As Shanghaiist’s food editor I’ve eaten my share of WTF eats from fermented fish to yak penis. None did I dread trying more than the Pizza Hut special, a pie with shrimp tempura, steamed shrimp, squid rings, fish cakes, pineapple, wasabi mayonnaise, and a hot dog-stuffed crust (73RMB), now available at all China outlets!
And it tastes as terrifying as it sounds, the most hideous pairing of ingredients since The Human Centipede. It’s a horrible hydra of fast food; you finish off the greasy shrimp tempura and squid rings and funky fish cakes and overripe pineapple spring up in their places. There’s no flavor cohesion. The pineapple’s tang, the tempura’s rancidity, the squid’s funk, and the sinus-scorching zing of the wasabi-mayonnaise all clash in your mouth, vying to see who can trigger the gag reflex first.
The only things salvageable are the hotdogs poking up from in the crust, which act as little escape pods that can break off uncontaminated by the clusterfuck in the center. And they’re no prize. After failing to finish the “asspie,” I unquit smoking just to get the taste out of my mouth.
Maybe I sound unfair, even a dash culturally-insensitive considering what I may dub odd flavor pairings – ie. Lays Pepsi-chicken or lobster-cheese chips – are not considered odd in China. And when I asked around Shanghai for people’s thoughts on the pie, they regarded it like I would the average BBQ burger special at Burger King, and not a punchline like the similarly grotesque Doughnut Burger is in the US. Some even said it was delicious.
However, usually I can appreciate the cultural/medicinal significance of foods I dislike such as century eggs or snake bile liquor and understand how different people could like their tastes. Even the Lays’ flavors strangely make sense once in your mouth. Pizza hut’s pie was pure anarchy, the straw that finally imploded the camel’s taste buds.
It does offer insight on how foreign food chains have to adjust their foodstuffs to the local palate to make inroads in China. I just hope in the future they do it more in the spirit of Starbuck’s’ green tea latte and less like this sarlacc in pizza form.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].