Friday, February 6, 2009

Clean Your Plate, And Your Leftovers

For the second time in my life, I recently had take-out food so bad that I actually washed it off to make it better.

The offending dish came from a local Chinese restaurant that, despite its horrific, gaudy exterior, I desperately hoped would be good. I hadn't even thought to eat there until examining the dinner menu while having a (flaming) drink at the bar with some friends from out of town. When I saw the Yu Shiang section, my spirits lifted, or perhaps I was being lifted by the spirits shooting up the long straw from the scorpion bowl. In either case, I decided to go back for dinner, and I'm sorry I did.

I ate as much as I could while at the restaurant, choking down rubbery pieces of meat, the omnipresent (in bad Chinese restaurants) bell peppers, and a thick, cloying brown sauce that seemed composed of equal parts sugar and corn starch. I know that would just be powder, but that's how it tasted.

To make matters worse, while eating I was reading Fuchsia Dunlop's Shark's Fin and Sichuan Peppercorns: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China. The contrast between the dishes in her pages and the one before me was depressing beyond the help of any cocktail, no matter how on fire it was. I took most of it home.

There I dumped the slop into a strainer and ran it under water until the sauce broke free and it once again resembled food. I dressed it with nothing but the contents of the two bottles in the photo at top, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil, and the improvement was shocking. The food now tasted more like food and less like the food version of the restaurant's facade.

Still, I'll be going back for cocktails.


Recipe: Washed Yu Hsiang Pork

1 takeout container of bad yu hsiang pork
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
running water

Dump the "food" into a strainer and hold under running water until the sauce has been rinsed away. Spit down the drain in contempt.

Shake the food until relatively dry.

Dress with sesame oil and soy sauce.

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