- By Alicia P.Q. WittmeyerAlicia P.Q. Wittmeyer is the Europe editor at Foreign Policy. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and Forbes, among other places. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and master’s degrees from Peking University and the London School of Economics. The P.Q. stands for Ping-Quon.
Whether in Britain or in China, no one wants to think they’re eating a familiar meat product only to discover they’re really eating an exotic, as one unfortunate Wal-Mart customer in northern China experienced recently, when his "strange" tasting donkey meat turned out to be fox.
But telling meats apart can be tricky! Even experienced beef eaters last year seemingly couldn’t tell cow apart from horse when it was smothered in lasagna; it gets all the trickier when it comes to distinguishing donkey, which far less of the world is familiar with, from fox, which seemingly no one eats on a regular basis.
With that in mind, we’ve put together this guide to telling apart these two unusual edibles.
Is your meat tough and chewy? It’s more likely to be fox. While the 2005 "Field Guide to Meat," describes donkey meat as "tough" and our own Isaac Stone Fish likened his experiences with donkey meat to "beef jerky made from shoe leather," it may all come down to how it’s cooked: food bloggers who’ve sampled different styles of donkey in China have found it to be tender and sweet when sliced thinly against the grain, usually chopped or shredded and eaten in a sandwich, or stir fried. Donkey is also still regularly used in salami in Italy, usually tempered somewhat with the more familiar pork.
Fox, on the other hand, seems universally considered a tough meat — at least among the very small group who’ve actually eaten the canine. I was unable to track down an FP staffer who’d eaten fox meat, and even the "Field Guide," which claims to cover "virtually every meat, poultry and game cut" hasn’t gotten around to fox. But most of the fox meat recipes I found (that would be a grand total of three) I’ve found suggest pre-soaking in vinegar brine to help tenderize it.
Does the meat you’re preparing smell horrible? You may be about to cook fox. While the "Field Guide" claims donkey has a "very strong smell" it may not necessarily be bad. Nobel Prize-winning Chinese novelist Mo Yan, who writes lustily of donkey meat in his novel The Republic of Wine, describes it as "aromatic." By contrast, the smell of raw fox flesh is described as "repulsive" "like skunks" and even "fishy." Cooked, the meat has been described as smelling "sheepy or goaty."
So: is your meat chewy? Does it give off an unpleasant odor? Put that fox sandwich down!
Happy gustatory adventures!