Monday, September 22, 2008

However, My Beef Stew with Noodle Was Excellent

It's a lovely warm evening, and I've been pent up for several days with a nasty cold that finally seems to be abating. I can tell that I'm getting better because I'm hungry and I'm antsy. Ash has been agitating for Chinese carryout for ages, and I've been resisting because for some reason, thinking of the taste has been making me feel vaguely ill. I go through these phases every so often where I either can't get enough of something or can't stand the thought of something, and they're not always related. For instance, although I will sometimes go on a kick-- say, with salt and vinegar chips-- I won't eat them until the thought makes me sick, just until I feel no particular craving for them anymore. Then I won't eat them for a long time, but not because I can't stand the thought of them. I just don't really want them for a while.

Anyway, in a flash of wifely inspiration, I suggested a trip over to our old neck of the woods to visit a favorite taiwanese restaurant of ours. Sort of like Chinese, but different! Brilliant!

In addition to the regular menu, this place offers an ever-changing list of "Chef Specials". Ash, who has no dietary restrictions to take into account, has ordered off this menu many times, and the food he gets is almost always better than the noodle soups I tend to order. Tonight, the first item on the list was called "Home Style Smelled Bean Curd", aka "Stinky Tofu". I've long heard about the extreme awesomeness of this dish from the mouth of a certain taiwanese woman I know whose name starts with P and ends with g, and sounds like "ay-lin" in between, and I've even been present when she ordered said delicacy from the very same restaurant. Ash points to the menu and says "Is this the stuff that Pei likes?", and then proceeds to order it.

The waiter says "Oh, that pig intestine."

Ash and I look at each other, then back at the menu. Thinking that this is just a little misunderstanding, Ash repeats the order, "No, I want the Homestyle Smelled Bean Curd", and for good measure, he points to the words on the menu. The waiter looks at it, then repeats, "Yes, that pig intestine". Ash and I look at each other again, and then back at the waiter, who says "It have bean curd and pig intestine". Ash says "Oh, okay. That's fine. I'll still have it." The waiter eyes him dubiously, but I assure you not half as dubiously as I. As the waiter turns away, I hiss at Ash, "Really??", and he confidently retorts, "Yes, really." This leads into a long discussion on how his grandfather grew up in the Great Depression and didn't waste food, and I kept coming back to the point that, yes, people all over the world and throughout time have eaten various bits of innards and offal, but that, in our culture at least, people usually leave them behind once they can afford to do so (which is, of course, a vast oversimplification, but I was trying to have an argument), and then our food comes out.

Ash's Homestyle Smelled Bean Curd with Pig Intestine came in a little metal dish over a lit sterno burner, bubbling and foul smelling (hence, the name "Stinky Tofu"). Each of us took a bite.

Pei, why do you hate us??? Was it all just a big trick to get us to eat something disgusting? I mean, if that's the case, you should have made a bigger effort back when you were still living here. I'm sure you could have talked Ash into it at some point! And I love tofu, so I would have followed right along! Seriously, all this "it smells horrible, but tastes fantastic" crap? HA. It was like licking a farm animal of some sort. You know it's bad when Ash's comment on the dish was "The pig intestines aren't bad".

After this, how will I ever be able to try durian, should the opportunity present itself?



At 3:10 PM , Blogger pacatrue said...

Hmm... Usually the dish called mabo (or mapo) doufu (tofu) is translated as home-style bean curd. It's definitely got ground pork in it, but it's not intestines as far as I'm aware. It's also typically a little spicy and has either a little or a lot of brown sauce on it. It's one of my absolute fave dishes, but yours sounds different. I don't think of mabo tofu as stinky and haven't heard it described so. Interesting....

At 9:31 PM , Blogger luneray said...

Awhile back, I saw durian flavored cookies for sale at an Asian supermarket so I bought a box to share with my colleagues, just to be nice and to try something different.

This happened years ago and let's just say that I still haven't lived it down.

At 10:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

On my honor, that dish is completely NOT my beloved stinky tofu! Either they seriously messed up the translation or it has a very similar name. *MY* dish does not come with flame nor meat of any kind, I can guarantee you that!

Even I don't think I've eaten a dish like you described!

And I also know for a fact that they lowered the stink factor in my last year there b/c of complaints from other customers.

I am so so sorry you were scarred like that! Honestly, that is not the dish I have always drooled over.

Was it in the entree section or appetizers? B/c the size is more appetizer than actual meal.

Katze, I could never hate you to that extent (nor Ash)!

Again, I am so so sorry. I will try my best to introduce you to PROPER stinky tofu next time!



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