The most culturally bewildering story on the Xinhua News Agency wires today is titled “Handy hints: Three steps to telling real donkey-hide gelatin from fake”. I had to investigate...
|"She gets the blokes, because she drinks donkey-hide gelatin"|
In traditional Chinese medicine, donkey-hide gelatin or ejiao 阿胶 is used to improve your blood supply, especially if you’re a lady. It’s often eaten with almonds and sesame seeds, presumably to disguise the fact that it’s basically the rendered-down hide from dead donkeys.
The world of traditional remedies, though, is being upset by the practices of unscrupulous practitioners who are selling ejiao that’s in fact been made from the skins of horses, mules and even pigs (which, let’s face it, can’t even pass as donkeys). This fake ejiao, apparently, affords no health benefits (no shit!) and can even be bad for you. Ejiao consumers are being advised to follow three simple steps to see if they’re getting Eeyore (good) or Shergar (bad). Whenever you buy donkey-hide gelatin, always remember the Donkey-Hide Gelatin Code: See, Snap, Sniff.
Real ejiao is a tan colour, smooth and lustrous, with semi-translucent borders; the fake crap is often much darker, matt, and sometimes pitted. Real ejiao is also very brittle, and if you snap a piece off it doesn’t bend; the fake stuff is flexible, its broken faces sticky. As for smell, gen-yoo-ine ejiao has a faint whiff of soybean oil and a slightly sweet taste; fake ejiao apparently stinks of rotten fish.
If you don’t want to use the Donkey-Hide Gelatin Code (a name which, to be fair, I just came up with), or can’t remember it when it comes to the crunch, you can always try crushing up the ejiao and pouring boiling water on it (the article doesn’t advise as to what to do when the shopkeeper objects). Real ejiao melts into a clear liquid, while fake ejiao goes murky.
Donkey-hide gelatin is contraindicated for people with coughs and colds or diarrhea. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.