Weird Food is a list of odd things that people eat, such as jello or mice. Every culture invents a food that is weird or disgusting to outsiders. These strange foods are cultural markers to show who's a member (insiders like it) and who's not a member (outsiders hate it.) Maybe a kid ate first it on a dare. They pass it on to the next generation. Then they nudge each other and laugh when outsiders gag.
For example, many cultures pride themselves on their foul-tasting local drinks, such as white lightning, pulque, chong, retsina, and so on. You're accepted if you drink it. The complex food laws of the Middle East have more to do with distinguishing your group from neighboring groups than health concerns or sacred scriptures.
Strange Food doesn't make it onto this list just because it is unpopular. Some people hate broccoli. So what? Weird foods get on this list because they are cultural markers. There's stuff you like (such as Balut) (and you think is normal) that other people refuse to even allow in their house.
- July 4th, 2004: Weird-Food.com was selected as a "Yahoo! Pick of the Day"
- June 28, 2005: Traffic went from 2,200 visitors in May to 17,200 in June
- March 28, 2010: Another major traffic spike: 12,000 visitors in one day
- August, 2015: Weird-Foods has gotten over 1.5 million visits since it started in 2004. It has about 10,000 monthly visitors.
- July 2018: I combined all the pages into one page: andreas.com/Weird-Foods.html
Weird Foods: Vegetable
Did you know that animals were the first life form? There were animals for hundreds of millions of years in the seas. The land was bare rock. Only much later did plants, the higher life form, arise.
- Poke Salad (USA): Poke is an American vegetable.
- Beets on a Burger (Australia): I'm an Aussie currently residing in Canada and was astounded to find that no-one here puts beets on burgers - any real Aussie burger has pickled beets (beetroot) on it, in addition to a fried egg, plus the rest of your regular fixin's.
- Collard Greens (US South): Collard greens - soul food at its best! Popular in the rural south and pretty much wherever there are black folks with Southern roots. Similar to turnip greens, but much stronger taste and aroma. If prepared correctly, have oodles of bacon fat and "white meat" (pork belly). I personally love them, but don't like to be in the kitchen while they're cooking... smells like the whole family has gas & everyone went to the kitchen to relieve the pressure.
- Kim Chee (Korea): Fermented cabbage. The cabbage is soaked in a tub containing salt and red pepper. It is usually left for several weeks before serving, but can be stored for months in clay pots buried underground. Takes on a hot vinegar taste after fermentation
- Petai beans (Malaysia): Petai beans smell like methane gas. Petai.html
- Kava (Fiji): Passed around in a large "salad bowl" for all to share, this drink has a slight numbing effect, if you can get past the taste of wet cement. It is crushed kava root and water, strained which gives it a white, slightly milky appearance. Some say it is a drug, but you would have to drink so much of it to feel an effect past your tongue tingling, that you are probably better off just having a beer. (I couldn't help but think that maybe some Kool-Aid may spruce it up).
- Poi (Hawaii): Mashed taro root. Taro (Hawaiians call it kalo) is poisonous in its raw form due to calcium oxalate crystals, so the Polynesians smashed taro into paste. Hawaiians love strong tastes, so the bland, starchy poi is often eaten as part of a full meal to balance and cleanse the palate between dishes. Hawaiians sometimes encourage mainlanders and kids to put sugar and water into it to make it more palatable. Fresh poi should be relatively tasteless, packaged and old poi tends to be slightly tangy. (I've tried this. Like unflavored glue. - andreas)
- Three-fried Beans (US South): You talked a few times about the South loving fried food but I think the pinnacle of this obsession is something I had while driving through Arkansas. This restaurant sold what it called Three-fried Beans. This was ball of refried beans, battered, and then fried again. Just think about it. First you have the refried beans, I don't know if they made or bought pre-made, which is beans fried and then refried. Next you batter them and then fry them again? The batter was kind of sweet and it was actually pretty good.
- Dried bananas (Brazil): They're black, wrinkled, dry and sweet, about the size of nana's feeble finger. No refrigeration necessary. Mmmmm!
- Fried Green Tomatoes (US South): Fried Green Tomatoes (just like the movie!). How can anyone think of something like that, eat an unripe fruit? Yet I have to admit that it wasn't bad at all! (We also ate this in Tennessee. Slice up a green tomato, dust it with corn meal, and fry in butter. - andreas)
- Cactus Apples (US Southwest, Mexico): A red or purple fruit found growing on beavertail cactus plants. Remove CAREFULLY, roll it around in the sand then skin it with a sharp knife (try not to get stuck by the needles) and slice into disk-shaped sections for eating as a finger food. The purple ones taste like cranberry and the red ones taste like pear. Notes: The juice leaves bright stains. You may want to spit the seeds out. Family gatherings in the outdoors often turn into cactus apple hunts. Kids are always encouraged to help hunt and then eat some. Do not eat more than three at a time. You will get constipated.
