We recently moved into a new apartment because there were “health issues” with our last place. Walking around the Shanghai alleys around our new building we discovered a quaint little restaurant called “The Public Chicken.” Curious, and starving from the unpacking we’d been doing all afternoon, we took a seat in the middle of the oblong shaped room and waited. A friendly elderly woman approached with a list of ingredients and we quickly realized it was a hot pot place with tiny burners brought out to your table and a small, water-based stew put atop wherein you dunked various foods to cook. We ordered a pot and some mutton and veggies to dunk and then sat back and watched the people around us eat.
After several minutes the elderly woman with the friendly features returned with a pot full of spices, herbs and pre-cooked veggies boiling wildly in the stew. I stuck my chopsticks into the pot and pulled out a small white flap with black spots. I turned it over in my chopsticks and smelled the mystery substance. Thinking it was a type of colorful seaweed I placed it back in the pot and poked around a bit more.We put in the fresh veggies and mutton and then waited while it boiled. The tomatoes and potatoes were especially tasty, and we wolfed them down soon after they were finished cooking.
Digging around the pot with my chopsticks I found another flap of white with black spots, I examined it more closely, bringing it up to my eyes for a clearer view. I heard a gasp and looked up. From the other side of the table Mike held up a small white hand that was grasped firmly around his chopstick, the nails digging into the wood. My whole body began to shake and Mike yelled, “is that a damn hand?” as he tossed it back into the pot. By now I was shaking and laughing out of wild fear. He regained his composure while I sat shaking and then went trolling for other body parts. Atop the boiling veggies Mike assembled the puzzle pieces of a large white and black frog, complete with head, tail and four precious little hands boiled into a gripping position. I watched silently out as he assembled his grotesque puzzle, wondering how many frog parts I’d already eaten.
Despite being one of the more disgusting things to boil to the surface of a pot I’d been eating out of, the meal itself was quite tasty. Apparently frog is a nice seasoning for fresh vegetables. I doubt I’ll eagerly reenter the Public Chicken (especially since it was devoid of Chicken and my imagination has already run rampant on what a kitchen full of frogs looks like) it was an experience to remember. Right up there with eating dog in Mongolia and seahorse in Beijing.