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Chinese Jews around the world must experience a fair share of cognitive dissonance at the dinner table.
Pork is common in Chinese cooking, including my mom’s.
Watching such cable programs as Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations—shows whose hosts never back down from any dish, however questionable—often makes me hungry.
I’ve even written about it for this paper before in a story, “Feed Me Weird Things” (SN&R Arts&Culture, February 24, 2011), which involved exploring weird Sacramento delicacies such as chicken feet, chicken fetuses and ostrich burgers.
Such is the case with Mitapheap Restaurant’s prahok.
Located in Stockton (where there’s a larger Cambodian-American population than in Sacramento), Mitapheap serves a spicy prahok ktis, a type of fried prahok mixed with minced pork.
And now—especially after having dated a Cambodian-American for more than seven years—I’ve come to love fermented fish.
I’m already stunned that he’d admit to consuming such an unsanitary meal when my fiancée (the Cambodian-American) breaks the news: She’s almost certain that I’ve eaten a similar dish during a recent family dinner.
OK, sure, I’ll admit to eating weird foods from time to time. And with no one actually telling me what the dish was beforehand? After all, there’s a real possibility such a dish could give me food poisoning.
But on this night, at this dinner table, I wonder how my habit progressed this far. Looking back at my dietary history, however, this news shouldn’t be much of a shocker.
I think I just ate something extremely questionable.
The realization comes during a dinner with close friends in Rancho Cordova on a recent warm spring evening when I tell my friends I’m writing a story about different so-called “weird foods.” Soon, the conversation turns to sharing stories of eating delicacies from our different cultures—foods that others might find inedible, gross even, but that are considered perfectly normal or a great specialty in other cultures. Ethnically, two in this group identify as Hmong-American, one as Cambodian-American, and I consider myself a Chinese-American Jew.