comes from Fu Sing Restaurant, and showed up on the bill included in an HK$18 add-on. “$18? What’s this for?” I asked the waiter. He looked around the table. “Sauces, peanuts, tea.” “But I didn’t have any sauces or tea.” “Water.” Hrm.

I love this emptied bowl with just a few eyes left over…

Fish Head in Hong Kong

I’m generally an adventurous eater, but this time… well… I was frankly completely unable to handle this.

I didn’t even know where to start! The waiters here, at Lok Sau Sun (1-5 Takshing Road, Hong Hong), didn’t speak enough English for me to communicate my questions, so I ended up fudging it, and prowling the restaurant for wifi. Finally I found a google result: “how to eat fish head.”

I didn’t enjoy it. A few bites (maybe it was the brain? the cheek?) were great, but I was still disgusted. I picked what meat I could from the bones, fighting nausea, and really had to struggle.

The Most Divine Piece of Sushi

This was something I’ve never seen before. I found it in Hakone, a small mountain town. (Across the road from 7-11. Sliding slat door, with no windows.) Maybe the roll was called Namaji Rasu, and maybe it’s called Shirasu. But either way, it was incredible, deliciously sweet, and so unbelievably weird.

Tiny fishies, with big eyes, piled into a rolled piece of nigiri. So entirely straight-from-Star-Wars, and so one-of-a-kind. The chef handed it to me unexpectedly, after he discovered I wasn’t a Russian.