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Fishy tales. And heads. And dogs and frogs... (I)

In fact, the fish heads are a prized delicacy.

In fact, the fish heads are a prized delicacy.

One of the things in the market that interests me a lot is the fish. For a city so far from the sea there is a very impressive display. One of the most popular, though, is a local fish from the Songhua Lake called pangtou ("fat head"). It's a strange fish like a big salmon, with an odd head that looks as though it's on upside down. 市场里最吸引我的商品是各种各样的鱼。一个离海很远的城市,出售的鱼却种类繁多,令人印象深刻。而当地人最爱吃的是本地松花湖出产的胖头鱼。这种鱼模样古怪,乍一看像大个的鲑鱼,脑袋却好似上下颠倒了一样。
The fishmongers display the fish on wooden slats on the floor with their heads chopped off. At first I thought that the heads had been chopped off to sell for soup or to throw away. In retrospect, this was more than a little naïve – nothing in China gets thrown away. In fact, the heads are a prized delicacy. 鱼贩子们把去头的鱼用木头板条垫着,摆在地上出售。一开始我以为砍下来的鱼头都被单卖出去做汤喝或干脆扔掉了。现在回想起来,我未免太过天真——在中国没有什么不能吃的。事实上,鱼头被当作价值极高的美食。
I discovered this the first time I was invited to a banquet at one of the fish restaurants that border the lake. After what seemed like an endless succession of courses, I had thought that the meal must be drawing to a close, when a waiter appeared bearing a fish head the size of a dustbin lid. 我第一次被邀请去湖边的一家鱼餐馆参加饭局的时候就发现了这一点。在上了无数道菜之后,我以为这顿饭已接近尾声;这时,一个服务员端着一盘鱼头出现了,那鱼头足有垃圾桶盖子大小。
Inevitably, the choicest parts of the fish head are the eyes and the brain, and inevitably, as the guest of honour seated by the host, I was privileged to have him pick these out for me and place them in my bowl. The eye was the size of a golf ball. Mercifully, fishes' brains are small; I could have wished this one a little smaller all the same. 鱼头上的精华部位照例是眼睛和脑子;同样按照惯例,作为坐在主人身边的贵客,我有幸得到了主人亲手夹到我碗里的鱼眼和鱼脑。那眼睛足足有高尔夫球那么大。不幸中的万幸,鱼类的脑子通常都比较小;可我还是希望这条鱼的脑子能更小一些。
The tactic I have adopted when given gobby things to eat is to chew them very aggressively for a second or two longer than I think I can manage, and then swallow them. Mumbling them around your gums in a mealy-mouthed fashion and hoping they'll go away will get you nowhere. 通常别人让我尝试难吃的东西时,我会采取这样的策略:用力地嚼一两秒钟(这可比我想象中能坚持的时间长多了),然后整个吞下去。在嘴里翻来覆去地咀嚼,希望这些奇怪的东西自己消失,这种做法是没有用的。
This is an essential approach when dealing with many of the local delicacies. I was once taken out to dinner by a friend in Changchun, and had been promised a treat of frogs. As a long-term resident of France, based in La Dombes where the eating of frogs is central to the culture, I have long been an enthusiast for a hot plate of frogs fried in butter, parsley, salt and garlic. I knew that frogs figure highly in Chinese culinary heritage too, so I was looking forward to this experience.


(China.org.cn 李潇 译)

To be continued...

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