This week: An insight into Laozihao Yak Meat
So we've all seen them—plastic wrapping in an array of different colors, flavors and sizes with screaming Chinese characters glaring out at you in a technicolored bombardment of the senses. Do we dare put their contents in our mouth? I'm talking about those not-so appetizing packaged foods we see littered around Chengdu's market stalls, subway shops, and street vendors. The endless shelves of packaged foods Chengdu has to offer can sometimes be overwhelming. This column will reveal, one snack at a time, what is available, and invite you to brave the unfamiliar.
Today's subject is Laozihao Yak Meat (老子号牦牛肉)—fragrant spicy flavor—purchased from a small market stall just off the top of Hongxing Lu Road. The prospect of trying yak's meat for the first time proved too hard for me to resist! The back of the bright red packaging informs me, in English and Chinese, that yak meat is a "nutritious food of low fat and high protein ... produced through a modern process and scientific formula."
The strips' appearance is reminiscent of beef jerky stretched into slug-shaped pieces, and they have a rather unfamiliar combination of a furry outer layer with a tough and chewy core. The sensation of eating one of these "treats" is somewhere between gnawing on dried game meat and chomping down on gelatin sweets.
The yak meat is covered in Sichuan's famous spicy flavorings, a recipe that the package proudly describes as a "folk secret recipe of 50 years." That "folk recipe" leaves a surprisingly long and tangy aftertaste with a prolonged, but quite pleasant, burning sensation on your tongue. The more you eat, the more they grow on you, and they have an addictive quality that surpasses their probable MSG content. I would say one 88g packet would ideally serve two hungry people between meals but perhaps an experienced yak-eater could devour a whole packet?
Serving suggestion? Great as a bar snack with a pint of beer but those of you feeling a bit more adventurous, why not try them with a refreshing plain yoghurt to cool those hot Sichuan spices?
I would definitely encourage you to give them a try. They may not become a staple in your Sichuan diet, but pop them in your bag, and they might be just what you need the next time you're caught in traffic. Of course if you don't like them, it is suggested on the back of the pack that they are also the best choice for a "gift to your relatives and friends." I will not vouch for that.
Laozi Xie Yak Meat
Produced by Chengdu Golden Sun Food Development Co. (成都金太阳食品开发有限公司)