- Patatje Oorlog (Holland): Patatje Oorlog = "Chips War". Fried potato chips with mayonaise, tomato ketchup, raw onions, and Indonesian peanut-sauce. When you eat this, war breaks out in your stomach.
- Fried Dill Pickles (USA South): A down-home Southern treat is fried dill pickles. It's got two of the major food groups: fat and salt. This just might be the thing to serve to house guests who are overstaying their welcome. Perhaps you could make it for a sick acquaintance who you really hate but feel obliged to do something for. From: Susan Hattie Steinsapir.
- Dulse (Maritime Canada): Dried purple seaweed sold in Atlantic Canada at convenience stores. Should have bits of green algae, small stones, flotsam, and so on, adhering. Eaten as is with relish by the locals. Grotequely disgusting. Probably poisonous. Possibly could be used with caution as a garden fertilizer. From: Robert Hughes.
- Durian (Southeast Asia): Why is this the longest section in the document? Because I love the whole idea of durians. More than anything else, they gave me the idea, the motivation, and the strength to start this list of weird foods.
A fruit as big as a football, covered with tough spiky skin. The pulp is pale yellow, with shape and consistency of raw brains. From a distance, the smell has been compared to rotting flesh, old gym socks, or sewage. But when you eat it, the taste has been called so exquisite that a European explorer of the 1700's claimed it was worth the journey to experience it; "the King of fruits." Many believe it aphrodisiac and hold durian-eating parties. Most hotels and so on forbid it on the premises. In Malaysia, a friend of mine witnessed someone on a bus grab another person's durian and throw it out the window, after another passenger threw up.
In USA supermarkets with an Asian neighborhood, you can find the entire frozen fruit , or you can pay considerably more (I paid about $8.00 for a pound) and get a plastic box of durian flesh removed from the husk. When thawed, the consistency is like flan or custard--in fact, it has the same pale yellow color--surrounding large pits in the whole fruit. Eat it with a spoon or follow recipes for various desserts. I think it resembles tapioca pudding flavored with cooked onion. It's delicious There is great variation with season, location, variety, individual fruits, and, I hear, even individual lobes within some fruits.
- Eating durian is like eating pesto or other garlic dishes; you do have to plan the social occasion around its persistent odor. Don't create a negative experience by neglecting this aspect. You wouldn't give a first date a garlicky salad dressing, would you?
- Asian markets often have cookies, crackers, candy, and so on, flavored with durian, and I bought a small bottle of flavoring extract just for fun. The cookies (like ice-cream-cone wafers sandwiched with durian-flavored frosting) were amazingly smelly when I first got them, but the flavor gradually faded away as they got stale.
- In Malaysia they don't even allow you to carry one in a rental car. Special stickers on the car, kinda like no smoking ones, tell you will be fined for having one in the car! From: Gudrun Achtenhagen.
- Durians--there are many many varieties. Some more pungent, others more fragrant and others thoroughly insipid. BTW it is eaten fresh as a fruit, with coconut rice (lemak) and also fermented as a side dish. From: Chong Angela.
- The way I made myself to start eating durian was that I forced myself to eat the whole good clove durian. You will feel disgusting to eat it at the beginning. But once you have tried the whole good clove, you will fond of it. From: Keith Lo.
- Reading the past few articles just reminded me of the way I reacted to certain strong smelling cheese when I was visiting my friends in Europe... the same way that some of you reacted to the smell of durian. :) From: Karen Khim Hwa Yeo.
- Of all the durians you should try is the "sampa durian" or wild durian. These are usually found growing in the wild and not in some plantation. When I was serving with the army, the training areas are littered with many sampa durian trees. These durians are smaller, more pungent and sweeter. Durians cannot be plucked. You have to wait for them to fall of the tree. When they fall, don't be under them.
- The platoon usually hunt for fallen durians when they go to training areas. First you smell their presence and try to locate them. Finally you see them, pick them up and pry them open. There may be some maggots and worms already eating it, but what the heck, we eat the non-infested pulp. It is all worth it. When the military exercise ends, the training grounds are littered with empty durian shells. A sure sign that the Singapore Armed Forces have been here--Jin Ngee, Chia.
