Thursday, January 28, 2016

Gelatin and Dumpling Woes: China Needs More Donkeys

Rare are the days when The New York Times mentions a "donkey crisis" and "ass glue", but such occurred today. Chris Buckley reports a shortage of donkeys in China increases the likelihood your donkey skin gelatin is a fake. This poses a problem especially for people who believe the gelatin has medicinal properties and can't be replaced with even mule skin gelatin or horse skin gelatin — those are completely different.

To my knowledge, I have never ingested donkey skin gelatin. I may have been affected by China's donkey dilemma in another way though. The news made me think of a restaurant in Handan, Hebei province, where five years ago I ate my first donkey dumpling.

donkey meat restaurant in Handan, China

Restaurants serving donkey meat generally aren't difficult to find in China, and Handan isn't the only place where I have eaten it. My first experience was at a restaurant in Shanghai and later experiences occurred in Beijing and Huizhou. I didn't expect any special benefits from the meat and selected the dishes out of curiosity and the desire to immerse myself in China's food culture. Donkey dumplings definitely aren't for everybody, but I haven't heard a convincing argument as to why eating donkey meat is ethically very different from eating other meats such as beef.

In dumplings, sandwiches, or hot pots, the meat had a distinctive flavor. When friends have asked about the taste, I stated the obvious: it tastes like ass. But now I have more reason to question whether all of the dishes I tried included genuine donkey meat. Am I more of an ass if they did or they did not? I can easily imagine how some friends might reply.


  1. I love my local donkey meat place! They serve the meat in a freshly baked bun.... I'm hungry now.

  2. I hadn't considered this post could have such an effect! So of course I continued the theme.