Monday, May 19, 2014

Scorpion Bowls: A Great Drink to Pair With Chinese Food?

In a food-related post, a friend of mine in the U.S. yesterday mentioned having a scorpion bowl. I have eaten scorpions, but, knowing my friend, I guessed no actual scorpions were involved. The name sounded familiar, and I found a recipe online for what seems like a rather strong and fruity alcoholic drink. I read the accompanying description:
Routinely found at Chinese restaurants, this punch-like cocktail is absolutely mouthwatering. This goes great with Chinese and Polynesian food.
After a few moments of thought, I assumed the writer was specifically referencing American-style Chinese restaurants in the first sentence. I have never seen this drink served at a Chinese restaurant in China, which I feel safe saying has the largest number of Chinese restaurants in the world, and I am highly skeptical it is common here. Yet another site claims the cocktail is "now served in Tiki bars and seedy Chinese joints around the world". "Joints" is broader than "restaurants" and "seedy" could be an important qualification. Perhaps I would find something different if I frequented a certain category of KTVs, clubs, and bars in China. However, if I wanted to find a drink like this in China, some more upscale Western-style bars not found in most cities would first come to mind.

The second sentence in the description is what most caught my attention. I questioned how a single drink could "go great" with everything from tongue-numbing Sichuanese dishes to sweeter and less pain-inducing Shanghainese food. I would expect that such a versatile drink would pair well with much more than only Chinese and Polynesian food. Again, I quickly assumed the writer had typical American-style Chinese food in mind. The diversity of tastes would be narrower than the full range of Chinese cuisines. Still, a presumably strong-tasting drink that complements everything from moo goo gai pan to pepper steak? That is probably more likely if one is well into their scorpion bowl before eating.

More than any purely edacious or potatory influences, I wonder if the "goes great" simply reflects an association of this drink with a subset of American-style Chinese restaurants in the U.S. The drink reminds me of a Chinese restaurant which was near my alma mater in Baltimore, Maryland. I don't recall whether scorpion bowls were on the drink menu, but one could order similar cocktails with liquor and fruit juices, such as zombies. More important to some students under the age of 21 than the exact drinks offered, this particular restaurant rarely asked for ID when cocktails were ordered. The students probably wouldn't argue that the drinks went great with Chinese food.

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