Thursday, April 9, 2009

Quail To Go

When I first moved to Boston I seized every opportunity to dive into the labyrinthian playground of food that is Chinatown. In my Brandeis days I would often take a combination of buses and trains just to have dinner at Penang, which became a favorite spot for birthdays.

The food was great and the atmosphere thrilling compared to the sameness bubble of a college campus, though the dish of ice and sweetened beans that came with a sparkler in it - on the house - never quite took the place of a cake.

Paradoxically, once I moved closer to Chinatown I went there less often, rarely tempted to go beyond the inexpensive neighborhood eateries of Cambridge and Somerville. But now that I'm teaching food writing at the new Boston Center for Adult Ed., I find myself a stone's throw from Chinatown every Wednesday. Last night I finally had time to sneak over for a bite, or as it turned out, a quail.

With only ten minutes to find and eat something exciting, I ducked into a small establishment with the requisite smiling ducks and geese dangling in the window. I needed something that I could eat while walking (briskly) to class, and the small, plump roasted quails looked like just the thing. For $2.50 I soon had my own bird, nestled in a palm sized styrofoam dome, unaccompanied but for a drizzle of golden brown, sweet and salty soy glaze.

I ate the little wings, legs and breast while hoofing it, deciding mouthful by mouthful whether or not it was okay to crunch and swallow the bones.

A small, bony bird may not be as convenient as other, more mainstream on-the-go foods, like the Taco Bell "cheese roll-up," but unlike such alternatives, it won't kill me. (Well, maybe the bones will.)

Either way, the bird served as an amuse for the larger feast I intend to have the next time I fully reenter the labyrinth.

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