Friday, October 24, 2008

Xie Lao Song, Beijing

Ma La Xiang Guo

My local colleague told me that one huge thing that has been popping up in Beijing lately has been restaurants specializing in ma la xiang guo, or literally "numbingly spicy fragrant pot." I wasn't quite sure what to expect: he mentioned something about duck heads and frogs in a pot with Sichuan spices. So I was a bit surprised when this basically turned out to be like a large version of Shanghai's Chicken Pot.

Basically one pre-selects ingredients from the menu (crab is apparently quite popular, and you can add other stuff like Spam too), after which they cook it all for you in the back before bringing it out in a big pot. I had quite a bit of trouble eating those duck heads pictured above given all of the bones involved, while the frog meat was also a bit of a challenge for the same reason. It was also a bit frustrating trying to get your hands on something tangible in the pot as everything was chopped up into a big sloppy mess, but the salty peppercorn-filled mixture was still tasty. It got much better for me after they poured soup into it and turned on the gas burner underneath.

Wasabi CabbageOne odd thing that my colleague ordered on the side were some cold cabbage rolls with a thick layer of wasabi spread across the top. It tasted just like it sounded: a bit weird, but nonetheless something that apparently is a Beijing thing. And of course, he had to bust out a copious amount of Chinese jing jiu alcohol, which still tasted a bit like watermelon Jolly Ranchers to me. I can't read the name of the Chinese address but the phone number was 010-64238422.

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