Let’s be honest, Valentine’s is partially an excuse to jack up prices on milk chocolate, oysters, and other foods, which, in the words of Anthony Bourdain, “were they actually aphrodisiacs, we’d never be able to put on pants.” But while the following foods may not make you a demon in the sack, they present more exotic eats to strike off your culinary bucket list. They also allow for a lot of insufferable sex jokes.
4. Sea cucumber
It’s easy to see why sea cucumber fits the bill. The resemblance really hits home when considering the animal’s penchant for discharging its own fluids when threatened. A popular Shanghai recipe calls for large black sea cucumber braised in shrimp roe and bean paste broth (蝦子烏蔘, xia zi wu sen). The sea cucumber itself doesn’t have a strong flavor, just a gelatinous and crunchy texture. It adopts the essence of whatever it’s paired with, in this case, the briny porkiness of the braise.
Dexingguan (德興館) // 622 Zhonghua Road, near Dongjiadu Road (中华路622号, 近董家渡路) // Closest Metro Stop: Xiaonanmen (小南门) Line 9.
3. Bird’s nest soup:
China’s most sacred of eats, bird’s nest is essentially the dried spittle of a South East Asian cave-dwelling swift, which weaves the spit into nests. Among many other health perks, including the ability to bolster the immune system and keep women’s bodies nourished during pregnancy, bird’s nest reportedly enhances libido. You can find it at Yongfu Hui, where it comes stewed with purple yam (380RMB), double-boiled with papaya (680RMB), and braised with hairy crab roe (980RMB). And yeah, the prices seem like highway robbery if you’re not Chinese. However, I’ve come to appreciate the cost a bit more having toured a bird’s nest cave in Borneo, and observing what a bitch the stuff is to harvest. Like sea cucumber, there’s no distinct taste, just a shreddy, chewy texture. You do get a noticeable jolt of energy however.
Yongfu Hui (雍褔会) // 200 Yongfu Road, near Hunan Road (永福路200号, 近湖南路) // Closest Metro Stop: Shanghai Library (上海图书馆) Line 10, dial 5466 2727 for reservation.
2. Yak penis
From pink river dolphin dicks in the Amazon to deer shlongs here, animal penises are touted as natural viagra the world over. The big daddy in China is tiger penis, which is traditionally ground in wine or served in soup with tiger bone as a love potion. It’s rightfully taboo. More sustainably-castrated is yak, whose penis makes Jonah Falcon’s look like a Tic Tac. You’ll find it at Sichuan hotspot Ba Guo Bu Yi, where it comes in beautiful floral sections pirouetting about in a molten-red chili bath in a hollow melon. Yes, surprisingly un-penis-like. And it tastes as good as it looks; wonderfully meaty and gelatinous like beefier ox tail. If yak penis is too big a mouthful, you can try sheep shlong at Zhenru Mutton Restaurant. Fortunately, size doesn’t equal effectiveness (or else deer penis wouldn’t even help you penetrate tapioca). Ba Guo Bu Yi // 738 Dongfang Lu, near Zhangyang Lu (东方路738号, 近张杨路). Tel: (0)21-5820-9866. Hours: 11am-1:30pm, 5pm-9:30pm daily.
1. Deer antler, snake, and ginseng wine
The Chinese equivalent of a speedball with Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra, this potent trio allegedly turns you into a sexual tyrannosaur. And their properties aren’t entirely fictitious. Deer antler velvet, which can also be made into a tea, has been shown to improve circulation and aid joints, while studies have supported ginseng’s efficacy as an erectile dysfunction treatment. Many Shanghai restaurants offer this wine, often with other libido-boosters like dog and snake penis. Our favorite two spots are Dahushedao and Jackie’s Beer Nest. At both spots, they believed so strongly in this elixir that when I asked for it, they were hesitant to cough it up, just like a pharmacy would be if a 20-something asked for viagra. Shots at Jackie’s run you 45RMB each. They’re meant to be sipped slowly, but I pounded my first tumbler. It tastes a bit like mustier baijiu, which is what the liquor is, and courses through you like hot tea, giving you a rush of energy. I didn’t notice any “other” effects but I figured if I drank too much the 80 proof stuff, the only thing I’d be getting stiff from was rigor mortis. They also offer deer penis, lizard, and snake wine with gaoliangjiu, but this is reserved for middle aged and old men. And I’m not quite there.
Jackie’s Beer Nest // 76 Zhaozhou Lu, near Dongtai Lu (肇周路76号, 近东台路). Tel: 138-1650-2260. Hours: 5-11pm.
Related: 4 festive horse/donkey dishes to kickstart Year of the Horse
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].