You have probably never heard of a thing called "Chin-Chalok." I had never heard of it, and I enjoy eating unusual foreign foods. But there we were at the Asian market, and taunting me from the shelf was a bottle of shrimp sauce that said "Chin-Chalok."
Now, when I say shrimp sauce, I do not mean cocktail sauce. No, Chin-Chalok is a sauce made almost entirely of shrimp (other ingredients: water, salt), looking like a delicious ice-cold bottle of pulped shrimp. And two friendly-looking shrimp on the front of the label beckoned to me, begging me to buy this sauce, so we could be together. I couldn't just abandon them, because that would be shellfish. So I bought a bottle.
My partner was dubious. While she appreciates global cuisine more than most people (and can cook quite a bit of it), she tends not to share my spirit of high adventure when it comes to "find the weirdest things possible and then eat them." And since she is often the one planning dinner, the Chin-Chalok sat in the fridge. I decided I would try it as soon as I figured out how best to serve it.
According to the bottle, "Chin-Chalok is a delicious sauce which is slightly saltish and pungent in taste. ... Chin-Chalok can be served straight from the bottle as a sauce or with rice by adding slices of onions, chili and lime for a truly appetizing meal."
Well, I was pretty sure I didn't want to drink it straight from the bottle, even though it had a beverage-type crown cork bottlecap. And we didn't have chili, lime and onion to cook with it. Thus it sat in the fridge for weeks, until late last night, when I decided to have a midnight snack. I was going to just have leftovers, but we had some leftover rice, and I figured it was worth trying this intriguing shrimp sauce. So I got a bottle opener and opened the bottle.
Friends of mine have complained that I make up new words unnecessarily. But sometimes inventing words is the best way to describe a situation. And I think you will agree with me when I tell you that what happened next was best described as a "Shrimpsplosion." The bottlecap burst off with a loud pop, and a mass of salted, fermented, pulped shrimp blasted forth all over my shirts (both layers), as well as the counter, the oven, a few pots and pans, and yes, even the small dish of rice I had gotten out to try the shrimp sauce over.
Now, the odd thing about this particular shrimpsplosion was that after the initial blast, the bottle continued to slowly, fizzily expel this pulped shrimp mixture. It looked like it was receding, so I grabbed a paper towel and wiped down the top of the bottle. Then ploop, another little bubble of shrimp sauce popped out the top of the bottle and all over everything. I tried to stop the shrimp by jabbing a chopstick into the bottle, but it didn't really work. Eventually I set the bottle down and it continued slowly fizzing up, pouring shrimp sauce down the sides.
Meanwhile, enough had gotten in the rice that I decided to heat that up and eat it, since that was my initial plan. And I will say that Chin-Chalok was "slightly saltish" in the same way that opening the bottle had been "slightly messy." But I think I might enjoy some more next week.
I just prefer smaller portions, and lower velocity.
Seth Brown is a humor writer, the author of "It Happened In Rhode Island," and will be launching a salty fermented shrimp cologne. His work appears weekly in the Transcript, and weakly on RisingPun.com.