Sunday, 10 May 2009

Duck Head Delight

Monday night I went for dinner with one of the teachers from my school. Unfortunately, we went to hotpot, which people are crazy about in northern China, but I’m not. Annoyingly, I forgot my camera, although when I tell you what we were served some of you might be quite glad.

At hotpot you get a big bowl of spicy or bland broth, which is kept hot throughout the meal by a gas ring built into the table. You then order a selection of meats, vegetables, tofu and noodles which are delivered to your table uncooked. You then pop them all in, wait for them to cook and then fish out the morsels you fancy. I’ve eaten hot pot in a large group and it can get quite viciously competitive.

Even more unfortunately what I at first took to be delicious juicy ribs lining the bottom of the hot pot dish, turned out to be duck heads. Neatly halved, they were like anatomical specimens showing beak, tongue and brain.

I looked to my companion for some idea as to how I could eat it without doing like the people around us who were gleefully biting at the heads, sucking off the brain and flesh. Her duck head however was sitting untouched on her plate so I decided to use my own initiative. As I teased a bit of skin from around the eye socket, wherein still lurked a braised gelatinous mass, my stomach lurched. I had finally met my match.

Thankfully she didn’t seem too put out about it, although this being China I feel that I could probably have mortally offended her and she would still have smiled at me all night before going home to stick needles in my effigy. She claimed that she didn’t like duck heads either, and that she didn’t realise that it was duck head as it just said on the ordering sheet that it was the ‘house speciality’, but really, who knows?

The more edible portion of the meal consisted of mutton strips, mushrooms, some sort of turnip like tuber, weird gelatinous potato starch noodles and hand stretched noodles.

You also get a bowl of pale brown goop to dip your food it, but as with the slimy, eating-a-jelly-fish-like potato starch noodles, this is not a favourite of mine so I ate my hotpot picks naked. Because I’m a perverse foreigner, my favourite part of the meal was the cheap filler at the end, the hand stretched noodles. It seems that the more expensive Chinese food gets, the more vile it becomes.

During our conversation, I found out that my companion had wanted to be an accountant after she left university, but at that time in China you weren’t allowed to choose your own job, instead the state assigned you one. Luckily for her, she enjoys teaching!


  1. All I can say is, eeeeew! :o

  2. J, I for one am very glad that you forgot your camera! Though your ability to describe is pretty damn good. Unfortunately!!! ;-)

    (a book is on its way)

  3. Oh goodness, if I lived there I would be super skinny ... huhhhh, come to think of it, could be a place to have a perfect diet!

  4. Hello dear J

    Your blog is very cool and wowwwwww so exciting life you have! I mean living in this land so far away "China"!!!!
    You are very kind and I would like to thank your visit to my blog!

    Would you like to learn "Catese"? LOL
    Just kidding!Sometimes I teach my mommy Léia how to speak my "mother language - catese". She is able so say now some different kind of "meows"! It's funny indeed!

    Have a nice week!Regards from Brazil...
    ( and mommy Léia )

  5. Hi J, thanks for dropping by ! Hope by now you have found a toaster... hmmm, if you had a toaster, you could have toasted duck heads in the morning for breakfast... what a story you wrote here ! Hmm, I think I'm sticking to crispy duck...

  6. I'm not a huge fan of hotpot either but oh my I love that "brown goop!" ha It's a great peanuty brown sauce that I find quite delicious as different articles of food are dipped into it! :) For me, hotpot is all about the I order plates of rolled up beef and pork and don't eat much else. ha