Yesterday my wife had the girls over for their monthly game of cards, meaning no dinner at home, so I stopped on my way home to grab something to bite. I was aiming at a small chinese diner I had visited earlier and found okay.
When I crossed the street to get there, I suddenly noticed a chinese sign in a small side street. Closer inspection actually revealed a chinese restaurant I had never been in. There was a partial menu hanging outside, which looked very interesting, especially because the names of the items were give not only in German, but first
The restaurant was bigger than I'd have expected for the area. Not only were there about 10 tables for four, but they weren't in the least crowded. The style was unpretentious, bright, friendly.
So was, in a way, the waitress who brought me the menu. They had the usual one in a plastic binder, just like everywhere, and there was mostly the usual stuff in it. But there was also an additional menu on single sheet of paper, similar to the one on the picture above, and here were the interesting things.
On this menu were rice soups, a number of dim sums, and a few other smallish things, like pig's tongue on cucumber salad, and "phoenix claws" -- chicken feet. Now chicken feet is, here around, considered one of the ultimately strange items of chinese cuisine, and more or less unmarketable to the public. Unless, of course, someone is especially curious about it.
Most chinese restaurants in Germany have adapted at least a part of their dishes very much to european taste, even the better ones. Some are said to have two menus, one they hand out to everyone, and the other one that you get if you ask for it in Chinese
. So the idea is, if a restaurant openly shows the menu that offers chicken feet, they mean serious business, without fear of driving away the general public, and the guest can, perhaps, expect more authenticity than usual.Of course
I was especially curious about chicken feet, so I ordered them, as well as the pig's tongue, deep-fried bread, and a Tsingtao beer. It took some persuasion on my part to convince the waitress that, yes, I really
wanted the chicken feet. The beer was as always, the bread was nice, the pig's tongue a bit strange, but still palatable.
The chicken feet -- well. They were not crispy, as I had heard it once, but rather soft and a bit slimy, with some condiment. I did not really know how to eat them, at least it didn't really work with chopsticks. Spoon and fork, which were on the table, too, wouldn't have helped either. Probably it is better to take them in your hands and directly try to suck what little there is of skin and meat off the bones. But somehow I am not the biggest fan of taking my food in my hands if there isn't something like bread about it to keep your fingers dry and clean, even with things where it is generally accepted, like spare ribs. So it was... difficult.
Ah, bones, speaking of bones -- there were lots
of them. Lots and lots. I would have thought chicken have as many bones in their feet as we have in our hands, but somehow that did not seem to be the case. I haven't really counted -- certainly it felt
like there were two or three times as many.
The taste was "special". I guess it was some seasoning together with the soft and slimy texture that made me not really relish the chicken feet. In the end, the difficulties of eating them together with that taste let me give up early, leaving more than half uneaten on the table. The cook, who had in between replaced the waitress in taking care of the guests, smiled a bit at that and said these were rather for real chinese, not so much for europeans. I could not but agree with him. He assured me that the dim sums would be more to my taste.
Still, that little restaurant is very
interesting. There are unusual things to be had, and I am sure most of them are not as strange as the chicken feet. Even dim sums are rare around here, and the smallish number of them on the menu makes me hope they make them themselves. I will definitely go back there and make my way through their offerings, which were not only interesting, but also quite cheap. Add the friendly atmosphere and the apparently good quality of the food.