An Insight into Yue xiu Foods Sleeve-fish (Squid Strips)
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.
This is the most scared I have been about any of Chengdu's packaged foods. Sweaty palms, heavy heartbeat and a stomach that is already stirring anxiously in protest. This week I am reviewing Yue Xiu Foods Sleeve-fish (Squid Strips)—Japanese-style flavour 粤秀鱿鱼丝 (日式风味)— purchased from a convenience store on Hangkong Lu, east of Tongzilin metro station. I stare at the packet from a comfortable distance. I notice that my head has subconsciously arched away from it. On the front of the pack, the single eye of a cartoon squid glares ominously back at me.
My stomach stirs again as I rip open the package, and a pungent aroma of dried fish fills my nostrils and causes my head to recoil. The 'consume within 10 months' warning printed on the back of the pack provides an intimidating target.
The squid strips have a creamy yellow color with a stringy, flakey texture. They have formed a tangled mess in the packaging that at first glance resembles shredded cheddar cheese. As I look closely I notice that some of these strips have the lumps and bumps of squid tentacles. I pull one from the pack, and the squid stretches like elastic until it breaks free from the entangled mass, and pings back to its original shape.
The taste? As the squid strip touches my tongue the first flavor I encounter is the extreme salt seasoning. Immediately afterwards, the intense tang associated with seafood overpowers my taste buds. It is the same flavor that is synonymous with squid— which I usually enjoy— but much stronger. The drying-out process has concentrated the squid flavor, which reaches sickeningly high levels as I continue to chew.
The squid is just as rubbery and spongey to chew as it was to pull out of the packet. It is an odd sensation, similar to eating snails or tough gelatin sweets. It takes a few attempts for my molars to cut through the springy and resilient material. After sampling a few of the strips, the salt makes me thirsty and causes me to salivate excessively between tentacles. Finally, I register a slight influx of heat from the paprika seasoning, but it is very mild.
The squid strips are one of those strong-flavored foods that divides people into two groups, like cilantro—those who love them, or those who hate them. For me, I will not be finishing my 45g packet. Guess which group I belong to. At least I can pass them on as a 'present' to my Singaporean colleague who likes them. Perhaps you should try them and decide which group of people you belong to?
Serving suggestion? You could always rehydrate the squid strips with soy sauce to temper the powerful seafood taste and provide a sour edge to your tentacles, not to mention bump up the saltiness another few notches.
Yue Xiu Foods Sleeve-fish (Squid Strips) 粤秀鱿鱼丝 (日式风味)
Guangzhou Yuexiu Foods Co, Ltd. 广州市鱿鱼食品有限公司
Price: 8 RMB