One of the best things about being a food blogger is meeting and eating with other food bloggers! James of The Eaten Path organizes a dinner every so often, and it’s generally a good time, talking about food, sometimes about blogging, and sometimes… it gets hairy Hahaha.
Another great thing is that all of us have different food backgrounds. I mean, I know only so much about food! and on this occasion, we went to a northeastern Chinese restaurant, which means I really know nothing about it. I don’t know much about Chinese food; when it comes to mainland China, I know even less. So Melissa kindly took over ordering duties and put together this incredible menu for all of us to enjoy.
The first dish was bean sheet and cucumber noodles. The waitress came by, let us take pictures, then dressed it from a bottle, and tossed it all together for us. (You’re not imagining things; there is a person to my left who is reading a book. And yes, she read her book – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – the entire dinner.)
Here’s a close-up of the serving I took from that dish. I really enjoyed this – the noodles were cold, lightly savory, and very refreshing with the cucumbers. Yum!
We also ordered a plate of dumplings.
They were OK – the thick skin was a little mushy, and the meatwad inside was a little lacking in oomph.
Next: an eggplant dish! Oh, I’m not going to know the names of any of these dishes, sorry. Perhaps Melissa will stop by and share? I liked the eggplant; it was cooked very tender but still retained its texture and had a lot of flavor to it.
This: the Muslim lamb chop; the dish everyone has been talking about. Completely coated in toasted spices on one side, the meat was very tender and fell right off the bone. A definite must-order if you go here; the dish is just so unique, and really good… yum!
I think this was chicken or pork strips. I ate some of it but it didn’t stand out. See the people in the background “fighting” over the last of the lamb chops?
Korean penis fish. I can’t really describe how this tasted: chewy, but springy, and easy to bite through. I wouldn’t say the flavor was anything either way – not positive, not negative, just… there. I didn’t dislike it, but I found it too uninteresting to really eat more of that.
I don’t remember what this was. I know there’s sea cucumber in there, but I avoided that, because I don’t like sea cucumber. I tried some of the other stuff and thought it was okay.
Mapo tofu. Okay. Again, nothing outstanding.
Yes. Not for me. Completely chewy, and super super super organ-tasting. I chewed it for a little while but then couldn’t go on. If I’d taken a picture after I discreetly put it back on my plate, it would have looked the same. (Actually, this might actually be a picture of that. I don’t think I like kidney, or maybe just not this preparation.)
Pancakes filled with glass vermicelli and greens. Not bad.
And then… something amazing happened. This arrived. On the left, a bowl of water. On the right, deep fried chunks of taro that were quickly tossed with sugar that then melted and coated the pieces of taro.
Here’s a closer look. So you want to know why there’s a bowl of water?
You take a piece of the taro and dip it in the cold water very quickly. This… no joke, this immediately crystallizes the sugar on the outside.
You bite into the taro chunk, cracking through the sugar crust, into a soft, completely cooked, delicious piece of taro. I don’t even normally like taro, but the textural contrast is ridiculous. A sharp crack as you bite through the crust, and then super soft taro. So good. I think I ate like 4 or 5 pieces.
Of course, one of the biggest drawbacks to eating in a big group of people is the need to be polite. People waiting for other people to take some and eat it, and people just chatting and not eating… and some of us taking a million photographs of the food (ahem)… well, this is a dish that needs to be eaten quickly, before the sugar hardens and clumps into itself, making all the taro stick together in one big jumble… as demonstrated here by our darling Hungry (that’s her hand). Ah well.
Yvo says: Some hits, some misses, but that’s to be expected when things are ordered for a big group and personal tastes aren’t taken into account. I enjoyed this introduction to the cuisine of northeastern China – thanks again, Melissa!!! – and I would definitely love to go back and explore the menu more, either on my own, with Melissa, and/or with a smaller group. I definitely recommend anyone go there and get the lamb chop and the taro, though!