The Word on the Street Food


If you want to experience the gastronomic heart and soul of any place, it's essential to try its street food. And in Beijing, one of the foremost street snacks is something called lu zhu huo shao: pieces of dense flatbread soaked in a heady broth filled with pieces of what Americans call "organ meats." As I've said before, there's virtually nothing I won't eat in the course of my culinary explorations. But there are, of course, a few things that I actually dislike, having tried them, and one of them is the digestive apparatus of the pig, including its stomach and large intestines (I find their smell rank and appalling, and I don't particularly like the texture of their squidgy rolls and folds).

In Beijing, however, duty called, and today I found myself in a tiny, old-fashioned snack restaurant in a lane to the east of the Forbidden City, sitting in front of a steaming bowl of lu zhu huo shao. Its visceral aromas made my nose twitch as I dived in with my chopsticks, picking out first the pieces of deep-fried bean curd and flatbread. There was no chickening out, then, so I ate a couple of pieces of intestine and stomach and a chunk of purplish lung with tubes sticking out. Even the generous scattering of fresh coriander did little to mask their earthy stench. The slices of liver and heart were a breeze by comparison. This was hard-core street food. But I'm glad to have tried it…really.

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