How to make the most of your friendly neighbourhood Chinese seafood restaurant

Play with the food!

The smaller ones are called 八带(bā dài); the one bigger one with the really long tentacles is a 马蛸(mÇŽ shāo)。(If you’re in China, you’ll need your VPN to see the video.)
Loctopus1
Loctopus2
When I was I kid, sharks, anglerfish, and octopuses were the coolest things in the ocean. This restaurant has everything but the sharks.
Koctopus2
koctopus1
This isn’t the only place we play with live octopuses, but it is the most convenient. This night we were able to see them change colour and squirt ink at us. Homeschool points +1000!

On the menu in Qingdao: anglerfish

For as far back as I can remember, the coolest things in the ocean have always been octopuses, sharks (of course sharks) and anglerfish.

If you don’t understand why, go google image search anglerfish. I’ll wait.

I’ve seen sharks at the aquarium and handled dogfish on the fishing boat, and we occasionally play with octopuses in our neighbourhood vegetable market. But I’d never seen a real angler fish until last night, when I was picking up take-out at one of our favourite local restaurants. They have a big display of live and nearly-alive seafood that changes every night, depending on what the boss finds at the seaside market. I wasn’t sure what these fish were at first, but the teeth got my attention:
qingdaoanglerfish
Monkfish_dict_entryThe staff told me 安康鱼 ān kāng yú, which my dictionaries don’t have. But between Baidu and Pleco we found it: it’s a monkfish 鮟鱇 ān kāng, which is a kind of anglerfish (notice the real name is nearly the same as our initial search, except with a “fish” radical added to each character: é±¼ + 安 = 鮟 / é±¼ + 康 = 鱇).

Anglerfish! How cool is that? Their… bioluminescent things (I won’t even pretend to know what the actual word is) were plastered down on their heads and don’t show in the photos, but it was easy to lift them up for a look.

A google image search for monkfish turns up what looks like the exact same fish as in the restaurant — a particular kind of very ugly anglerfish.

anglerfish_bioexpedition
Click for the Anglerfish page at Bioexpedition.com.

A google search for anglerfish will give you nightmares.

Fish heads

I remember as a kid being told how there were people on other countries who were so poor they had to eat fish heads and rice. The general point about how good we have it in the West compared to most of the rest of the world is more or less legit, but it never occurred to me then that people in other countries might actually like fish heads.fishheaddish
(From one of our neighbourhood restaurants.)

On the live seafood menu: “Fat innkeeper worms” a.k.a….

Urechis unicinctus, a.k.a. exactly what you think of when you see them, are a standard feature of Shandong cuisine. We see these marine spoonworms on display routintely:
spoonwormpenisfish1
Many if not most of Qingdao’s larger restaurants feature a live seafood menu, like this one from lunch the other day.
spoonwormpenisfish2
But if you find that unappetizing, don’t worry. They’re so full of water that after they’re barbecued, they look incredibly similar to earthworms (on-a-stick):
BBQ penis fish on a stick
In Chinese they’re called æµ·è‚ , literally: “sea intestine”.

How loud?

Our group of Chinese preschool employees celebrating Teacher’s Day with dinner at an extravagant Chinese BBQ buffet last weekend was actually told to quiet down by the restaurant staff.

We were too loud for a Chinese restaurant. Too loud. For a Chinese restaurant! This has got to be a first ever. A world record. A major breakthrough in physics. A hole in the space-time continuum. Or something.

ChineseVGermanrestaurant
Comparative noise levels in German and Chinese restaurants, by visual designer and resident of Germany Yang Liu.

I was actually kind of proud.

Drink this for your yang

What, there’s a lineup of huge glass jars of whole snakes, lizards and deer penises soaking in booze on the drink counter? Well what did you expect to find there? This is China; China’s a whole nother version of normal.

Our preschool staff had Teacher’s Day dinner at an extravagant BBQ buffet, which included all-you-can-drink beer and traditional Chinese health tonics:

lizardjiu

Lizards, snakes, various roots, gǒuqǐ berries (枸杞), etc. of various combinations soaked in hard Chinese liquor (白酒):

lizardjiu

These kinds of tonics are not uncommon in Chinese restaurants around here. They’re usually intended to 补阳 (supplement your male qualities).

These things aren’t especially notable within China, and all the ingredients are available at the nearby traditional market (photos!), though this is the first time I’d seen these traditional drinks lined up in a ritzy buffet right next to the Coke and coffee machines. But if we’re talking outside of China… there’s just no end to the stuff around here that would raise a few eyebrows outside of China.

Chinese restaurant irreverently spoofs the Cultural Revolution

Friends picked this restaurant for a meal a while back. They had funny edited posters everywhere, mostly Mao Era propaganda stuff. Here’s a couple:

Restaurant propaganda1
开饭啦!不吃饱哪有力气减肥啊?!
Dinnertime!
If you don’t eat up, how will you have the strength to lose weight?!

Restaurant propaganda2
不是去想吃就吃 就是去想吃就吃的路上
If you’re not going to Eat As You Wish, then you’re going to the Eat As You Wish road