Strange Foods

Most parts of the world have foods which are completely unbeknown to the western palate. I remember my first time on the Asian continent, in Thailand. I’d spontaneously started drinking beer with a couple of German dudes that I’d met in the dining car of a run-down and rustic Thai train. After hours of sipping cold Thai brew and learning about the interesting lives of two German nationals living in Thailand, I’d stepped off at my destination.

After checking into my guesthouse, famished from an all day liquid diet, I proceeded out to find some food. While walking past a mini night market, the only food I managed to witness was internal organs, insects and things that barely resembled food to me. At that time of my life I was much less gastronomically adventurous compared to now. Thus, I opted for the conventional Burger King.  The nasty BK burger induced diarrhea the next morning. Ironically, I’ve never gotten diarrhea from Thai food.

Today, as a traveler, I’ll probably try anything I see a local eating for the sake of embracing local culture.  Since fearing authentic Thai food on that first trip to the Asian continent, I’ve graduated into becoming a more fearless eater.

I ate tripe dipped in chili and chicken feet with a Chinese person who ordered. The chicken feet were surprisingly tasty. The little meat that one nibbles off of the three main bones of the chicken foot is marinated in something wonderfully sweet. Yum! I love chicken feet but am not a fan of tripe. One out of two ain’t bad.

While in Chinatown with three Taiwanese acquaintances, I suggested that they order. The one unconventional dish was deep fried shrimp with the whole head and skeleton intact. It was going well for a bit, till I got tired of the crunchy heads and started taking them off.

In Japan I ate octopus sushi on a regular basis, while scallop sushi was my favorite. The strangest thing I ever tasted there was raw liver. Only about one in five Japanese people actually like this cold concoction. It is the most repugnant thing I’ve ever tasted, as it brought me to nausea city. One bite, one swallow, and a digestive tract in bewilderment, never again.

While in Thailand for the second time, a few years later, camping out at night, I ate freshly grilled frog from the river by our camp, head, hands, feet, the works. This would have been impossible had it not been for the six Chang beers that made me courageous. The frog was nasty. After eating about half of it, I spat out what I could and threw the rest of it to the ground. Needless to say, I will still try anything a local tries if I am eating with that local. I wonder how the frog would have tasted had it been marinated for many hours as a rich frog stew.

I’ve been told by Koreans that dog stew is amazing. It’s a delicacy in Korea and expensive. Some Koreans eat it on special occasions.

I tried guinea pig or Cuy (koo-ee) in Perú; the torso is actually tasty meat.

I tried rabbit in Cataluña.  I’m not into gamey meat, but I still ate the whole rabbit to be polite.

I tried Reindeer in Norway.  This was a wonderful, home-cooked meal.

I tried chicken hearts in Brazil. Shaped like tiny gray donuts, they’re good fresh off the grill, but as soon as they get lukewarm, perhaps after one minute or less, they become too firm to enjoy.

One of the most interesting things I’ve ever tried was cow hearts at a restaurant actually specializing in cow hearts, or Peruvian anticuchos. If you like beef, and you’re served anticuchos, you won’t even know that they’re cow hearts. You’ll simply think that you’re eating the tastiest meat on the planet.

Back to Japan, my Chinese friend served me a dish mixed with some mystery meat and veggies or all veggies it was hard to tell. He asked how I liked it.  “Delicious.”

He said. “You’re eating pigs’ ears.”

What’s the most interesting, nastiest or strangest thing that you’ve ever tried?


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