Monday, July 4, 2011

Food that looks like poo, but also tastes good (Shanghai Mong)

Reese's looks like poop

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.

menu w/edit

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.

Jajangmyeon (자장면)

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.


Jamie said...

i love love love love love hyo dong gak's brown noodles

James said...

Jiajiangmyeon went far beyond comfort food for the Korean kids where I grew up. If you don't mind my adding to your visual mystique: Eating black bean noodles with some people is like witnessing a scatological orgasm.

Danny said...

haha, that does look like poo. my thing with this dish is that like spaghetti, the sauce should be mixed with the noodles when the noodles just come out of the water. noodles taste better like that. i just wish a korean restaurant would do that. i always find these things under-salted as well...

Nicholas said...

Jamie - I also like their jampong, but I'm allergic to shellfish so I probably shouldn't eat that too often.

James - funny you should say that. That's what it looks like when I eat Chinese 炸醬麵. Chunks of what appear to be feces all over the face and stuck in between my teeth. It's the best.

Danny - they probs should mix it for you, and it probably should be done as it's brought to the table, but I think they'd have a harder time selling pre-mixed shit noodles than a bowl of noodles with a generous heaping of shit on top. One just looks nicer... sort of.

I think the salting thing is relative. The Northern Chinese kind was always heavily salted and spicy, so that's what I grew up with too. When I have the Korean kind, it's kind of like I'm eating dessert. Like chocolate frosted noodles with pork. I know that doesn't make any sense, but that's similar to what I'm tasting haha.

Rodzilla said...

Haha, quality assessment.

I find you can accentuate the shitness further by running it over or stepping on the wrapper for the sanitary minded or straight up gravel if you're alpha.

The latter poo looks a lot like a colitis flare up.

Katie said...

I think the reason food that looks so god awful taste so good is because when we eat it with our eyes, our brain decides in advance it's going to taste awful. And when we actually taste it, our brain is like "Wow. This is amazing."

Just my thoughts

Nicholas said...

Rodzilla - man I was already distraught that my PB cubs were melted, I wasn't about to go stomping on them with combo boots. Also, while it would provide a nice contrast to the smoothness of the peanut butter, I don't like the textural nuances of gravel.

Katie - agreed. Then again, I like to set the bar low for everything I eat, so everything turns out better than expected.

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