China: A soft spot for sizzled spaniel

By Derek Cheng

Derek Cheng challenges himself and sets a new personal best for culinary repugnancy

Dog penis is known in China as "strong part of dog" - and it is indeed strong, and tough to chop into equal-sized pieces. Photo / Heather Mosher
Dog penis is known in China as "strong part of dog" - and it is indeed strong, and tough to chop into equal-sized pieces. Photo / Heather Mosher

Nothing makes your face recoil in disgust quite like the sight of a boiled dog testicle, shaft, or tip on your dinner plate. It's not just that you know what it is. It's also because it's clearly recognisable. You can't pretend it's something less offensive, such as cake.

I've digested some vulgar and offensive things over the years, all in the name of eating as the locals do, from duck embryo to tarantula to whale sashimi. But the manhood - or doghood, I suppose - of man's best friend set a new personal best for culinary repugnancy.

China, as well as parts of Vietnam and Korea, is well known for chowing down on chihuahua. The Chinese have eaten dog for centuries for its apparent medicinal benefits, not least of which is the ability to warm the body throughout a cold winter.

These days, it is still widely available and eaten, though animal welfare groups and a bulging middle-class intent on having pets - a sign of wealth - are clashing with those who continue to eat dog meat. Recent legal efforts to make eating dog illegal are seen as futile because of enforcement issues; those who want to eat dog will simply continue to do so.

I had been in Yangshuo, southern China, for a few weeks, and the thought of trying dog meat was always tempting. And then Simon, a friend's landlord with a soft spot for sizzled spaniel, decided - randomly, it seemed - to throw a dog party for his foreign friends.

Still, we weren't expecting dog penis to be on the menu when we arrived at Simon's place. He took us to a colourless room on the top floor, where a table in the middle of the room had been prepared for the canine banquet.

On the stereo played the timeless beats of Michael Jackson next to a whiteboard that had the evening's schedule. Between "eating dog noodles" and "dance and singing", there was "strong part of dog" on the table, in a bowl - not one but two dog penises, looking harmless enough. Were it not for the tips, they could almost pass for innocent barbecued sausage.

Simon took us to the rudimentary outside kitchen - a gas bottle connected to a stove and a wok - and invited me to chop up the strong part of the dog. It required a bit of muscle. Dog penis is surprisingly firm and difficult to cut into equal-sized consumables.

We sat back down at the table and readied ourselves for the first challenge - dog meat. It looked just like beef, but tasted sweeter. Warming. Not particularly dense, or heavy, but rather tender and - dare I say - tasty.

Then the real deal. Simon must have sensed a collective unease, because he plied us with liberal doses of local beer, and diluted the chopped up penis bits in large bowls of noodles.

There wasn't any hesitation. We reached for our chopsticks and, like a lucky dip, blindly grabbed whichever part of the penis we could.

"Oh no, I've got the tip," announced Rob, from Canada, half cringing and half giggling as he waved it in front of my face. "Look! Tip!"

Lucky him, I thought, and was thankful all I had to deal with was mere scrotum. It would have gone straight down the hatch with minimal fuss, had it not been for the fact that it was, unsurprisingly, rubbery and chewy. It didn't really taste of anything. I couldn't help but scrunch my face into an accordion, knowing that what I was chewing was the leathery layer protecting the testicle.

I sat and waited for a profound impact.

Maybe I would now see the world in a different hue, or the people opposite would start coughing violently, signalling the start of the collapse of the universe.

But nothing untoward took place, and it all became more amusing than grotesque.

In between snickering, Rob started to examine the tip and other parts that he had fished out with the conscientiousness of a seasoned scientist.

"I do believe that's the vas deferens," he said, referring to muscular tubes that allow sperm to travel from the testicles to the urethra.

Others were reliving their anatomy lessons in biology class. I could hear whispers of "shaft", "balls" and other parts in between infantile laughter.

Rob then, to my horror, really started to get elbow-deep, rolling back the outer layer of the tip with both hands to then suckle gently at the insides of the penis, making himself look much like a squirrel with the most delicious nut.

He was flexing his culinary biceps, and I accepted the challenge, taking the remains of the tip - part sheath, part penis - and taking a giant chomp.

I immediately regretted it.

The texture was exquisite, as you would expect from spongy tissue that lends itself easily to expanding and diminishing in size. Soft, like warm custard, and I could imagine it being deliciously inviting if it were sweet like chocolate.

It was also blandly tasteless, and had this heaviness that immediately weighed down all my limbs like an oppressive heat.

The mere sight of half-eaten tip in my hand was enough to make my throat and guts quiver in mild protest.

But with my pride on the line, I kept chewing until the sheath had been sufficiently broken up. And then I swallowed.

There is only one remedy for cleansing your mouth after having defiled it with dog penis.

Chinese rice wine, called baijiu, comes in two categories: the pricier stuff, which is smooth and burns your throat like a good whiskey, and the cheap stuff, which is so toxic it could instantly dissolve the highest density rock from the Earth's core.

After several beers, Simon produced a bottle of the cheap stuff.

It didn't last long. Anything is better than the aftertaste of dog penis.

Yangshuo Checklist

GETTING THERE: China Southern Airlines flies daily from Auckland to Guangzhou and connects form there to the Yangshuo region.

- NZ Herald

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