Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Exotic Guangdong food
Guangdong province (in which Guangzhou is located) has this reputation for exotic foods, where pretty much anything that creeps, crawls or moves is fair game. Last Monday, Kem, Z and I were invited to a Christmas dinner for their company, which took place at a local "hot pot" restaurant, the hot-pot referring to a boiling mini-cauldron on the middle of each table, that is periodically filled with meat, vegetables and other fare.
As one enters the place, there is a corner which looks like an aquarium, with a variety of fish, shellfish, crabs, lobster, octopi, frogs, and ... yep ... as you can see above ... snakes (I don't know if the 48 yuan price-tag was for an individual slitherer, or the lot.)
We sat at one of the tables, where I was introducd to several co-workers of Kem's, and a few factory workers as well (again, it was quite nice to see no evidence of any classism, with white-collar and blue-collar workers sitting at the same table). As soon as we sat down, a couple of Kem's co-workers gestured at me, said something, and made the sign of the Cross. "They want you to say grace." I promptly obliged, a little surprised though.
As much as the food was a curiosity to us (and quite delicious, at least the things we were bold enough to partake of), I believe the bigger curiosity were we ourselves. One got used to the stares (particularly since, at 6'3", I tower over pretty much 80% of the country, I would guess). The bigger surpise came half-way through the meal, when a couple of metal containers appeared on the table, which turned out to contain live prawns and crabs, which were then dumped into the boiling hot pot. A particularly enterprising crustacean managed to escape for a bit, causing much commotion around the table, only to be caught and sent to its infernal fate.
I have to say, Z, being a vegetarian, stomached all this a lot better than I did, much to my chagrin. I didn't eat too much after that! I guess it's one thing to eat beef, and another to encounter the cow at the table!
The picture below was taken in downtown Guangzhou the next day, showing a line of rather appetizing looking roast duck. Oh well, all squeamishness aside, I'm still a confirmed carnivore!