Don’t get me wrong. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. While I consistently found it impossible to acquire a taste for the following list, it’s down to the the body parts involved rather than the condiments, which are top notch half the time. I can also claim to have tried these personally, so at least it isn’t purely a case of simple pickiness or chickening out.
At the same time, I acknowledge that the following dishes are greatly loved by locals, and that maybe I’m the one missing out in some way. So with that point in mind, I’ll do my best to present the dishes I find hard to stomach, whilst trying not to say anything bad or judgemental about them.
Whenever out with family and friends, it has never bothered me whether they consume any of these treats around me, or even in the same dish or wok. The only issue is that I rarely tuck into them myself.
You needn’t worry too much about ordering any of these by accident, except when ordering off a monolingual hotpot or barbecue order sheet. At the same time, you might want to be weary of a local ordering on your behalf, as they will naturally assume you love these dishes as much as they do!
The dishes aren’t in any particular order, as I find them all equally difficult to stomach.
Without much ado, let’s go through my personal top six.
Tripe 毛肚 (Mao du – Hairy stomach)
Cow’s stomach, or tripe, is a quintessential dish ordered for hotpot in Chongqing. It is brought out raw on a plate, usually embellished on a bed of lettuce and garnished with some herbs, and is dipped for a few seconds in the boiling spicy oil before being munched down.
Duck intestines 鸭肠 (ya chang)
Like tripe, these are cooked for a very short time in hotpot oil and then consumed with relish. Sometimes, you may even see a kitchen worker preparing them up for order outside the shopfront. The intestine is perforated with a knife, then ran down the full length.
Chicken’s feet 鸡爪 ( ji zhua)
I guess it’s not necessary to say too much here. I will say the condiments used are very nice, and do make a good dip for delicacies I find more palatable.
Rabbit’s head 兔头 (Tu tou)
Again, like chicken’s feet, there’s not much here I personally associate with food other than the condiments.
Fatty intestines 肥肠 (Fei chang)
These are chopped up pig’s intestines that are either fried or boiled up with a tasty range of condiments. I’ve tried them before here as in Korea, but I can smell at a considerable distance and not feel the urge to tuck in.
Brain flowers 脑花 (Nao hua)
Like all the above, I can tell you there’s nothing wrong with the ingredients and condiments used other than the body part itself.
The memory that sticks out most by far is that of a CCTV children’s popular science show presenter I once met, who described with glee how he sold a group of foreign friends this dish while claiming it was tofu, and how they absolutely loved the dish until he revealed the truth.
Pig’s brain is certainly on many hotpot menus, but the good stuff like in the photo above is usually sold at specialist restaurants for this body part.
Just look out for the big neon sign with 脑花 on it.