I don't normally order puddings in Chinese restaurants. Or Indian ones for that matter. In fact, I tend to concur with Jeffrey Steingarten, who argued that Asian desserts taste as if they belong more properly in a lady's bathroom cabinet.
But, you see, I got myself this gig doing restaurant reviews and when you do that, you need to cover the menu. Deep-fried fruit salad sounded the least bad option, and the meal had, up to that point, been really rather good. As expected, the DFFS appeared to be some kind of fritter, and I cut into it with polite interest, if not quite enthusiasm.
"I'm not going mad, am I?"
Small Boo, to her credit, avoided the obvious retort.
"What's wrong?" she asked, feigning interest with great aplomb.
"I've got a horrible feeling that this is a crabstick."
"In your pudding?"
"In my pudding. It's meant to be a deep-fried fruit salad."
"Is there fruit?"
"Yes, there's fruit. Tinned fruit. I'm not sure what this sauce is. Cheese?"
"Yes, I thought it might be, but I didn't like to say. I'm eating a crabstick and tinned fruit and mayonnaise fritter. For pudding."
The maitre d' was summoned. Hugely apologetic (and especially mortified when he discovered that I was meant to be writing the meal up), he explained the error. The fritter rather resembled a similar one from the dim sum menu. So a crabstick-tinned-fruit-mayonnaise fritter wasn't exactly a mistake - it was just in the wrong place.
"So what should have been in there?" asked Small Boo. "As a dessert?"
"The same," explained the man. "But no crabstick."
"And no mayonnaise, presumably."
"Oh yes, mayonnaise," he said. "That's how they like it in Hong Kong."
Sorry, there's no glorious punchline to this one. Except to record, for posterity, the fact that I ate a crabstick, tinned fruit and mayonnaise fritter for pudding and survived to tell the tale.
(It was horrible, by the way.)