- Durian is the King of Fruit. You should all be so lucky to have access to Durian. If there are gods, the gods eat Durian. I would rather eat Durian than pizza. However, to keep all in perspective, I would rather have sex than eat Durian. But Durian is definitely second on my list. From: Alice Ramirez.
- Ah, yes, the peculiar joy of Durian candy. After some months of reflection, I realized exactly what it tastes like: Imagine eating sweetened coconut while continuously inhaling natural gas... From: Dan Cohen.
- When I lived in the Philippines, it was described to me as "like eating pudding in an outhouse, " and I never heard a better description. From: Carl A Pforzheimer.
- I always thought China Town in London had bad drains until I discovered the durian! A group of us clubbed together and bought one once (too expensive for one person,) we had a whole tube compartment to ourselves on the way home and our host made us store it in the garden overnight! We ate it the next day and while it smelt disgusting the taste was pretty amazing--very rich and quite yummy. Only problem was for the next few days all 'burps' tasted like old drains (or what I imagine they'd taste like!]. From: Linda Garthwaite.
- When I lived in Singapore a bunch of people from work took me out at the height of the fresh season (I'm thinking around May or so) and between 8 of us we downed 13 of the beasts.
- They kept warning me about being careful to not get to "heaty". Never did figure out what that meant. From: Jim Parent) This is another interesting aspect of durians. Many people believe them to be aphrodisiac, and this puts a certain edge on the parties where people gather to indulge communally in an "orgy" of durian-eating. This would also account for the warning signs prohibiting durian in hotel rooms.--Ray Bruman
- Durians! January and July is durian season in Malaysia and Singapore! The fruit is now found all over stalls in the markets and if you are in Malaysia, makeshift stalls on the highway!
- Here we never get it frozen. Goodness! I've never heard of frozen durians. It's always fresh.
- How to pick one? These are just general pointers:
- Always pick one up to shake. Yep! shake the fruit. Now if you hear like rocks knocking inside, leave it. There might be maggots in there that has gotten in there before you do.
- Ask the seller to pry one open for inspection. Just a glance would do. flesh should be yellowish like custard with lots of milk. The smell must be overpowering. Look for again tell-tale signs for maggot infestation. That is black spots, certain larvae eggs and other unpleasant stuff.
- Sir Stamford Raffles who founded Singapore didn't like it a damn bit.
- The nation that has banned durians is Singapore. It is only banned on buses and the subway due to its overpowering odor.
- Durians cannot be plucked from the tree. You have to wait for it to drop from the tree. When it does, you better not be there. The fruit usually drops at night for reasons no one knows.
- Durians are fattening. So not all fruits are healthy. Anyway to SEA peoples, eating durians is almost equivalent to eating meat.
- Thai durians are the largest in size. They have more flesh and are the most expensive.
- Durian plantations are often robbed in Malaysia. During seasons such as this current one, armed men often keep a vigil over their precious investments dropping at night.
- Wild durians are more tasty than plantation grown durians. There are some pockets of rainforests in Singapore that grows durian trees. So it is open season for enthusiasts who venture to these places for the hunt.
- The durian is crowned as the King of Fruits by peoples of SEA.
- After eating durians, your "durian breath" will linger for up to 6 hours. Durian breath is so bad, it ranked higher than garlic in terms of unpleasantness.
- Durian is made into many forms besides durian ice-cream. There is durian candy which is called durian dodol, durian custard which is much sweeter and durian cake, much highly sought after by durian enthusiasts.
- Durian flavored ice-cream lollipops and popsicles (Indonesia): When I lived in Sumatera, I used to belong to a Hash Club. After one Saturday run through the rainforest, we concluded with a cold-box full of durian ice-lollies instead of the usual beers. Now, durian fruit has a taste all its own; the pods have a creamy texture like mascarpone cheese and taste very aromatic. An acquired taste, much revered by the SE Asian palate. Made into ice-popsicles though, the taste resembles an onion. Most odd, but I finished off two such lollies!
