Lunchtime in Shanghai. My Swiss flatmate and I wandered around our little local neighborhood before being ushered into a ‘restaurant’ (I’m not sure it’d be classified as a restaurant by Western standards) by a Chinese couple. The menu was, of course, all in Chinese. And no, not with pictures, where you can point at the pretty dishes and know what to expect. So, after managing to communicate that we wanted chicken, we waited. A little gas pit was turned on on our table. Seconds later, a big pan with bubbling sauce emerged from the (very authentic, by which I mean grimy) kitchen and was set on the flames. Small bowls of onions, salad, beans and carrots followed, and were swiped into the pan. While it prattled away softly, the Swiss and I armed ourselves with chopsticks and set-out to discover what it was that we had ordered.
Chickens feet. Still covered in its fat skin and drenched in sauce.
I giggled nervously as I wondered how to eat these little mysteries with its bones and nails sticking out. Our Chinese host offered us a cigarette, tapped on my bowl and, with a huge grin on his face, told me to eat. So I did. Halfway through my first little piece (I can only assume it was a joint, it didn’t have any toes), I concluded that it’s easier to put the whole thing in my mouth and spit out the bones than try to nibble around them. They were delicious. The broth/sauce in which they sat was salty and flavorsome, the vegetables soft, and the rice white and fluffy. The meat (when you could find some, there’s not much of it on feet) was fatty and easy to tear off the bones. One word: Yum.
I think my flatmate and I will continue to frequent random street shops and order in our broken Chinese. We might get another pleasant surprise. Fried snake, perhaps?