Deep-fried sparrow and fishheads

There’s a well-established vegetarian tradition in China, going back 2000 years, and there are vegetarian restaurants at some of the temples. I only got left to my own devices once, in Shanghai, and went to a restaurant called Godly, one of those which specialises in fake meat. (I’ve got one in the same street as my London flat!) Even though I’d read in the guidebook it was vegetarian and it said on the door it was vegetarian, the meals were just described in terms of what they were impersonating, i.e. shredded chicken, sweet and sour duck, crispy pork, and, weirdly, deep-fried sparrow, which was a little disconcerting. There was also something called a yellow croaker, which I was disappointed to discover was a fish, not frog. (I discovered this because I was told it, not because I tried to eat it. Fake frog is not my idea of food). I’m a firm subscriber to the view that if you’re going to eat meat it is wrong to anthropomorphise what you’re eating and be squeamish, say, about sparrow when you’re absolutely fine with chicken. Frog and snails and unidentifiable entrails are, I guess, a different matter. They just don’t sound good.

In other restaurants it was pretty tricky to find vegan food – most of the tofu dishes had unannounced beef in, for example, and a Sichuan aubergine dish I’d been assured was OK was very tasty until I discovered the lump of pork… The most popular dish in the restaurants is, I’m told, fish heads. Another delicacy is chicken feet. I was in the process of choosing a random selection of sweets from a market stall to take home for the nieces and nephews, when I realised that the little packet I was holding was in fact vacuum-packed chewy feet. I decided not to take a chance on anything else. It could have caused many tears at the family Boxing Day party. I suppose we sell Peperami alongside sweets, which is much the same thing…

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  • Quietzaple  On December 29, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    My ex wife and children found Beijing much the same. They also found Chinese folk pretty racist.

    Much later my ex wife was headhunted from a midlands LEA to act as Principal of a couple of Hong Kong schools.

    She lives on the mainland in a very hospitable village. Her two storey house has
    a flat roof which has various advantages.

    I gather her journey to work begins with a walk. She and the cobras avoid one another.

    I’m glad she found her adventure: I don’t suppose you expect a call from their Party, Kerry?

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