Chicken feet. Eel. Pigeon. It’s barely been three days since I landed in China, and I’ve already had the pleasure of tasting these delicacies.
They’re not new to me — I’ve had them before. Eel usually comes in a dark brown sauce with scallions sprinkled on top. But yesterday, the eel I had for lunch was served with bacon and lima beans.
Each time I make my annual summer trip, China seems to have more surprises for me. My welcome dinner was presented atop a lazy susan at a countryside restaurant in Taicang, located in the Jiangsu province, just north of Shanghai. Many restaurants in China use fancy lazy susans, or tables with round glass trays in the middle. Diners take turns rotating the tray in order to reach the dishes.
As I sat at the lazy susan table, one of my hosts gestured over at the neighboring tureen, filled with small, circular shellfish marinated in some sort of blood-red sauce. My host smiled and told me to have one; “a must-try,” he said. I picked up a spoon, but after looking closer, I saw that it wasn’t shellfish. It was snails.
In China, to refuse — even politely — would be considered rude. I scooped a single snail and plopped it into my bowl. I’d never had snails before; aren’t they supposed to be a French delicacy? It took me a full five minutes of observing other snail experts around the table and sucking on my own snail to get the meat out. Chewy, but not bad. Not bad at all.