"I'll have the AIDS soup," I said.
I'd seen bizarre offerings at restaurants across China, but this was the weirdest. Not just AIDS soup, but AIDS Soup with Sheep Placenta.
That's right... Sheep Placenta. It's not a mistranslation, but a fine healing broth for those with "frail body, hepatosplenomegaly, and tuberculosis embolism." It also features "fish sex sweet."
It's a fascinating find in a Beijing mall, just steps from Starbucks, Beard Papa, and the absolutely amazing Hello Kitty Dreams Restaurant. The menu is bloated with gastrobscurata, like Ecological Bullfrog Stocking...
Insect Story, the edible sequel to Pixar's A Bug's Life...
And, if you're feeling really ill, the Tonic Old Turtle...
I almost expected to find live monkey brains offered. Oh, wait, they were.
Must be a poetic euphemism, right? Please???
But these were incidental, not integral. They were all potential additions to AIDS Soup, a bubbling hotpot of broth filled with enough traditional medicine to revive even Lazarus. Ginseng and howlet's wing, monkey head mushrooms and round black bulbs, sliced spam and innards and guts and unknown nuts, and chopped-up sheep placenta, all churning furiously up and down.
"It's beautiful," I mused, and the waiter smiled as he slid more alien ingredients in.
He'd recommended including the curative ecological bullfrog stocking. It was flayed and chopped and entirely present, laying on a bed of its own slimy skin.
In that went, too.
And it was healing. Unlike the foul penis restaurant, this meal was majestic. I don't know if it'll really cure HIV or AIDS, but every bite felt like a warming hug. A warming hug from Sloth. (I wanted to shout, "Hey you guys!") Every bite gave me strength. And it tasted of glory.
Of course, the post-meal plate resembled a Troma movie. But that's the cost of a TCM cure.
All this and more, at the depressing-named Forgotten Perfume restaurant, ShiMao Mall, Beijing.