Last month on the two days before Valentine’s Day I had the dubious pleasure of co-hosting a very special Chinese New Year’s dinner with the Gastronauts. Curtiss Calleo, one of the masterminds behind the club for adventurous eaters and I endured not one but two days of juvenile humor along the lines of, “Please limit yourselves to five inches per serving.” I suppose we deserved it. After all we created a menu whose dishes included lamb testicles and quick fried beef genitals, i.e. beef pizzle. I’m pretty sure that my affable Henanese uncle, Steven Zhou, was pretty amazed that we were able to gather a gang of hard-drinking weirdos to buy out his restaurant with such a menu for two consecutive nights.
The festivities kicked off with a platter of cold dishes. Headcheese, chicken hearts, tofu skin, beef tendon, quick pickle, and beef tripe were all artfully laid out in concentric rings. “These are the best chicken hearts I’ve ever had,” one of my tablemates exclaimed. I’d have to agree, the peppery five-spiced hearts were quite nice. Next came the lamb testicles which had been artfully cross-hatched. They had plenty of cumin and heat, though they were a tad rubbery. At least they were not too gamy.
Next up was what the menu listed as quick fried beef genitals. Like the lamb testicles the genitals in question, beef penis, had been artfully cut. They were chewy and somewhat beefy. As many people pointed out at least the sauce was tasty. A soup of red and white carrot with pig tripe was next. The tender pieces of pork intestine in a lovely chicken broth were a welcome change of pace from the evening’s other offal.
Most of the dishes were not on the regular menu at Uncle Zhou’s. Not so the spicy crispy rabbit in big tray ($16.95). It remains one of my favorite dishes at Uncle Zhou’s. It is exactly what it says it is, chunks of hacked up bunny tossed with plenty of chilies and Sichuan peppercorns.
The last course was platters of pig kidney. I seem to recall Fuchsia Dunlop writing about this dish as either phoenix tails or fire-exploded kidney flowers. In any event someone with superior knife skills spent a long time in the kitchen on them. They were quite good in a peppery sauce.
As I left Uncle Zhou’s on both nights, I had two thoughts. One: Those people are crazy, and two: I can’t believe I pulled that off. I’m willing to bet an order of quick fried beef genitals that Uncle Zhou felt the same way.
Uncle Zhou Restaurant, 83-29 Broadway Elmhurst , 718-393-0888