Gorgeously Gory Paintings in a Burmese Temple

Most people visit Ananda Phaya to see the massive gold Buddha. I’m not surprised: it’s remarkable.

But hidden in a side-alcove, propped up in the ceiling, I couldn’t help noticing a series of paintings. Gloriously gore-filled paintings of demons wreaking havoc on mortals: boulders rolling over bloody victims, body parts dangling from coatracks, quartered corpses splayed out for crows, body part littering slabs of tile.

What was this?

Continue reading “Gorgeously Gory Paintings in a Burmese Temple”

Beijing’s Single Most Horrific Meal

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.

“Do you have any regular food,” I asked, nervous. Continue reading “Beijing’s Single Most Horrific Meal”

On Eating “Old Beijing Fried Enema”

“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.”

It wasn’t.

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.

On Eating a Steaming Hot Bowl of Sweet AIDS Soup

“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.

And this was what I’d come for. Continue reading “On Eating a Steaming Hot Bowl of Sweet AIDS Soup”

Castration Classes at the Beijing Eunuch Culture Exhibition Hall

The first time I ever met The Professor, he told me about the eunuch museum. He didn’t say much. Just that there was one. In West Beijing.

“You really should go,” he said. “It’s… well, it’s interesting.” He adjusted his glasses the way a professor should, but he wouldn’t say more.

A few weeks later, I found myself staring through smudged plexiglas at the only remaining inhabitant of the Beijing Eunuch Culture Exhibition Hall. He was, of course, dead.

Covered by an imperial yellow sheet, this junkless monk apparently died of lead poisoning. 400 years later, he was dug up and stuck in a case. His name wasn’t recorded, but I doubt it was Tian Yi.

Tian Yi (田以) was the most famous Chinese eunuch that ever lived. He served a series of three Emperors, and carried his genitals in a jug. His 1605 funeral was insane: the government shut for days, hundreds of eunuchs attended, and he was buried like a king. And just like any other Chinese royal, his grave was robbed.

“I’m too scared,” said a Chinese teenage girl. “Can you come with me?” Continue reading “Castration Classes at the Beijing Eunuch Culture Exhibition Hall”

Nazi Fashion in China

That’s twice I’ve seen guys on my street wearing the Nazi iron cross.

The first was an office worker on lunch break. He was dressed in a handsome suit, but in place of a tie wore a heavy Nazi cross. He saw me staring, and he smiled. I think he thought it looked dapper. The second passed in a blur, but his iron cross was mounted in his suit like a boutonnière. But what’s an iron cross? Just an accessory, a small fashionable touch. It’s nothing like the full Korean nazis we’d met in Seoul.

But it’s a start.

I thought I’d take a glance at China’s top shopping site Taobao, and see what else I could find for the budding Beijing Nazi. (Tomorrow is, after all, Hitler’s 123rd birthday.)

The most popular is the must-have $12 Nazi iPhone4 cover, in your choice of slick distressed styles…

See more after the jump Continue reading “Nazi Fashion in China”

Philadelphia CheeseSteak Ice Cream

“That’s possibly the worst idea I’ve ever heard.”

Michelle didn’t use these words lightly. She didn’t say this when I’d suggested we fly across the country to a park staffed by 108 dwarfs, or we hand-feed live animals to hungry tigers, or we train to become professional taxidermists.

But evidently Michelle has her limits, too.

She draws a line at Philadelphia Cheesesteak Ice Cream.

We were about to watch Rambocky X, the legendary double-feature pairing of Rocky VI and Rambo IV. (You know: “When a 60-something fighter comes out of retirement for one last bout, who knows how it’s going to end?!! Well tonight, It Ends Twice!!! That’s right: Rocky & Rambo each wage a sexagenarian battle that could be a fight to the DEATH!!!”)

To accompany this back-to-muscled-back 191 minutes of awesomeness, I’d made avocado ice cream, mango sorbet, and Thai rice ice cream. But those flavors only represented Rambo IV, Thailand and Burma. They left nothing for poor Rocky VI, Philadelphia’s favorite pug.

So I had to fix the situation. And the remedy seemed to be CheeseSteak Ice Cream.

“Why don’t you just make Rocky Road?” Michelle demanded.

“Because that’s not Philly. Philly is cheesesteaks! We need something Rocky would eat.”

I Googled, but Google insisted there was no such thing. There were no recipes, or precedents. This was uncharted territory. I was an explorer. I was a fighter. I felt like Rambocky himself!

{Cue training montage}

I sliced up blood-red chunks of tenderloin.

Sautee’d them in a splash of olive oil, then cooked them in a pool of Karo.

Shredded two-tone cheddar, and a few tablespoons of cream.

Minced candied & cooled tenderloin.

“This is going to be a disaster,” Michelle warned before she went to bed. Okay, she didn’t actually say those words, but I could feel them. Had she voiced her thought, she would have added, “A disaster of historic proportions.”

I nodded, furiously mixing and stirring. There was no way this was going wrong. It was too important.

And it went right. Oh how right it went.

Nuggets of sharp cheddar cheese mixed with crunches of sweet beef, all settled in a gorgeous Philly-style ice cream base. I took a bite, and gasped. “Spectacular,” I announced, even though Michelle had long since fallen asleep. I took another bite. “AMAZING!” She still didn’t wake up. Oh, well.

Granted, it was weird. But it was also something like the greatest weird taste sensation of all time. It was Americana. It was Sweet Jeez! It was glorious.

