Kempinski Entrance

The mind is a muscle, which must be exercised like any other to get stronger. The stomach, on the other hand, is not a muscle; however that won’t stop me from pretending that it is.

I don’t know whether I’m a glutton for punishing my gastrointestinal tract, or if I’m just an adventurous eater, but I seem to find myself in deliciously painful situations more often than not while traveling abroad. The people that I’ve gone out to eat with in both China and Taiwan are incredibly talented when it comes to consuming large quantities of food, and despite my best efforts at keeping pace with them, I have yet to even come close to besting their worst eaters in terms of quantity consumed. While the upside to this is that I get ample opportunity to devour delicious feasts and a variety of exciting food, the downside is that each trip tends to become one long, extended food coma.

My only consolation is that my tolerance for spicy food is well beyond that of your average human being. This fact also frequently becomes the single attribute that my Asian colleagues use to decide which foods to order on my behalf, which means that I find myself eating things like hunks of duck meat that are so greasy and spicy that it caused a co-worker to get sick and miss a day of work, or like the bowl of hot peppers that I ate for lunch on Thursday.

Whether it’s something that is considered to be ridiculously spicy, or just something out of the ordinary, one thing that the locals appreciate about me is that I’m always willing to try anything. The last time I was in China I discovered that pigeon wings taste exactly like their chicken counterparts, the skin on the foot of a goose is not very appetizing, and that a sea cucumber feels downright horrendous in your mouth. About a year ago, I traveled to Taiwan and ate a bunch of things that were made from the blood of various animals, and I was also pleasantly surprised at how amazingly delicious the raw gonads of a sea urchin can taste when fresh.

Green OrangeToday marks the fifth day that I’ve spent in China on this current trip, and I should make it absolutely clear that I’m disappointed in the number of bizarre things that I’ve eaten so far. Perhaps I’ve gone overboard in my previous travels and experienced almost all of the strange foods that there are to be had. I hope that in reality I have just started on the wrong end of the spectrum, and that from now on my “bizarre samplings” will be slightly more tame, like the green orange pictured at right. This is a common fruit that is eaten during the mid-Autumn festival in China, and I can honestly say it’s not incredibly different from your standard orange, except slightly muted in citrus flavor.

On my first day here, while out to lunch with co-workers, we ate some pig liver. I would not consider this to be all too bizarre, although the soup we all shared later contained two pig femurs, and I was lucky enough to get to suck the bone marrow out of one of them with a straw. I’m as of yet undecided as to whether that is considered bizarre, especially since Allie’s co-worker told her they call that “Soup number 5” in the Philippines.

The following night, I was left to my own devices for dinner. After wandering about the streets for a good hour near my hotel, I finally decided that I would have the easiest time ordering food from a place with a menu that looks like a giant children’s book: lots of big pictures of food, and the occasional English word. Based on that, I chose the nearby Pizza Hut. Even though Pizza Hut seems like such a boring choice with “American food”, I knew better. The pizzas in Asian countries aren’t all like the pizza that you find across the states, and I had every intention of exploring what this particular Hut had to offer.

Shrimp n'at PizzaAfter carefully perusing the menu, I finally ordered what I considered to be the most bizarre pizza available along with the classic Chinese beer, Tsingtao. The pizza that I settled on was an outright smorgasbord of yumminess. First of all, it was stuffed crust, but in the “tear and share” style of stuffed bread balls. Every other ball of stuffed dough contained a fried shrimp, and to compliment these little seafood delights, were the perfect pizza toppings: bacon, sausage, cubed ham, pineapple, green pepper, mushroom, onion and corn.

Even though the pizza was a “personal size”, I was overwhelmed by the amazingosity of it all, and had to throw in the towel before finishing even three quarters of the pie. This caused great internal strife for me, but I decided that it would be best to spare myself a night of intestinal turmoil. Sadly, the bowl of peppers that I ate earlier that day had already made alternative plans without consulting with me first.

So far, I don’t regret a single thing that I’ve eaten on this trip. More on that to come…