With a sign promoting the opportunity to dismember live seafood, we couldn't resist stopping in at Guangzhou's Hong Xing Haixian Jiujia. It reminded me of the ads for old grindhouse movies...
But unlike most of those tepid Times Square flicks, this seafood palace was just as gory and offensive as the signs promised. Like any number of fish joints, you pick your dinner, and choose how it's cooked up.
But this is China.
Eels slithered across the floor and bugs hopped out of baskets. One live gator was strapped up, testing its leash-limits with a mouth restrained by duct tape. "Look at me," screamed a kid as he rubbed the animal's back, his laughing parents snapping photos.
When I was a kid in Nashville, a gift-shop near the airport kept a live bear in a cage for tourist pix. But then I realized this gator was more than a photo op...
Yep -- these crocs were for eating. Recommended: braised, boiled, baked with abalone sauce, or steamed with lotus leaves. The chicken testicles, meanwhile, were supposed to be grilled on a hot plate, or fried up with ginger and shallots. Just like mom used to.
If these were a little too strange for your tastes, you could always fry up a plate of water beetles for $4. Dry cooked, with chili and salt, alongside a bottle of Qingdao beer? Doesn't sound too bad, really!
Speaking of beer, this restaurant also offered artisanal house-infused liquors. The favorite was snake-head baijiu (white lightning). With real snake-heads.
This was also a popular tonic:
"What is it?" asked my girlfriend Michelle.
I told her it was snake-cock liquor. She didn't believe me. I called over a waitress. In China, you call waitresses "waitress."
"Waitress, inside this, is this snake-"
I realized I didn't know a good word for penis. I used a childish euphemism instead.
"Is this snake pee-pees?"
The waitress gave an embarrassed giggle, but then nodded. Yep. Snake-penis booze. Real classy.
So we ate green beans with pork, instead.