HONG KONG – The Hong Kong dining scene has a significant presence of establishments serving strange, even arguably disgusting food which is claimed to boost libido or virility, with some restaurants exclusively offering dishes such as chicken testicles or giant clams.
In a practice typical to Hong Kong and the rest of China, diners tend to cook their own food – normally meat and vegetables – in a big pot full of broth which is put in the middle of the table.
A wide range of sauces is served as accompaniments to this gastronomic orgy, which can include soy, sesame, peanuts, seafood, spices and peppers.
In the former British colony, such a fondue can be accompanied by a huge number of ingredients – sometimes more than 150, some of them prepared artisanally – and different animal parts such as brains, heart, gonads, kidneys, blood and intestine, an assortment which could be challenging for many diners.
There is a wide range of styles on offer, with one universal rule: it is a very social dining experience, so don’t do it with people whom you don’t like.
At a restaurant called Hot Pot Instinct, one can try almost anything, but the delicacies most in demand locally are slimy and rubbery, such as pork brains, goose intestines, rabbit kidneys, and even chicken testicles, completing an assortment as unsavory as possible for some.
“Eating testicles can be good for men’s virility and women’s skin, or at least that is the popular belief,” said Alan Mak, the owner of the restaurant.
Mak has three restaurants and does not hesitate to receive curious guests personally, explaining and offering his exotic delicacies.
“The Chinese do not waste much when it comes to food, there is barely any part of any animal which is not consumed. However, in my case, there are some which I would never eat: horse or rabbit, because they are the zodiac signs of my wife and daughter,” he added.
Testicles and giant clams are house specialties at the restaurant and are said to have aphrodisiac qualities.
Picking up a specimen in his hand, Mak claims giant clams are the most delicious among the dishes he offers and one of the many Asian remedies which claim to stimulate libido due to their high zinc content, which is said to boost testosterone levels.
In fact, geoduck, one of the largest clam species of the world which is found on the western coasts of Canada and the United States, is right there on the table at the restaurant.
One has to dish out $45 for eating this rare product, which can weigh up to three kilograms (6.6 pounds) and is boiled before being dipped in ice water and served practically raw along with layers of ginger similar to sashimi.
Pork brains, which boost intelligence as per popular folklore, also have their own fans and cooking technique – they are hung on a slotted knife and slowly dipped in the boiling soup until their color turns from gray to white.
The worldwide chain Chongqing Liuyishou offers oddities such as pork intestines filled with blood curd, pig arteries served in small slices which maintain a crunchy texture or duck blood curd.
Originating in different parts of Asia, the organs are cut in pieces before being hung in restaurant-front displays similar to jewelry shops.
But it is the company, the sharing, the search of the delicacy in the soup or the dispute over who managed to get the best piece, that makes the dining experience memorable.