Walk into a bakery in this China and you’re bound to see a wall of danishes, muffins, donuts, rolls, and croissants that have hot dogs baked into them. Who would take a perfectly good pastry, stuff a hot dog in it, and wait until it gets cold to eat? The Chinese, of course. Though I believe [...]
Walk into a bakery in this China and you’re bound to see a wall of danishes, muffins, donuts, rolls, and croissants that have hot dogs baked into them. Who would take a perfectly good pastry, stuff a hot dog in it, and wait until it gets cold to eat? The Chinese, of course.
Though I believe that this is more or less a European culinary contraption, the Chinese have appropriated it with excessive gusto. Hot dog pastries are everywhere here, a true staple at any bakery.
I’ve eaten ants, crickets, grasshoppers, dogs, cats, goat testicles, blood jello, blood pudding, just about every sort of organ, maybe a rectum or two, and many other types of taboo or otherwise off-putting foods in my travels, but there was something about the hot dog pastries that made me draw the line between what goes in my mouth and what doesn’t.
It wasn’t that the idea of a hot dog encased in baked, bread-like wrappings that got to me — add a little ketchup, onions, eat while fresh, that could be good. No, it was just the fact that they looked absolutely hideous. Invariably, they are served at room temperature after sitting out on a shelf for hours (or even days). There was something about these hot dog pastries that just looked necrotic. They were old, cold, and wrinkly — adjectives perhaps better suited to describe the shelved residents of a morgue, and they looked about as tasty. The traveler’s blinking red warning light and alarm that says “do not consume” flashed in my head each time I looked upon one of these shriveled and stale culinary mutations.
While the hot dog often ends up being a part of ad hoc, we got nothing else to eat so lets take whatever we have and mix it together, wing nut food combinations, combining them with just about every type of pastry imaginable seemed overtly overzealous and intimidating. Walk into a bakery in China and you’ll see an entire section devoted just for them. They sit right next to the muffins, the sliced bread, and the danishes, and they are combined with all three. They come in all different styles, different shapes, with an incredible array of supplemental ingredients — anything from mayonnaise to cheese to imitation cream cheese to frosting to Italian spices to egg dough — spread over the top.
China is a country of hot dog eaters, but they seem to prefer them old, stale, and, often, at room temperature. The hot dog stand serving warm, fresh, and juicy red hots with ketchup, onions, and relish really doesn’t exist in the general sphere of this culture. The closest you can get is gas station hot dogs that sit in the plastic case spinning on metal rollers.
One day I proclaimed that I would never eat a hot dot pastry just as Vagabond Journeyist Steve Mendoza picked one up from the shelf of a bakery. He began munching it down and he urged me to take a bite. No way. “You have to try it, just take a bite.” He wouldn’t give up. I gave in.
“It kind of tastes like pizza,” I responded. I cannot justify this reaction, but it was the closest thing I could say to the truth without admitting defeat and saying that it was good. The shriveled old hot dog pastry was actually not as revolting to taste as it was to look at; the salty, meaty, chewy aspects of the hot dog mixed well with the fluffy, sweet, starchy aspects of the pastry.
Yet again, I faced one of the prime lessons of travel: just take a bite.