Another Fish Head on the Table?

Dear Reader, why is it that every time I dine at a restaurant in China, I invariably find myself staring at some fish with its head still intact?  The fish could be battered, fried, basted, baked, broiled, sautéed, deboned, or carved into intricate designs, but the head is always there, staring at me like a poor animal frozen in place, gazing at me as if it is in its final throes of death with its mouth open in anguished horror as whatever blunt instrument bludgeoned it struck in, or as it grasped for its one final gulp of oxygen-filled water before its gills hit the air on the cutting board.  It is decorative to leave the poor fish’s head and tail intact while turning its gutted innards into some eye-pleasing creation.  I know it’s not much more humane to remove the fish head, but as an American I psychologically prefer not to have my food staring back at me while I eat it.  It reminds me of a time when I dined with family in China.  I picked up some chicken from a bowl of chicken in some sauce I don’t remember, and I stared right into the closed eyes of a chicken head stuck between my chopsticks.  I gave the piece away.  Eating the head of an animal just isn’t appealing to me.

I have a game I call “count the number of fish heads on the table.”  Each time I dine at an “authentic” Chinese restaurant (fast food Chinese restaurants in the states do not count), I like to count how many fish dishes come with their heads intact.  The “authentic” quotient of the restaurant goes up with each head I count.  So far all the restaurants I’ve been to on this trip have had one or fewer fish heads.  Perhaps the best meal I’ve eaten was in Xi’an, when we ate at a Shaanxi restaurant.  Shaanxi cuisine is heavily influenced by the large Muslim population living in the area.  We feasted on roasted lamb and lamb dumpling stew with noodle.  As a fan of Middle Eastern cuisine, I have a new-found love for western Chinese cuisine.  Thankfully, none of it is served with a head intact.


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Off to Xi’an

I only have a few minutes today to tell you that I’ll be offline until next week.  We will be traveling to Xi’an, China, home to the famous terra cotta warriors, for a short two-day weekend trip.  While weekend trips in Korea feel like brief outings, our trip to Xi’an–about two hours away by plane from Shanghai–feels like a major undertaking.  I hope to have stories to share when I return.  I should be back online on Monday.

Last night my wife’s sister, her husband, my wife, son, and I went for Thai food at Banana Leaf, a trendy Shanghai restaurant.  The restaurant is very popular.  The food tasted undeniably like Chinese-style Thai food–save the peanut sauce.  I was appalled to discover that the restaurant could not serve Pad Thai because they ran out of key ingredients.  What?  You’ve got to be kidding.  A Thai restaurant isn’t Thai without Pad Thai, the national dish of Thailand.  We settled for Pad Siew instead.  I think my Chinese family members enjoyed the meal more than I did.  Afterwards, my brother-in-law and I went for a massage.  Not surprisingly, I am really sore today.  It’s been said that the best massages are the painful ones.  However, I think this one was a bit too painful.  My back is feeling the dull pain today.  It was more expensive than I thought it would be.  Oh well, I guess reality never lives up to your expectations.

Have a great weekend.  I’ll be back on Monday.