Chinese New Year time every year I get a mild yin and yang experience. Firstly I get all my favourite Chinese dishes especially pineapple tarts, I can eat that all day! Then it reminds me of why I now need to ALWAYS know exactly what I am eating before I try it!
I do not think of myself as a picky eater. I do not eat beef or pork and sometimes I go through vegetarian phases. Seems simple and normal about me…to me at least! But being adventurous though is another ballgame, I am not adventurous with my food!
I did try kangaroo meat in Australia and frog legs in Singapore, once it was heavily loaded in spices. I even convinced my baby brother to try it on his first trip out to Singapore with me.
That is as far I would go, yes no way was I going to try fried locusts in Cambodia. Fried locusts? Err no thank you!
But it was one Chinese New Year that really changed the little adventurous spirit I had in me where food was concerned.
It was my first Chinese New Year celebrations when I moved to work in Singapore and it is traditional for clients to take you out for lunches/dinners to celebrate “the prosperity and longevity of your relationship together for another year.” I was told the client chose the dishes and everyone ate all in approval. It is a no-no in Chinese culture to refuse to eat any of the dishes. I was not going to be the cause of a bad omen so thankfully I had good colleagues, who knew my taste in food well enough, to point out I was safe with the dishes ordered.
Yusheng (also called lo hai) I quite enjoyed, who would not enjoy doing a prosperity toss of the lo hai with lots of “huat ah!” to each other (translated to mean be prosperous). All the noodles and seafood looked safe to me. At that point I knew I don’t have to worry, only dessert left!
Dessert was called Hashima soup. How can anyone go wrong with dessert? I thought this is easy, nothing weird to eat so far. Dessert was a semi sweet soup filled with beans and a rather crunchy little thingy I wasn’t sure of. I thought nothing of it until after when I found out EXACTLY what Hashima was!! Took my friends an hour later to tell me!! In retrospect I did notice hesitant looks from them but thought nothing of it at the time.
Hashima (sometimes called Harsmar, Hasma) is a Chinese dessert ingredient made from the dried fallopian tubes of true frogs, typically the Asiatic Grass Frog. I ate DRIED FALLOPIAN TUBES OF A FROG? DRIED FROG OVARIES?? Suddenly a host of questions came to mind…how many female frogs are there?; who came up with this?; frogs have ovaries? Well duh…stupid question!
Yes I was shocked but it was the start of me ALWAYS needing to know EXACTLY what I am eating on my travels. As I said I am not an adventurous eater and never will be any Anthony Bourdain wannabe!
So yes, all these years later, every Chinese New Year I am reminded of pineapple tarts and Hashima. I have celebrated many reunion dinners and Chinese New Years with friends around the world, but I will stick to my roasted chicken and duck, noodles, heck I will sit and eat all the auspicious oranges and pineapple tarts in the world but NEVER a dish that looks weird to me.
Gong Xi Fa Cai everyone! Happy Year of the Horse!