Three hundred and sixty

I had to go to Chinatown today to get a follow-up ultrasound from my kidney infection and ovarian cyst fiasco three months ago, so I thought I’d take a few photos while I was there.  Chinatown is just so interesting and colourful.  And that section of Toronto played a few roles during Out of My Comfort Zone month (those pig’s feet were really not that bad, although I can still remember our server asking us repeatedly if we were sure that’s what we wanted to order!).

“Chinatown”

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One hundred and sixty-six

Food Fridays

Pig’s feet, beef tripe and tongue – dinner in Chinatown

“Are you sure?” says our server at King’s Noodle Restaurant on Spadina.  “Yes, I want number 32 and number 82.”  She walks away, then returns.  “Are you sure?”  She looks skeptical.  “Yep.  I want to try something different.”

My friend and I are sitting at a round communal table in the middle of the restaurant with three solo male diners.  The man across from us is Chinese and, like the server, is amused by our order.  Pig’s feet with noodle soup arrives on the table.  Our new amigo across the table says it has the texture of jelly.  I dive right in.  At least they don’t really look like pig’s feet.

Pig's feet with noodle soup

They aren’t that bad.  Very salty and fatty, and do sort of have a jelly-like texture, but pretty tasty.  The broth and noodles are great!  Not sure I’d have them on a regular basis, but are edible.

Then the beef tripe (stomach lining) and tongue with noodles arrives.  Uck – they look horrible.  I’m trying to put on a brave face, but the grayish-purple colour of the tongue looks so wrong.  And the ridges covering the tripe remind me of brains from of a horror B- movie I once saw or the tentacles of a giant octopus.  I’m not sure I can do this…

The tripe seemed the better of the two choices, so I just went for it.  It was very chewy and rubbery, with some spices on it that gave it a bite.  I just didn’t think about where it came from and it was ok.  Not my favourite, but I managed to take two bites.  (My friend, on the other hand had a tiny nibble and that was enough for her!)

It took all my courage to try the tongue.  It even looked like tongue.  It’s making me cringe just thinking about it right now while writing this.  As the metallic-tasting, soft texture hit my own tongue I knew that would be my one and only taste of beef tongue ever.  Blah!  I can still taste it – like another creatures blood in mousse form.

Beef tripe and tongue

I know that many people enjoy these dishes and I’m up for trying anything once, but once was enough for me.  And I’ve got to stop looking at the photo of the tongue above – it’s grossing me out!

One hundred and fifty-nine

Chinatown mystery foods

Shopping in Chinatown can be a little intimidating.  A lot of the food is labeled in Chinese (even when there are English parts, I feel like these are only part of the description), many of the store owners speak little English, and there are a lot of products there that aren’t available in Metro or No Frills.  It’s like being in a different country where I’m a tourist looking for something to eat that I recognize.

Of course there are products I know there, but what would be the fun in that?  I chose five things that I had never tried, one being something that I have no idea what it is.  Mystery meat?  Tofu?

It was scary opening the packages. I’ve heard horror stories of maggots and bugs coming out of packaged food some friends have bought from Chinatown.  And what would I find inside?  There was the package with nuts and little dried fish portrayed on the outside of the packaging.  Are there really little fish inside?  And what about the ingredients?  So many that are listed that I don’t know what they are.

I bought Oishi Prawn Crackers (pretty tasty actually, although don’t smell them first!); Grass Jelly Drink – Coconut flavour  (I threw it out after two sips); “Tofu Snack – mushroom flavour” – texture of tofu, salty sweet fake flavouring (not my favourite either); “Mixed Bean Crackers” with dried fish (not so bad – tasted like salted, sweet peanuts with fish); and the mystery food which was spicy and I still don’t know what it was (I gagged, enough said).  I brought them to work and my workmates were scared to try them.

The funny thing is that although this is out of my comfort zone, they are all products other people enjoy very much.  It’s all about what we are used to and brought up with.  I’m sure a peanut butter and banana sandwich sounds gross to other people.  Or how about a Bloody Caesar with Clamato, which has clam juice in it?  Some of my favourites!