My Reese's peanut butter cup melted in the car... it looked like dog poop. Then I ate it. Cool story bro.
A long time ago, one of my best friends remarked that "most things that look like shit probably also taste good, everybody knows that." He might've been drunk when he told me that, so I didn't really think too much of his comment, just passing it off as another idiotic musing that really didn't make any sense. After all, as someone who likes taking pictures of food... aesthetics mean a lot to me. I don't like when people say they "taste first with their eyes," because it sounds dumb as hell, but it's kind of true. I refuse to believe anyone looks at a puke green colored slice of cake and thinks "shit, that looks delicious." Anyway, I've had a lot of time on my hands lately (what with the not doing anything), so I've also been spending a lot more time reading other peoples' food blogs. When I came across this post on Ben's Chili Bowl in DC, the first thing I thought was... "man, that looks like Vesuvius exploded out of someone's asshole straight onto a hot dog." Except... Ben's Chili Bowl is pretty damn famous for making some delicious-ass franks... so maybe my less than brilliant friend was actually onto something? Let's examine "foods that look like poo, but also taste good."
After putting more thought into the issue... a lot of foods that look like shit also taste fantastically awesome. Things like Snickers bars, uncooked brownie batter, pudding, half melted rocky road ice cream, dat sauce (bites lip) they put on 甜不辣, and yeah... chili. These things all look like the spawn of my dog's butthole, but I think they all taste pretty swell too. Maybe the converse isn't true, but things that look like poo do seem to taste good. Let's consider another example.
Black bean noodles. It's a Korean-Chinese thing. Since my grandfather was from Northeastern China... it's a childhood favorite, and pretty much what I grew fat on. Basically it's some sort of sauce derived from black beans (in Chinese cuisine it's often soybeans, 甜麵醬, or 豆瓣醬) mixed with ground meat, and sometimes vegetables, that gets put over noodles. If I had to find an equivalent in American cuisine, it's like mac & cheese. It's comfort food. I appreciate the ninja-edit on the menu, it's almost as if they added an advertisement that says "now w/pork!"
There's a few places you can get it in Manhattan... I know that Hyo Dong Gak makes a dope bowl of black bean noodles, but I've been wanting to try Shanghai Mong's for a while, so that's why I went. On a completely non-food related thought, whoever named their restaurant is pretty wack. I know in Chinese, 上海夢 (Shanghai Dream) sounds ethereal and peaceful and whatnot, but it also kind of sounds like one of those 很黃很暴力 (very erotic and very powerful) massage parlors.
Anyway, back to the food. Since Shanghai Mong is a semi-Chinese-Korean place, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect... the lighter, spicier, more pork focused version from China-r or the heavier, sweeter, more paste-ish variant from Korea.
Definitely more Korean than Chinese. Their version was... okay. The noodles were acceptably compliant (let the waitress cut them for you), and worked well enough as faithful sponges for the glorious sauce. Except the sauce wasn't entirely "fabulous!" Not nearly as thick as Hyo Dong Gak's, theirs was kind of like a runny poo. Kind of like when I feed my dog fried chicken. Not thick and paste-like at all. Flavor-wise it seemed pretty decent. Not too heavy on any particular flavor, it possessed a subtle sweetness that paired well with the pork, but let's be entirely honest... sweetened pork is a flavor that plays nice with pretty much everyone's palate (except for hippies and vegans). All in all, it's a fairly good rendition of jajangmyeon, but you could do better just next door at Hyo Dong Gak. Still, for something that looks like mudbutt, it's pretty damn tasty.