I'm in Chengdu now, on my first trip to China. Unfortunately I haven't had much time to enjoy it – after a full day of training I had to work on briefs late into the night. I had a pathetic meal at my desk in the hotel: a hamburger ordered through room service. I know this is stupid, given that I'm in Sichuan. But I was so tired I couldn't think straight.
But today was different. For lunch we went to a local restaurant, where I had my first real Chinese meal. My colleague, Cathy, sat next to me and told me what I was eating. And how to eat it. The food was spicy and delicious, and there were a lot of vegetables. There's nothing like it in Ulaanbaatar.
My policy is to eat first and ask questions later, so I didn't always know what I was eating. There was a thin, flat white thing I thought was seafood. It turned out to be a sliced mushroom. Then I tried some small, crunchy gristly things served in a banana leaf. I asked Cathy what I was eating. The answer: chicken feet. Not my food of choice, but at least something new.
Then Cathy pulled something out of a bowl with her chopsticks, a little bony thing with bits of white meat hanging off it. It was a frog leg. There was so little meat on it that it hardly seemed worth the effort. But I tried it anyway. It was pretty good.
Since I was a kid, I've wondered if frog legs really taste like chicken. Now I have the knowledge: They do. But now I have a new question: Why not just eat chicken?