The Japanese may talk about umami but kougan is what we Chinese focus more on.
Mouth feel (kougan in Chinese) or more scientifically – oral haptics – is the reason why an entire adjective has been invented among the Chinese-speaking.
I’m talking about the alphabet “Q” – the Chinese often talk about how Q something is.
What is Q?
It is from the Hokkien word that describes something as bouncy and somewhat crunchy. A beef ball’s texture must be Q to be nice, those little balls (made from tapioca flour) in bubble teas must be Q enough to be nice.
Sometimes a particular food may not be tasty in and of itself, but pairing it with other ingredients would make them ultra delicious. The fins of sting rays and sharks are basically devoid of flavor and are bland, but sting ray meat with parts of the fin attached when cooked with the right sambal is super delicious! The resulting texture and taste of shark fin when stewed with the right soup stock, convert these appendages into coveted dishes. An entire shark head steamed is an abundant source of tasty jelly-like and gelatinous collagen. Shark meat, used mostly as fish for fish and chips, when done well, is extremely satisfying. (Those retards who claim that sharks are finned and then discarded are bullshitting. Scour elsewhere on this blog for posts about this topic.)
While the Japanese would usually – as a shortcut – use monosodium glutamate to flavor anything – including “health” drinks like the weirdly-named “Pocari Sweat” (yes, they named a drink that way! A drink called “Sweat” how nice!), we Chinese (at least in my household) refer to monosodium glutamate as “hair remover” and ban it from our kitchens. The point is if you can’t bring out the taste of food by brilliant cooking, please don’t take shortcuts and use allergy-causing chemical-loaded flavor enhancers. Any blind person can do that. Plus, you don’t arrange some uncooked pieces of fish on a fancy plate to make it look nice and call it “cuisine.” All blind people can do that too.
So, the flowers of leeks when fried with fallopian tubes of pigs become a very delicious dish, very Q and full of mouth feel. Not just very Q, but very super QQ!
Westerners think that the Chinese eat everything because we used to be poor. While that may be true a long time ago, nowadays it’s really all about mouth feel and our quest for unique taste sensations. Hong Kong superstars like Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung and Carina Lau surely aren’t poor but they would stand in line to buy duck tongue when they visit Taiwan. Taiwanese stars like Brigitte Lin and Lin Chi-ling too stand in line with their fellow-Taiwanese as well as with Asian tourists from all over to buy duck tongue – none of these people are poor. Trust me, the Taiwanese know how to do duck tongue well.
In any case, the nose to tail concept is not exactly new even among westerners.
So the next time you see me order pig rectums or fried beef aortas or gnaw on chicken feet or goose web or snack on duck gizzards, or savor sea cucumbers, or slurp on fish maw soup, or relish bull penises, or crunch on pork rinds or bits of chicken cartilage, or munch on pig palates, or suck fish eyes, or sink my teeth into lamb kidneys, or chew on pig trotters, please don’t think of me as a barbarian. Just remember that it’s all about mouth feel, the hunt for new taste sensation and the gratification offered by rare, unusual food.
It has nothing to do with my being poor, though I am poor indeed.
And don’t worry, I don’t eat wildlife of any kind – no civets cats or bats from Wuhan, or anywhere else!