Appetite for China
May 16, 2009 4:55 PM   Subscribe

Appetite for China - a food blog whose motto is "1.3 billion people must be eating something right". Today: Dried Fugu and Durian Pudding
posted by Joe Beese (29 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
C'mon on pal! Fugu me!
posted by futureisunwritten at 5:01 PM on May 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

On Askme, for how to spice up bag lunches: include more food that is "potentially lethal if incorrectly prepared"
posted by puckish at 5:01 PM on May 16, 2009

And, yum!
posted by puckish at 5:01 PM on May 16, 2009

Could someone describe how the layout is supposed to look? Because I think it's borked on my end.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 5:05 PM on May 16, 2009

"potentially lethal if incorrectly prepared" ... I suppose that could apply not only to the fugu blowflish but also, and more theatrically, to the durian.
posted by Auden at 5:08 PM on May 16, 2009

I can't believe I've been making san bei ji for the past ten years without realizing there was a name for it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:09 PM on May 16, 2009

Supposedly, there's a Japanese proverb along the lines of 'Those who eat fugu are stupid. Those who do not eat fugu are also stupid.' I love that.
posted by box at 5:28 PM on May 16, 2009

Similarly, there's a saying in Malaysia, "The Chinese only eat two things, those that move and those that don't."
posted by ooga_booga at 5:48 PM on May 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Appetite for China

Isn't that the name of Guns 'n Roses next album?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:27 PM on May 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

I wanted more descriptive writing - I am having trouble getting an idea what anything tastes like.
posted by agregoli at 6:38 PM on May 16, 2009

I've eaten both dried fugu and durian pudding. The dried fugu was a bit like your standard jerky, a bit chewy and somewhat sweet. I had it as an appetizer in a Japanese restaurant though.

As for durian pudding, its good, but like he said, you need to like durian. Texture wise its pretty similar to mango pudding, slighty bouncy, but good places will usually add in fresh durian puree to the mix, which is creamy. It basically tastes like durian flesh, and its hard to describe what that tastes like. For people who love durian, its an awesomely rich custard with a sugary sweetness tamed by sharp bitterness, and with undertones of mango, honey, garlic and onion. Sometimes its nearly alcoholic. Other people will say its like biting into the rotting corpse of a monkey force-fed bananas since birth.
posted by destrius at 8:21 PM on May 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've had fugu sashimi here in japan a couple of times, and I must say, considering the price (it's quite expensive) I was underwhelmed. Both times it was served with an accompanying dipping sauce, which was quite delicious (I think it had some ponzu in it, which I love) but the fish itself was rather tasteless, IMO.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:01 PM on May 16, 2009

Fugu posts are a little repetitive. Durian posts, although probably as overplayed as fugu posts to most of us, never get overdone to me. The many posts about cilantro here (and on the Web in general) are interesting to me because they touch on possible genetic causes for the incredible difference in effect the spice has on people.

It seems as if the wildly different effects of Durian on Western and S.E. Asian tastebuds must be cultural in origin, but the difference in human extremes is so great that I wonder if genetic components might come into play here. The interplay between cultural patterns and genetic codes (the former speeding up the latter) is an interesting one in general.

I have experimented on high school students in an aesthetics class, and although all of them found the smell repugnant, 5% (mostly Asian) of the kids didn't mind the taste.

Durian tastes, to my open-minded Western palate, like rotten garlicky melon, by the way. If someone finds a nice durian/cilantro dish...please warn me.
posted by kozad at 10:14 PM on May 16, 2009

I've been using that site's Kung Pao Chicken recipe for a while, and the result is so close to my favorite restaurant here in China. Leftovers in the fridge right now, in fact... I tend to use a bit more dark soy sauce that the recipe calls for when I make it. Best when made so the final dish is mostly peanuts covered in sauce. Mmmm.
posted by msbrauer at 11:18 PM on May 16, 2009

I like this blog, and I've subscribed to the feed, but before I clicked on it I was hoping against hope that it was the Asian Cuisine blog I've been dreaming about for years: "Hey, you know that awesome Asian food store you go in every month or so, which is just packed with awesome crazy food you'd love to buy but you have no idea what it is or how it's used? Once a week we'll highlight one item you can find at most Asian groceries and we'll tell you what it is, how you can use it, and give you a couple of recipes."

