Some days ago I led a small food tour in Chiuchow (潮州, pronounced Chaozhou in Putonghua and Teochew in the local language), a city in eastern Guangdong province.
We settled ourselves at a dai pai dong for a Chiuchow-style seafood feast.
I immediately ordered a dish of cockles, but some in the group looked at me with a puzzled frown when they heard me ordering.
Well, to eat or not to eat the cockles was a matter of free choice.
In the shallow dish lay the blood cockles, which had just been dipped in boiling water for a few seconds.
Accompanying the dish was exotic dark soya sauce with chopped chilies and coriander in which diners could steep the raw goodies.
It’s an astonishing fact that one will become bolder when in a less familiar place.
Some in the group told me they would never dare to try raw cockles back home.
Well, confronted with a tray of the mouth-watering delicacies, how can you possibly say no to them?
Since everyone seemed to enjoy the cockles, I decided to order some Chiuchow marinated raw shrimp and crabs.
Crabs are now at the height of their season in Chiuchow.
When you lift the top shell, the bright orange-red roe and tomalley spill out.
It’s so tempting.
But it seemed odd to me that only a few of my fellow diners tried the raw shrimp, and no more than three people gave the green light to the raw crabs.
Rationally speaking, raw cockles should be the riskiest option of the lot, so why would anyone prefer them over raw shrimp and crabs?
Seeing me eating all the raw seafood without hesitation, one of the group members advised me not to eat too much, fearing I would fall ill.
I took a sip from my glass of whiskey and began sucking the fragrant roe and tomalley out of another crab.
I was not trying to flaunt my iron gut.
It happened that I had just opened up myself not long ago to ganjang gejang (raw crabs marinated in soy sauce) at Damun Korean Cuisine & Bar in Causeway Bay, where I was told it was a traditional Korean dish.
The much-hyped Korean ganjang gejang has stormed Hong Kong only in the past two or three years.
Rumors have emerged that some restaurants in the city marinate the crabs in their own kitchen instead of importing them from South Korea by air.
Frankly speaking, I feel more reassured if they are prepared in Korea.
And I am pretty sure more people would try raw blood cockles if the Koreans also have such a dish.
You may now want to ask which — the Chiuchow or the Korean — marinated raw crabs taste better.
The two sauces are so different that it is not very meaningful to compare them at all.
However, in terms of the freshness of the crabs, I would give Chiuchow’s crabs a much higher rating.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 16.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
– Contact us at [email protected]