Do Duck Tongues Really Have Bones? and Other Food Discoveries from Kunming, China

Duck Tongues

Monday night I went back to my stir-fry bar to watch the cook. I had recently learned the characters for duck tongue ( 鸭舌, yā shé), saw it on the menu and decided to give it a try.  I was surprised how big a duck tongue is: about three inches long and shaped like a narrow sling shot. They must give you the whole lower jaw.

Which leads to the question, just how do you eat a duck tongue? At first I gnawed at it tentatively, trying not to eat what seemed like bone. But the more I gnawed the more aggressive I got, ultimately crunching down the whole thing. A crispy plate of stir-fried lotus complemented the duck nicely.

Roasted Tofu

Shāo Dòufu (烧豆腐) roasted tofu, prepared by many street side vendors, are small tofu squares toasted over hot coals. I stopped at one of the vendors in front of a small restaurant and watched her tend the morsels, turning them frequently with chopsticks to prevent them from burning.

Buying a few to sample turned out to require a lengthy discussion. I still have no idea what she was trying to tell me. Another customer tried to help with the transaction. I got that I could get ten squares for four yuan, but the rest…? In the end she had me sit down in the restaurant.

A few singles on their way home from work were eating rice dishes. I waited and waited, watching them eat while the woman sold more and more finished squares to other takeout customers. Finally her regulars dwindled down and she served me a plate of ten squares and a side of a seasoned chili salt. Fresh hot they were slightly crisp on the outside with a mild soft center. A tasty snack if you can speak better Chinese or afford the wait.

Husband and Wife Sliced Lung

Fūqī fèi piàn 夫妻肺片. Husband and wife sliced lung is a popular Sichuan cold dish. In typical Sichuan style it is heavy on the là  辣 and má  麻, meaning spicy hot and mouth numbing from the Sichuan pepper. According to Wikipedia, despite the name beef lung is actually rarely used, instead a variety of beef offal and other cuts of meat are substituted. I can’t really say what I ate but it was made with plenty of fresh Sichuan pepper and garnished with an orchid. Pretty fancy for the sparse concrete-block dining room.

Dining with Friends

Thursday we (me a two other students, yay!) went back to the restaurant with the tables over-looking the street. Similar to last week, it was great fun to be able to spend more time with the menu, discussing it with others and ordering more dishes.

At the server’s suggestion we ended up with the classic sweet and sour pork (isn’t that what all westerns like?),  a shrimp dish – tiny shrimp about ½ inch long with shells tender enough to chew up and swallow, hollow heart greens, and a spicy “diced” (dīng,丁)chicken dish. Diced is a relative term. It really mean hacked up in small pieces, splintered bones and all. Gotta love China!

September 8, 2011

For links to all the posts in this series see the Kunming page.

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