Spicy duck neck

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People in Lanzhou sure seem to like duck. There is a little duck shop in almost every street selling spicy roasted duck. Now I’m not talking about a whole one like in Beijing, but about odd ends like tongues, heads and necks. Surprisingly nobody seems to care about the breasts. One of my student’s moms gave me a bag of spicy duck necks. It’s almost as if she’d read my blog.

I was quite apprehensive I must admit. Not because I don’t like duck, I do, but because I knew it was going to be all bones, and I don’t enjoy gnawing for meat. Does that make me a picky eater, or is it the opposite? Low and behold, there were a lot of bones. Something’s got to hold up old duckface after all. However, it was actually quite easy to get a bit of meat off of it, and plenty of it. The meat had a nice chewy texture, but was still soft and the spice gave it just the right amount of kick.

Fear Factor: 3 – Taste Test – 8

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Chicken feet

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One of the first things I noticed in the supermarkets and restaurants in China was the astonishing amount of chicken feet for sale. At the time it grossed me out completely, but now seven years on I was ready to bite the bullet. The things I do for my blog.

I always knew I wasn’t going to like it, simply because I don’t enjoy eating meat on the bone and these chicken feet are pretty much all bone and no meat. That’s why I was happy to see a bowl of chicken feet coming round to my table on a conveyor belt hot pot restaurant. At least I could take just one instead of having to pay for an entire plate.

Once it was cooked I took hold and started to nibble. That soon stopped. There wasn’t really anything to nibble on. I was merely scraping of limp skin or cartilage of the bones with my teeth. Now I do enjoy some chicken skin when it’s crispy, but this flaccid thing just made me shudder.

Fear Factor – 7 / Taste Test – 1

Crispy broad bean snack

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I have written before about crispy peas that are a popular snack here in China, especially in bars. Well now, say hello to the crispy pea’s bigger brother the crisp broad bean. They are sold in a variety of flavors at the supermarket and today I went for a beefy one.

These crispy broad beans make for just as much of a great snack as their baby brothers. They’re crunchy to the core, which is ideal for munching, and they’re big enough to eat one by one making one bag stretch a bit longer. There isn’t really any taste of beans, in case you don’t like beans. Instead there is a lingering salty beefy flavor that one might mistake for a bouillon cube. I mean that in the nicest way.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Mulberry juice

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I have written about mulberries before. They’re a berry that resembles as an elongated blackberry, or even a raspberry and grows both in Europe and Asia and even some parts of America. Since writing that blog entry I’ve eaten my fair share of them, but I had yet to try out their juice. I bought a bottle pf mulberry juice at a local shop and was surprised to find it to actually taste like real juice, and not some overly sweetened manufactured bottled juice surrogate. The juice, just like the fruit itself, had a deep earthy flavor. It was slightly sweet, and also slightly sour, but the earthiness had the overtone.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Foie gras ice cream

 

imageI recently had to go on a business trip to Shanghai, and that’s always a great opportunity for me to let my inner foodie loose. There are so many great restaurants both western and Chinese, and I managed to visit a few that were still on my to-do-list. There was one though I had been to before, but I just had to go back to .

Pree is the custom made ice-cream parlor where I previously tried truffle and Sichuan pepper ice-cream. I was in luck as this time around there were a few new flavors to try out. One of the more unusual ones that caught my attention was a foie gras gras and fig flavored one. Now I was pretty sure that foie and fig would make a great combination, but as a desert?

It turned out to be one of the best ice-cream I have ever had the pleasure of eating. As before the texture was divine, smooth and creamy. On first bite a big hit of alcohol warmed my whole inside. It was a sweet, raisin-like alcohol such as perhaps sherry or brandy. Foie gras mousse is often prepared with a fortified alcohol, so that does make sense. The fresh fig and the fig syrup added to the sweet profile, but where was the foe gras? Honestly I would never have guessed it was foie had I not known, even though there was an ever so slight savory undertone. Did I mind that? Not at all. It was still one of the best ice-creams of my life, and trust me I eat a lot of ice-cream in a year.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 9

Chinese savory cakes

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I found these weird looking little boxes at the supermarket containing all kinds of strange candies. There were five flavors: green beans, osmanthus flower, chestnut, water chestnut and taro. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, so I decided to select a sample of all five. I wanted to get the worst one out of the way first, and went with the green beans.

