On Earth, there is Donkey Meat

天上龙肉,地上驴肉
In Heaven there is Dragon Meat, and
On Earth there is Donkey Meat

That is the saying in Northwest China, in Gansu province and the bordering areas of Xinjiang, Qinghai, Ningxia and Inner Mongolia. Donkey is revered as the earthly equivalent to dragon meat, and it is widely sought after and enjoyed by many.

Donkey with Yellow Noodles

Donkey meat is also available in Beijing, Shanghai and most big cities in between, but Gansu is the epicenter of donkey cuisine and where the most delicious dishes can be found. I sampled several donkey dishes, but by far the most delicious was the Donkey with Yellow Noodles (lurou huangmian) had in Dunhuang and pictured here.

The meat is tender, sweet and delicious. It tastes nothing like pork or beef. For obvious reasons, it does taste a little like horse, only it is sweeter and more tender, and like horse and many hoofy game meats it is also low in fat and high in protein. In addition to tasting good and being a healthy meat, it is also, very inexpensive, which I am sure adds to its popularity. The strips of charchuterie donkey meat for dipping are a little plain, the sandwiches and burgers are too ‘bready’ and the starch interferes with the great flavor of the meat (I favor buffalo steaks over burgers any old day as well), but for this wandering girl, the donkey with yellow noodles was just right. Another thing I like about the dish, was that it was a very “Asian” way to enjoy the dish.

I haven’t fully reconstructed this recipe yet, but my notebook reads: “Lots of sliced garlic, a bit of chopped ginger, spring onions and chilies are stir fried in sesame oil for a few minutes. Mixed vegetables (carrots, sweet red pepper, tomato) and mushrooms are added and sauteed until tender. Toss and add light soy and rice wine (Shaoxing) with a bit of cane or brown sugar and stir. Add tofu (if desired). Some mustard greens are added into the fray and then the precooked donkey slices. Cover and cook to warm. Drain noodles, toss with a light coating of sesame oil if desired. When greens are tender but still bright green and meat warm, remove wok from the heat and serve.” In the restaurant, the noodles were tossed with the meat and vegetables before service and served with chilies marinated in oil and a strong, dark vinegar. Don’t be afraid – its delicious!

Yakitori-like Donkey Kebabs

Another way that I tried and really liked donkey was as donkey kebabs on the street. These are tiny little rib kebabs. Little mouthfuls of meat that are more like Yakitori than like a large Turkic-derived kebab. And the ones I had had been marinating in chilies and sugar and soy and had a light chili paste coating on them. This offset the usually sweet taste of donkey and made it sweet and spicy at the same time. Sort of a teryaki-like taste but hotter and richer – really good!

As evident in the opening saying, the donkey is revered in Chinese culture – and not only for their taste. The donkey is revered in poetry and painting as the animal that carries the wandering poet or artist on his journeys.

Caught In Drizzle At Sword Gate Pass
Lu You 1125-1210

Traveling clothes, dust caked, wine stained,
Journeying far, overwhelmed by grief.
In this life what am I?
only a poet
straddling a donkey
Entering Sword Gate in a drizzling rain.

These journeys are crucial to artist’s ability to create because they provide him the experience of the world from which his art flows. Sometimes they carry the artist away from his worldly disappointments in the city and into the more spiritual realm of nature and art.  In other world views, the donkey is one of Kali’s mounts and in the Christian faith, guess who carried the holy family to Bethlehem and into Egypt? A beast of burden, yes.  But also something much more.  Something to think about if you venture east and try some donkey delicacies. (Words by Laura Kelley.  Photo of Donkey Meat with Yellow Noodles by Laura Kelley; Photo of Yakitori-like Donkey Kebabs by Xiye @ Dreamstime.com).

Share

16 thoughts on “On Earth, there is Donkey Meat

  1. Yakidonki! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. It is interesting to think about such taboos in our culture against eating certain animals, yet when you look at those ribs or the noodles you’d be none the wiser until tucking in. I can’t often comment but I’ve been reading the posts on your recent travels with delight. Keep them coming!

    • Hi Marie:

      Thanks for stopping in. I always love your comments – especially the humorous ones! I think Yakidonki is brilliant!

      Food taboos are an interesting topic from the familiar taboos against eating swine by many cultures (good for the pigs, I suppose) to those less familiar like not wanting to eat amphibians because of their presumed association with the underworld etc. What sort of taboos do the Maori have?

  2. I love donkeys as animals and lately I have shied away from eating meat, as much as possible; I don’t think I could eat this meat, but the dish sure looks extremely appetizing.

