Three Duck Parts

Slightly misleading Chinese name – “three duck parts”

What it really is – duck tongues, feet and shoulders in hot sauce

Location – Hunan restaurant


Keeping up to the unusualness levels of last week’s snack seemed unfeasible, so this week I made a decision to eat something a little more palatable. This Hunan restaurant looked like a fairly safe bet:

Inside, the restaurant was immaculate and utterly deserted. Chinese people just don’t eat at 4.30pm. The standout item on the menu was “three duck parts.” After eating the embryonic version there would surely be no problem eating the less palatable parts of the adult bird, right?
The food arrived in the usual quick time – first a base with an oil lamp inside, then the dish itself.

As you can see, there were three parts inside – tongue, webbed foot and shoulder. All were cooked in the Hunan style – that means lots of spices and a little oily but doesn’t make your tongue numb. There were also some hot peppers, but I’ve made the mistake of biting into them before and I’m not about to repeat it.
First I thought I’d go for a tongue.

The only way to hold it seemed to be at the base. To be perfectly frank I was previously unaware that ducks even had tongues. I’m fairly sure I’d never even thought about it. But they do, and they are thin and for some reason triangular. The two other parts seemed to be entirely cartilage, so they might have been some sort of tongue support. Ah well, here goes.

It wasn’t very nice. The outside part, under the hot sauce coating, was unpleasantly soft and slimy, the texture of boiled mucus. At the centre was a harder, rubbery bit made from very thin cartilage. It was not in any way edible. Finishing off one, I managed to get myself to eat a second. It was, if possible, worse.

The sauce was genuinely very hot. I’m used to a high level of spiciness, but this was serious enough to make me have to wash my lips.
Leaving aside the “shoulder” which didn’t appear to feature any meat whatsoever, I picked out a foot. It looked something like this:

The important difference between chicken feet and duck feet is that ducks have to swim and so therefore have webbing. This is what a webbed bird foot looks like when it’s been boiled in hot sauce for twenty minutes:

On one hand not particularly pleasant looking, on the other at least presenteing a good bitesworth of flesh with no small bones or gristle in the way. It was almost appetising.

The taste was much the same – not unpleasantly textured like the tongue but nevertheless not presenting what I could describe either as a “meal” or a “delicacy” but instead the kind of thing you may be forced to eat in a famine when you’ve finished off all the meat and vegetables. Bird feet aren’t really a problem any more, but I just don’t really see the attraction. The only thing that made it actually unpleasant was the sauce, now making my eyes water and forcing me to wash my lips – I suppose my tolerance of chilli is not as high as I’d thought.
Overall, the feet were mediocre, the shoulder not containing anything edible, the tongue near revolting, and the sauce unbearably spicy (in Indian terms a vindaloo or a phall.)
This meal is not recommended.

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