We are getting ready to change addresses and part of the drill is to go through the food cupboards and pull out all the stuff that has been pushed to the back for the past year. Over the weekend I pulled out a pretty gift box that had been hiding behind the buffalo milk( from more than a year ago). Hmm…a vacuum sealed surprise of donkey meat. Back in January my husband was going to Beijing and very helpful relative implored him not miss the donkey sandwiches or 驴肉火烧 ( lǘròu huǒshāo). Now between my husband and I we have been to Beijing easily a dozen times, and not once been offered an equus asinus sandwich.
Not one to turn down advice from a well-traveled relative my husband made it his mission to get a donkey sandwich, business meeting, what business meeting? Two days later he returned triumphantly extolling the virtues of donkey sandwiches served cold. His generous Beijing hosts were so impressed by his request to try this local delicacy and then appearing to really enjoy the experience, they felt compelled to send him home with enough meat for at least a few more sandwiches to share with friends.
Now I confess I have not eaten a donkey sandwich ( which is why the box was still unopened) but the idea of donkey meat as a culinary choice is intriguing. It really isn’t that unusual a choice if you think about it. People eat horse meat, bison and cows so why not a donkey ? From a nutritional stand point donkey meat stacks up quite well. It is high in protein and low in fat, only 3 gm. per 100 gm. serving with plenty of iron too.
Legend has it that the donkey habit started about 300 years ago in Hebei province when the embattled troops of Zhu Di were starving and started to slaughter and eat their horses. The local people were impressed but felt that horses were too valuable to be used as burger meat so they substituted the donkey. The habit caught on and now donkey meat is part of the local street food menu in the north of China. The most common dish you would find, should you so desire, is the lǘròu huǒshāo, or sandwich. The description does sound appealing; chopped or shredded meat that has been cooked for 8-24 hours is spiced with green pepper and cilantro and stuffed in a warm flaky pocket bread. This is generally a breakfast dish so morning would be the time to find the freshest sandwiches.
But donkey meat isn’t just for breakfast. There are other famous donkey dishes including the Three Treasures. I won’t divulge what the 3 treasures are, you can use your imagination as to what a donkey might treasure. Or heck, order the dish the next time you are in Beijing and impress your guests, my experience tells me you won’t come away empty handed.
Eat Well, Live Well, Have fun!