Thursday, August 19, 2010

Swine Flu and Tofu

I met Pierre and BK during my stint in Japan, 2005. It was our first week there and on one of several field trips required to get our foreign asses registered, my roommate Dave and I ended up across a table from these white boys over ...some kind of food, don't remember what, but you can bet it was Japanese and I was avoiding pork. After some talk we learned that these two kids lived in the room directly above us. This circumstance led to some interesting communication practices later in the semester.

Surely, mayhem ensued during our foursome's adventures in Tokyo and surrounding areas. When it all came to a close that December, Dave and I returned to earth and Pierre and BK remained in the future. Today, they are only occasional visitors to Philly, but when they are here, we always eat well. It's the effect of spending so much time together in one of the world's greatest food countries. But for today, I suggested Chinese; Han Dynasty in Old City, based on their out of this world pork belly, my favorite cut.

When I hopped in the back of Pierre's 2004 Ford Focus ZX3 hatchback (which resembles him as a dog would its owner), I discovered that there were prizes for me stashed in the piles of life items strewn about the car. Firstly, Pierre handed me a Blue Scholars CD, a group he always raves about, but warning me that it might not work (it didn't work, if you're reading this, thanks for nothing you son of a bitch). The next prize I found myself. Due to undeniable appropriateness, it was promptly granted to me. What I received was swine flu. Not quite the all-bark no-bite pandemic that just swept areas of the globe last year, but a plush reflection of it. Pierre works for Giant Microbes, a CT company that makes stuffed animals, if in your mind the 'animal' category includes botulism, HPV, and bad breath. I'm guessing the little cute swine flu cell plushie was a hot item in the wake of the disease. I just love that it's actually pink. What are the odds of that?

After being un-promptly seated by the inept lanky white kid who inexplicably still works at Han Dynasty, we ordered the pork belly, the cumin lamb, hot beef tripe, and something new to me; Ma Po Tofu. It reminded me of Korean jigae in texture, though not so much in flavor. Though there was pork in this dish, it was dissolved, all stewed in with super soft tofu and a striking blend of a few flavors that are unmistakably Sichuan. Speaking of stand-out flavors, I got hit with a Sichuan peppercorn real bad somewhere through the tripe. It numbed my mouth right around when the owner walked over to tell us that we had ordered all his favorite dishes. Whether or not it was a fluke decision, it struck up some pretty entertaining conversation.

We wrapped up our meal with a little grub to spare, which the out of towners kindly left me so that I could crave it late at night, eat it, and spend the next 20 minutes in blissful agony from my mouth being on fire.


  1. Ha, my bust. I'll be in Philly Sept. 3-5. Remind me to bring some tunes. Also, next time my uncle sends this you're gonna get a little care package from me.

    -- P

  2. These are great! Keep them coming. It was cool to see you and hang at the PHA thing at Bob and Barbaras.


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