Sweet and sour duck, China day 2 lunch, April’s mother’s house, Wuyangcun district, Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China.

We only ate half of the duck in our dinner my first night here. A literal, symmetrical half, right down to the organs. The other half was prepared in a delicious sweet and sour sauce this morning, and so began my first introduction to the Cantonese culinary mantra: eat everything.

Flavor: 3.5 / 5

Prepared here (top photo) with sweet and sour sauce, water chestnuts and a crunchy fishy tasting vegetable (which I’m just calling a sea cucumber for now), this tasty and moist duck was practically flaking off the bone.

Fun: 4.5 / 5

And I mean every bone. Oh, like the thigh bone and the shoulder bone, right? Sure, those, but also, pictured below, the skull bone and the foot bone, which is apparently ubiquitous in Cantonese culture. Each has their own unique texture, and part of the idea behind all the bones is that the flavor and tenderness of the meat is at its best the closer you get to the bone. Guangzhou folk squabble over who gets which bones in almost every meal. This was my first real bone-chewing experience, and it took every bit of my chopstick dexterity to simultaneously keep a hold on the slippery duck skin and probe the crevices of bone, joint and cartilage to find the last little bits of tender meat.

Funkiness: 4 / 5

The experience of chewing around the bones of a freshly slaughtered duck would be weird enough if I weren’t also given the choicest bits of the duck (bottom photo), the duck feet (middle) and duck skull (bottom), pictured here next to the putative “water cucumber”, dried (left). Duck feet is nothing but bone chewing, and to properly suck off all the meat, fat and skin, you need to tear through the joint tissue connecting each segment of toe bone. So yea, doesn’t get much weirder than breaking and sucking on duck toe bones—at least, not until weirder things than duck come along.


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