Learning Chinese characters makes our China experience so much richer. You can tell which restaurants specialize in dog meat, for example, and then invite some friends to go try it one night, which is what we did yesterday. I’ve translated part of the menu, and you can download it (*see below) and see what we had to choose from.
The five of us included one other language student, one of my teachers, a local friend, Chuck the Bright Future intern, and myself. Jessica is sick with a bad cold and didn’t come (but she was really looking forward to it). As restaurants go, this was one of the deeper dives, so to speak; it was about as dirty as the converted-first-floor-apartment former-street-vendor noodle windows that I get cheap lunches from, except this was a sit-down place, so the grunge was a little more noticeable. When we arrived, we were the only people in the restaurant – not an encouraging sign.
Everyone was happy to try a little dog except one of our local friends, who actually turned green the more he looked into our big bowl of dog rib stew and contemplated its history. I think he only dipped his chopsticks in the sauce and licked them off. I tried to tell him it was just like a big rabbit (gotta work with whatever vocab you have!), but it didn’t seem to help. Aside from having a lot of gelatinous skin and fat, the dog rib stew was pretty good.
For our first time, and with someone who was visibly ill, just ordering regular meat was fine. But next time I plan to branch out; there’re a lot of parts besides meat to be had in dog restaurants like this. The party that was just sitting down when we were leaving ordered skin, face, and tongue for their hot-pot. See the partially-translated menu for further details.
View the Menu
*I went a couple weeks ago and copied their menu so we could translate it and actually know what we had to choose from. I knew the selection would be a little gnarly, but wow; it exceeded my expectations with the first dish, and then just got worse (or better, depending on your tastes). I kept the basic layout of the original, meaning that everything in my (very) rough (and error-ridden) translation appears in the same order as it does in the actual menu. DISCLAIMER: I was overly-literal on purpose for the sake of learning the characters, plus, there are lots of straight-up errors (‘backbone’ and ‘spine’ I think should actually be called something else). Here’s a sample entry:
Dog face stew………………………18 per dish
扒狗脸 – pā gǒu liǎn………………(盘 / pán)
(lit.: “stewed dog face”)
Download the dog restaurant menu here (PDF).
$1 = 7.5元 (roughly).
Dog dishes are on pages 1, 4 and 5.
I suppose I should say something about being obnoxious in other peoples’ countries with another culture’s food: it’s pretty easy to do. Foreigners find something about the host culture that really grosses them out, and so they want to go try it just to have a laugh, usually at the expense of the locals. We deliberately tried not to do that this time. Unlike “Snake Alley” in Taibei (which embarrasses our local friends there, most of whom have never eaten snake and think it’s gross), a lot (the majority?) of Tianjin locals don’t think it’s any big deal to eat dog meat. Some like it, some don’t, just like anything else. I wanted to have fun trying something new and challenge my comfort zone while still respecting our local friends and their culture – this is also pretty easy to do, always worth the effort, and usually a lot of fun.