After cooking the “Pacific Inspired" menu in Beijing for the 80 executive delegates on behalf of the Bank of China, the following morning the Executive Chef Mr Ai decided to take me on a shopping tour of the markets. He was very keen to learn about the flavours and combination of ingredients that he could use for his Western guests, so we purchased a great selection of produce so I could demonstrate a few more Western dishes.
After this extraordinary shopping experience, it was clear I was showing signs of fatigue and needed bolstering up - so very thoughtfully Mr Ai decided to treat me to an every day breakfast experience that all local Beijing people love to enjoy.
We walked into what looked like a fast food joint and in less than a minute after food was ordered, we sat down to a plastic tray loaded with 3 or 4 typical local ‘favourites’......oh dear! I tucked in (not really knowing what I was eating)! Demcee, my kind and patient translator explained first up was Congee. It was a very loose and rather tasteless ‘safe’ porridge. I noticed him nibbling away on some hearty stuff which I thought looked pretty good after the soupy bowl of floating tapioca. Well O.M.G.......it was chicken feet, but not the hot crispy version I’ve tried before - it was cold soggy and slightly slippery. Ewwww!!!
I took this as my queue to jump back into something nourishing so I dipped my spoon into the dark rich looking hot bowl of what was the “Beijing speciality”…. pork liver cooked in a tasty pork soup. It was quite tricky actually getting it into the spoon due to it being such a gloopy, stretchy sort of jelly like and nothing I'd ever seen before - think lots of cornflour. Well once I got it in my mouth it certainly confirmed the smell - reekin' porky, offaly, awfully strong and slightly minging! Whoa, way too much for me especially when I politely enquired as to what was in it ?? "Oh it's made by boiling up ALL the inside of the pig"! Mr Ai and Demcee woofed (or should I say pigged) it down - just like happy pigs in mud. Obviously delicious for them and quite disgusting for me!
Isn’t it funny how we all have our cultural cuisine likes and dislikes and I couldn’t but help think how deliciously comforting my weetbix and milk seemed. Hmmm, I wonder if my new Chinese friends would enjoy my weetbix breakfast as much as me?
Oh dear, what an experience that was!
What do you think......delicious or disgusting?
Author - Geoff Scott
Acclaimed Chef, Consultant and Food Writer