pass the eyeballs, please
Suzhou Travel Blog› entry 11 of 14 › view all entries
Unfortunately, our stay in Suzhou was strictly business and we'll be leaving this afternoon by train to Shanghai for the night. Tomorrow, Friday, we'll fly down to Shenzhen then drive over to the scene of the crime, Dongguan, to hopefully pick up my passport/visa at the PSB.
Last night was the final night all four of us would be together in China so Nelson took us out for a Beijing duck dinner--it's not called Peking duck, because, well, Beijing hasn't been called Peking in many years, so only westerners refer to it that way--at Quan Ju De, a restaurant that is the most famous in China for the dish. The original restaurant in Beijing is 150 years old but this branch looks like it's about 10 or 15 years old and decorated in Chinese kitch. Chinese restaurants are generally short on ambiance but long on food and this one was no exception.
When we entered the restaurant we smelled the wood fired ovens used to cook the duck and saw several of them hung on hooks ready to be served. We sat down and ordered a round of Snow Beer, which is brewed in Nelson's hometown of...something-or-other, in the far northeast section of China that borders Russia and North Korea. Frankly, the three kinds of Chinese beer we've tried have all tasted like Budweiser, but with the right company and food it's been great. As usual, Nelson did the ordering and, as usual, he did a great job. I wish I could accurately describe the dishes we had but they have all been so different than anything I've ever seen in America that I'm not sure I could do it justice.
One of the dishes was some kind of pickled egg that turned the egg white to an oddly flavored gelatine and the yolk to an equally oddly, but different, flavored soft...yolk. It's prepared by encasing the egg in clay, then straw, and buried in the ground for two weeks and it tastes like it. It's been one of the only things I've eaten in two weeks, and I've eaten some pretty strange things, that I had a hard time swallowing after I got it into my mouth. And yet Brian loved them. Shrimp are most often served whole, including the head and shells, and Chinese believe that eating the shells is good for strong bones. On smaller shrimp it's not too much of a problem to just pinch off the heads and eat the rest, shell and all, but on larger ones I had to pick the shells out of my mouth.
Our duck looked beautiful, with dark carmel colored skin, and the neck and head still attached. It was the most delicious fowl dish I've ever had and the skin was ridiculously rich with fat. The server put down what seemed like the twentieth dish and I asked Nelson what it was. It looked like a small pastry, about the size of two little fingers, but Nelson said it was eyeballs. We're all looking at Nelson like, um.........what? I said, eyeballs?? Yah, yah, eyeballs. I thought, well, I've had chicken feet, I might as well go for the duck eyes, after all, they're wrapped in a nice looking pastry. Again I asked Nelson if I'd heard him right and again he said, yah, eyeballs. So he passed one over to me and before taking the plunge, I looked at him, pointed to my eyes and said, eyeballs?? He stared at me as if the words hadn't quite made it past his ears and into his brain for processing, but when they finally did, he burst out laughing. No, no, apppp les, apples. Phew.