If anyone knows of a site like that, please let me know.
posted by Ian A.T. at 11:29 PM on May 16, 2009 [4 favorites]

Everything tastes like a 9-volt battery to me.
posted by not_on_display at 12:02 AM on May 17, 2009

Another treat is preserved durian, which I used to buy in sausage sized rolls and snack on all night. chewy, like a mass of pliable fruit leather. The taste is a little less intense than fresh durian but still very satisfying.
posted by i blame your mother at 12:14 AM on May 17, 2009

"potentially lethal if incorrectly prepared" is even true for an egg or chicken. One word: salmonella.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:38 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Great link, thanks! For those who want Chinese recipes and food writing with a real flair for describing flavour, origins, feel and history, I'd highly recommend Fuschia Dunlop's books:

Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper is a memoir of how she travelled to China as a student, and ended up training as a chef in Chengdu. The Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook is a more traditionally structured book of recipes, but it focuses a lot on Hunan province (where Mao came from) and has some fantastic stuff in it, including the wonderful Chairman Mao Red Belly Pork. Both books are full of evocative writing and photos, and useful practical advice.

If you're in London, she's also acted as a consultant to two of Chinatown's best places to eat - Bar Shu (currently being renovated) and Baozi Inn.
posted by Sifter at 2:07 AM on May 17, 2009

Cool blog! I will try a few its recepies, for sure. Take for instance Chinese Tea Eggs, I've never heard of such a thing and they look amazing!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:15 AM on May 17, 2009

Someone once explained to me that the difference in attitude toward the durian in the East and West, is due to the fact that ripe durian smells almost exactly like the mix of air-freshener and other chemicals they use inside portable toilets in the West. So, a Westerner, who will experience Porta-johns long before they ever encounter the fruit, will react "Ugh! Toilet!", whereas someone with no such preconception would not have a problem with it, and will instead be puzzled why the chemical toilets over here all smell like tasty durian fruit.
posted by rifflesby at 4:41 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Another cooking site that I happen to like is Steamy Kitchen , which might have some of the aspects of explaining the weird products you'll find in the Asian food stores that you might be looking for, Ian A. T..

She's ridiculous, and I find her funny - here's her how to make Xiao Long Bao as sex.
posted by archofatlas at 5:02 AM on May 17, 2009

Actually I'm pretty sure the taste for durian is a conditioned thing, based on my own experiences. Occasionally I will smell something that reminds me of durian, which of course gets my south-east-asian blood all tingling with gastronomic excitement, only to realise its actually some rotting trash or equivalent. The smell of natural gas also reminds me of durian, and according to wikipedia the smell comes from "a minute amount of odorant such as t-butyl mercaptan, with a rotting-cabbage-like smell [or] a related compound, thiophane is used, with a rotten-egg smell."

So I don't think durian really smells different to those who like it (and thus makes it more palatable), its all a matter of what you grew up with and what you associate certain smells with. For example, I really can't stand the smell of some strong European cheeses and hams.
posted by destrius at 6:05 AM on May 17, 2009

Anything is potentially lethal if incorrectly prepared if you ask about it in AskMe.
posted by gimonca at 7:02 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Asian market next door to my apartment building has durians for sale. I linger over them everytime I pass by. I REALLY want to take one home but I'm just not sure I could handle it.
posted by lysistrata at 7:54 AM on May 17, 2009

Photo taken by me on the Singapore metro. The smell of durian is not universally popular in the Far East.
posted by WPW at 7:58 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

WPW: Photo taken by me on the Singapore metro. The smell of durian is not universally popular in the Far East.

Its true that not everybody here likes durian (I have a few friends who really hate it), but I think the general impression is that the "no durians on public transport" rule was implemented to be more tourist-friendly.
posted by destrius at 6:06 PM on May 17, 2009

The smell of durian is not universally popular in the Far East.

Fresh durian is quite liked by most people in Singapore (anecdotally, only 1 in about 20 local people I know don't like or hate durian). Stale durian odour, though, is quite repulsive. The smell of durian lingers, especially in air-conditioned conditions. That's the main reason why durians are not allowed on most public transport vehicles.
posted by Alnedra at 7:56 PM on May 17, 2009

I can also second Fuschia Dunlop's books. I picked up her Sichuan cookbook Land of Plenty and her Hunanese cookbook on a tip from this AskMe. The recipes are really authentic and taste just like what I ate in western China.

As regards durian, I think you just have to grow up with it. My parents, who are SE Asian Chinese, love it; I, having grown up in the US, don't particularly care for the taste or texture and can't stand the smell. And I'm somebody who generally likes strong-tasting/smelling Asian foods, e.g. fermented tofu, natto, kimchi, etc.
posted by pravit at 10:15 AM on May 18, 2009

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