Some things are better left enjoyed. I’ve had plenty of egg tart dishes before, and while this one was slightly creamier and had a subtle chalky taste that I just couldn’t quite place, it was hitting the spot after a delicious sea food dinner. My neighbors had invited me out to meet their daughter before she headed back to America to continue her studies, and besides feeding me every type of shellfish available, they’d splurged on an Alaskan king crab. After cleaning out every one of the crab’s long spiny legs, we topped off the dinner with that soupy bowl of what I’d guessed was egg tart.
Turns out the legs weren’t the only part of the crab that had been cleaned out, because after having asked out of curiosity just what exactly was in my bowl, I found out what that chalky taste was: blended up, congealed crab organs. When speaking in second languages and swapping between English and Mandarin like we had been, it’s so much easier than you’d probably expect to get as close to the bottom of the bowl as I had without actually knowing what it was that I’d been eating… I doubt I would’ve caught “crab brain goop” if they had happened to mention it in mandarin, and it was pretty unlikely they’d learned how to say “crab brain goop” in their English classes. Usually you just assume your way through it and evaluate based off of taste, and sometimes, you purposefully don’t get told in order to avoid what they expect could be a cultural taboo… such as how Americans typically don’t eat crab brain goop.
Upon hearing what it was, I suddenly became a whole lot less hungry, although I wasn’t at all surprised that they’d scraped out the carapace in order to make a mousse out of what would only described as by-products anywhere else. Cooks over here don’t waste, and the Chinese are anything but picky eaters. Tendons, congealed pig’s blood, fish heads in soup, even duck tongues… Crab brain mousse is just another edible oddity in the long list of things I’ve tried over here, whether accidentally or to please my host. It’s all in your head, right?
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