    • Sorry to hear that Joumana. . .it really is delicious if you decide to eat meat again. Thanks for stopping by, you are always welcome – semivegetarian or not ;>)

    • Hi Arthur:

      I don’t know of any US companies, but you can get donkey meat from overseas suppliers via Alibaba.com and from 21food (www.21food.com). Some suppliers will ship small amounts fresh or frozen, others supply massive amounts for restaurants etc.

      I will poke around on the internet this weekend, and if I find anything in the US I’ll post it here, so please, check back.

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Laura

  3. Laura,

    Another unique insight into ‘far away’ cuisine…. fascinating.

    I understand from our mutual friend that you have been trying to contact me… I sent an email so you can contact any time.

    Cid

    • Hi Cid:

      I tried contacting you directly on two different e-mail providers and they both bounced back from the address that you used to post here. I also never got the e-mail you said you sent.

      I would like for you to do a post on spelt wild yeast bread. I would love a recipe, photos and writeup. I can help to add text to make it relevant to the ancient cuisine in question.

      Are you game to do it? If yes we will figure out how to send files – even if that mean snail-mailing a disk across the atlantic.

      L

  4. Laura,

    I used your email address from this site and have tried again so hope it reaches you. Your idea to post about spelt sourdough sounds just my sort of subject. It should be easy to send text and photos over to you as long as I have the correct address in the first place. My journey with sourdough ferments have been on going for some time now and still I experiment with different grains and techniques. I’ll make a spelt loaf and attempt to photograph the dough and finished bread and the fermented starter. How exciting, thanks Laura.

    Cid

    • Hi Cid:

      I have received no e-mails from you, and have tried sending e-mails to you on three different SYSTEMS and they all bounce back. If there is no other address for you, we may have to use our mutual friend as a go-between.

      Comms problems aside, I’m glad you’ll do it! If you want to try a mixed spelt and other grain bread, the people in question used rye, and semolina and a few other grains.

      They had a bread called, Ninda gal that I would love for you to try:

      Recipe 11: (JCS Vol. 29, No. 3): Ninda-gal, Bread with Onion Seeds, Sumac and Saffron (from the SRG site):

      Ingredients and method: Spelt flour; semolina, a coarse mixture of onion seeds, sumac and saffron and salt. No directions for water or milk are included, but obviously moisture is needed. Many different shapes of bread are possible. If it were a flatbread, it could be a large, injera-type bread on which other food items are placed. Sigrist does specify that it is a “large bread”. Alternatively, it could be a cured sourdough, allowed to rise, akin to a large modern loaf. (Notes 18 & 19)

      18.) Hisiltu has two meanings, coarsely ground flour and a coarsely ground spice mixture. With the use of spelt and semolina, It could be that the spelt is of a more coarse variety. Alternatively, the word could refer to to the preparation of the spices for the bread.

      19.) Kamaamtu is probably Rhus coriaria or sumac. It is a word borrowed from Sumerian. References In French, Russian and English all noted that this was a “vegetable”. An old German text equated it with Rhus coraria.

      Your results are important not only for bread. . . .But also for beer and winemaking! Whenever you are ready, I will post!

      Thanks,

      L

  5. Hey, I am currently in Shanghai and was wondering where i could possibly find donkey meat? I heard from others and now you, that it is awesome!

    • Hi Joe:

      Just trolling the internet I came across a place in Zhaobai near the inner ring road that specializes in donkey meat. It looks like they attacted a bit of attention when they started to butcher (not slaughter) the donkeys on the street in front of the restaurant to show how fresh the meat was. Here is a link to a You-Tube video that shows the store front, you should be able to locate it since you know the district and approximate location: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzWV1VcCB_A

      Another restaurant site said that Dongbei Cai 东北菜 has delicious donkey dumplings. It is at 295 Yunnan Nan Lu, 云南南路295号, near Huaihai Zhong Lu, 近淮海中路. Still another list claimed that Qian Xiang Ge 黔香阁 has good donkey. It is at 525 Hongzhong Lu, 虹中路525号 near Yan’an Xi Lu, 近延安西路.

      I hope this helps – let us know if you like donkey meat!

      Laura

  6. Wow, I don’t know if I could eat donkey meat, horse meat or dog meat… It is really interesting to see how many cultures eat taboo or uncommon meats.
    If you don’t mind me asking, what is the strangest meat you have tried? Did you like it?

    • Noga – it is delicious! All of it – donkey, horse, and dog. . .

      As to strange foods, I’ve had all manner of strange sea creatures – sea urchins, sea cucumbers etc. urchins I’m not too fond of, but sea cucumbers are more texture than flavor and are just fine with me.

Leave a Comment