Except for a cheesesteak itself, I don’t think there could be anything better than this.

So here’s the recipe…. Continue reading “Philadelphia CheeseSteak Ice Cream”

The Creepiest Amusement Park of All Time?

Singapore is bland. It’s a high-priced row of shopping malls and fine eateries, with a few hawker markets thrown in. “It’s soooooo boring,” warned my hairdresser Miss P.

But then you stumble on something like this. The Tiger Balm Gardens: The most disturbing theme park of all time.

There’s sex, violence, bear-maulings and scabies. Statues of slutty immoral crotch-grabbing wenches, and creepy animals dressed as humans. Down a dark musty cave, a terrifying tableaux displays every vengeance that awaits you in the hell you’ll surely meet. Continue reading “The Creepiest Amusement Park of All Time?”

On Horse Meat Sashimi

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
北京朝阳区工体北路4号

This Strange Collector Has 1,000 Pairs of Shoes (and a Fetish for Foot Binding)

Yang Shaorong lives in a small Shanghai apartment. He collects women’s shoes. Tiny shoes. Shoes for bound feet.

“That’s horrible,” said the publisher of my magazine, when I mentioned Yang the collector to him. “It’s a disturbing part of Chinese history.”

I was confused. I didn’t really know much about them, or why he was so upset. So I did some reading. And the more I learned, the more nauseous I became. Continue reading “This Strange Collector Has 1,000 Pairs of Shoes (and a Fetish for Foot Binding)”

Dismember Live Seafood in a Chinese Restaurant

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! Continue reading “Dismember Live Seafood in a Chinese Restaurant”

This Chinese Temple is Filled with Insanely Disturbing Sculptures

A few weeks ago, I posted about the Incredible Taoist Gods — cool court officers tasked with enforcing rules of life and the afterlife.

Well, to further display how far traditional Taoism strays from the mystical romance of the Tao Te Ching, here are some of the darker views of the Taoist “Way.”

Continue reading “This Chinese Temple is Filled with Insanely Disturbing Sculptures”

Vodka Bottles Taxidermied Into Mice

Now that we have our Chinese taxidermy certificates, Woo and I needed to get stuffing.

A woman in Qingdao, after hours of discussions, agreed to send a friend to Beijing with a box of frozen rats.  He took the all-night bus, and showed up with a dripping styrofoam box.  “I got confused, and lost, and they melted a little,” he said. Continue reading “Vodka Bottles Taxidermied Into Mice”

Why Chinese Pharmacies Sell Dried Sea Horses

Sea horse makes for a terrible nasty meal.  Little sharp bits get caught in the teeth, the gums, and there’s a nauseating salt taste to it.  Plus, they just look weird.  Like little bone beasts.

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Most of China disagrees with me, though.  Here, they’re as popular as ginseng.  And just like ginseng, they’re used to enhance a man’s… well, virility.  They also reinforce the kidneys’ yang, I’m told.

As the raunchy old Guangxi saying goes:

“Eating sea horses keeps that 80-year-old granddaddy young.”
“Chang chi haima, bashi gonggong lao lai shao.”
“常吃海马,八十公公老来少。”

One legendary fan of them (they’re fishes, you know!) was Emperor Tangminghuang, one of the most popular emperors of China. He ruled from 712 to 756, and drank sea horse-infused liquor in his later years. This was hundreds of years ago, of course, but the fish remains a bestselling tonic.

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Professor Lu Yannian, who works at a Chinese O.A.P. research facility, recommends it for middle-aged couples looking to spice up their sex life.

Neil Zhong, an overseas Chinese, buys his sea horses in Hong Kong and then eats them in the UK. He looks 30.  He is 50.

“Exercise and sea horse wine are my secrets,” he laughs.

Every night he drinks a small glass of top-shelf whiskey, with the sea horses in the bottle.  After the last pour, he chews up the fish. It’s salty, and has the consistency of squid, but these fish will costs up to US$750 a kilo.

Others will cook it into a soup with pork and dates–like Woo and I tried–or stew it with pig’s kidneys. It might be best, though, just to take it ground into a powder, then served in capsule form.

Also, I hear it’s not a fast cure.  Dr. Tang Shulan says, “This isn’t Viagra. It’s a tonic. You have to take it regularly, and don’t expect to see effects in a short time.”

Dr. Bai Xiaofeng bought four, ate them, and saw no effect at all. “Rich people can afford more,” he said, “but I can’t.”

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Sea horses are not only expensive, they’re also at risk: it’s reported that 20 million a year are sold for TCM purposes alone. They’re protected in China, and only legal when farmed—not when caught in the wild. So before you stay up all night doing coke and sea horses, stop and think about it.

Maybe you should try ants instead.

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)”

Why Some Chinese People Still Eat Fried Worms

Just like the baijiu-soaked deer penis, earthworms are a legendarily royal remedy here in China.  They’re not even called worms, but something far more royal: Earth Dragons (地龙).

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It all started with Emperor Taizu of the Song Dynasty, who ruled China from 960 to 976. Apparently, he had a wretched case of shingles. All of the royal physicians were baffled and no one could find a cure.

No one, that is, except a simple folk doctor.  He plucked a couple of earthworms — sorry, earth *dragons* — from the ground, moistened them with honey and sugar, and left them on a plate to melt in the sun. Gross, I know, but bear with me. Continue reading “Why Some Chinese People Still Eat Fried Worms”

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.

Continue reading “Blood Hair Strength Stew”