I was in for a surprise and in for a shock. What I put in my mouth was as strange as an everlasting gobstopper by Willy Wonka. Out of the package came a small block that turned to powder as soon as I bit into it. The powder then turned into a paste on contact with my saliva. From solid to powder to liquid in a manner of seconds. It was unusual to say the least.

I did not like the flavor of the green bean one at all, and just about spat it out. Most of the other ones were not as bad, because they had a sweet hint besides being savory. However, that savory note was still there, and the textures were simply not enjoyable for me.

Fear Factor 2 – Taste Test – 3

Mooncakes

 

IMG_7730Mooncakes come around in China once a year to celebrate the coming of autumn. During the Mid Autumn Festival people go out of their way to pick up a box of these beautifully decorated pastries with either a sweet or a savory filling. Traditional fillings include red bean bean, salted egg yolk, pork, rose petal and nuts.

I received a box of mixed mooncakes from my employer and was a bit hesitant, as I haven’t eaten many mooncakes that I actually like. Somehow I always end up with the savory ones. This time, however, I asked a friend to translate the ingredients, and kept the ones I felt were safe to eat.

The pastry itself was rich and crumbly like any buttery pastry in a Parisian shop. I tried a number of different fillings and thoroughly enjoyed some of them. A highlight was the snow pear, lily and wolfberry centered cake, which was sweet with a hint of freshness. I also loved the more modern ones such as the mango and coconut mooncakes. Unfortunately I also bit into a white bean moon cake, which was less desirable, bringing the overall score down to a seven. Better luck next year.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 7

Sugar cane juice

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In Guangzhou, a major city in the south of China, I often see street vendor slinging freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. The last time I went there I bought bottle to try. Sugar cane is obviously used to make sugar, so I imagined this drink to be super sweet. This, however, was not the case. Sure, it was sweet, but no sweeter than any other fruit juice. It tasted a little “grassy” to me. Makes sense, I guess, as I believe sugar cane officially is a sort of grass.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

Gold leaf matcha ice-cream

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A new matcha green tea dessert shop opened up the other week at a shopping mall in town and I made a visit to do some research for my blog, or actually I just wanted to eat ice-cream. I case you were unaware, I like ice-cream. Green tea, now that’s still a little unusual to me, but I’ve grown to like it. Actually the matcha ice-cream is not the reason I’m posting this. It’s the big leaf of edible gold that they put on top. I mean, who eats gold.

Eating gold is not something you see every day, but it does happen. Mostly in fine dining desserts, and sometimes in a drink. I’ve had some small pieces of gold before on a truffle ice-cream, but this was a much bigger piece. As I went in for a bit, and my lips touched the leaf of gold, I could actually feel the texture of it, which I didn’t feel before. There is not flavor to it though, it’s purely for decorative reasons. Or decadent reasons if you prefer. The ice-cream itself by the way was perfectly balanced between bitter and sweet. Definitely one of the better green tea desserts I’ve tried.

Fear Factor 0 – Taste Test – 7

Hawthorn Fanta

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I’ve written before about hawthorn, a berry-like fruit that grows around the globe, but is mostly popular in Asia. In China this sweet fruit is often turned into candy. Recently Fanta developed a hawthorn flavored drink for the Chinese market that I was dying to try.

The drink looked different from regular Fanta in that it was colored red. Of course it also tasted different, otherwise what’s the point. This Fanta was a little sweeter and not as sour as regular Fanta can be. In fact I found it a bit sickly sweet, not sugary though, just naturally sweet. I’m not quite sure what would compare well. Perhaps if it was possible to juice a date you would come close. It wasn’t exactly bad tasting, I just didn’t enjoy it much either.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6