Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Spicy Bullfrog

A quick way to get Lu Wei excited is to bring up spicy food.  As a native of Hubei province, he is something of a connoisseur.  He's used to his foreign friends and his wife having much weaker palates--I think you really have to be born there to appreciate some of the local specialties.  However, when some of us expressed a willingness to be adventurous, he quickly organized a meet-up at one of his favorite places. 

I took a taxi to Jiedaokou and from there the subway a few stops to a part of town closer to the river (getting anywhere takes some time in a city the size of Wuhan).  Just outside the subway exit I met up with Luwei, Angela, and their sun Levi, and Micah and Bonnie, who were coming from another direction. We made our way down an ordinary street of shops and restaurants in an area where the locals seemed a bit surprised to see so many foreigners.

Along with few other dishes, Lu Wei ordered a gigantic bowl of spicy bullfrog, a Hubei specialty.  You can even buy live bullfrogs at Walmart in the seafood area, next to the eels.  (Where would you categorize bullfrogs?)  The meat tasted fairly generic; I'm trying to think of something to compare it to.  I would say it was somewhat similar to eel meat, but I don't think that would help most of my readers out much.  Rather slippery and smooth, the meat had more the appearance and texture of fat, but was solid and definitely meat.  I'm not making it sound appetizing, but really, it was just fine.  I can't really say much to the natural taste of frog, as this was marinated in a spicy broth that would cover up any gaminess and fishiness or what have you.

It didn't seem just terribly spicy at first, not as bad as we'd expected.  But the more I ate, the spicier it seemed to get.  About half way through the meal I started dispersing my bites of frog between longer and longer breaks of eating the side dishes.  As we arrived further down in the dish, it quickly became so uncomfortably spicy that we foreigners just picked at it and then gave up entirely.  Lu Wei would ask solicitously, "Did you have enough? Is it alright?" while throwing down prodigious amounts himself. 

Somewhere around this point we began discussing how spicy bullfrog was ordered in this restaurant.  There are five levels of spiciness, and you tell the waitress your preference, from the least spicy, 1, to insanity, 5.  I would have estimated our current dish to be a three or so, but Lu Wei told us it was only a one.  Only a one??? And it was already so spicy that we could only eat about half of a normal serving!!  When Lu Wei is alone or with like-minded Chinese friends, he normally orders a three!


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