- Jackfruit (Vietnam): I ate jackfruit in Jacksonville, Florida. I bought it in an Asian market and then took it into a Vietnamese restaurant, where they recognized it and everybody smiled and nodded, so I guess it's a Vietnamese fruit. In many ways it's similar to durian, with the weird lobey yellow items inside a frightening, huge, spiney pod, but it's a different pod, bright green instead of brown like durian, and the spines are not as lethal seeming. I guess they're more like nubs, or nubbins, than spines. And the texture of the part you eat is very different from durian. Not as soft. More juicy than custardy. More structural integrity. Sleek and shiny rather than flabby and noisome (but I mean flabby and noisome in the best way: I like durian a LOT). The most interesting thing about jackfruit is that the lobey yellow things are in a latex matrix, and if you try to just reach in and grab them, the latex gets all over your fingers and you can't believe how sticky it is. The Vietnamese restauranteurs, when they saw us trying to eat our jackfruit, laughed and then disapeared into the kitchen and came running out with a little dish of vegetable oil. You have to dip your fingers in oil to avoid getting the latex everywhere. So you dip your fingers in oil and then you reach into this thing that looks like yellow innards and you pull out from among these sortof pale butter-colored anenome frond things the yellow lobe things, and you get the seeds out of the lobes and eat the lobes. O boy! They're great! Like eating flowers. You can get the eviscerated pods frozen in Asian store freezers. I've made smoothies with them and they're okay. I think you can eat the seeds; you boil them or something.
- Fufu (Ghana): Many West Africans have strong loyalty to their native fufu. It is made from pounded yam and is eaten in slimy balls without chewing, normally with a spicy peanut sauce. It is a strong identity issue, notably in Ghana.
- Tempeh (Japan): Made from fermented moldy soy beans (in other words, rotten tofu) and pressed into firm blocks. Tempeh is not really mouldy or rotten, although a mould is used in the fermentation. Looks like a flat square cake of beans stuck together with a white adhesive. There are sometimes harmless mould growths (tiny grey circles) on the surface of a block, which could be off- putting to the uninitiated.
- Tempeh (Indonesia): A type of soya-bean tofu with muscles. Indonesian tempeh contains Soya beans as well as the curd, which is all then fermented in a rolled sausage shape, inside a palm-leaf. Much firmer than normal tofu, it is dense and dry, holds its shape and resembles a nougar (nougat) candy bar. Normally, slices are cut off and then often cut into julienne strips. They get used in Indonesian stir-fries and various other dishes. Sometimes they're the main feature in a vegetable dish. Tempeh are good in a spicy dish, but on their own have not much flavor really.
- Okra (Africa, USA South): Okra is a strong contender for Least Favorite Vegetable or Ropiest Mucus (vegetable division.) Okra is the source of many jokes. We used to call them "slime pods". Saturday Night Live even had an "Okra Cola" parody. To me, they resemble something left over from a rather ugly chest cold. Guess how the Japanese eat okra? They don't cook it. They eat it raw and slimy. That figures. My Japanese wife buys frozen whole okra, about 8 ounces I guess, thaws the pods under cold running water and chops them into bite-sized pieces, then plops them into a bowl and stirs in hefty amounts of lemon juice and soy sauce till it "looks right" (3 or 4 tbsp each I guess.) She also stirs in a lot of chopped green onions (about 6 or 8.) Using chopsticks she whips this into the most glistening frothing blob of goo you can imagine. Then she refrigerates it for several hours to let the flavors mix, and eventually serves it cold as a side dish.
The flavor is fresh and green-garden-vegetably with a lemon bite. The pods are still crunchy like wholesome raw veggies, and they make an intriguing contrast to the slime. I like them so much I just eat them slime and all.
Rather than trying to gulp quivering spoonfuls of the stuff, I delicately grasp each pod-piece with chopsticks and stretch out the slime till it gets thin and breaks, kind of like hot pizza cheese. Then I've got a mini-bite package that pops into my mouth with no mess and chews up individually instead of seeming like it's still connected to the rest of the stuff in the bowl.
The most typical Southern US way to prepare okra: battered and deep fried. Actually, people in the South will batter and fry dang near anything but doing so with okra is one of their best inventions. Yummy! Its also very easy to grow. My Father had a harvest one year where the plants topped 10 feet tall and were just covered in pods.
The slimy texture is similar to other Japanese foods such as raw seafood, but most notably reminiscent of "natto", which is fermented soy beans. Natto is brown, is just as slimy as okra, and smells raunchy from the yeast-beasts who already romped in it. To make it even more gruesome, perhaps so it reminds her of oysters slithering down her throat, she cracks a raw egg on top. I won't go near the stuff myself. There's no accounting for taste. From: Dan Wright.
Callaloo (in Trinidad): boiled okra + spinach (my brother makes sandwiches with this)
- Marmite (Australia/New Zealand, UK): See also Vegemite. Sandwich spread made of yeast extract, pungently smelly and salty. This topic seems to cycle round quite frequently. Best to look at the FAQ's of both soc.culture Australian and New Zealand groups for the detailed answers. But in vague summary: The grand prototype is Marmite from the UK. that has been produced since way back when... Marmite is from the French, meaning a small pot. Brit expatriates took their love of this stuff to the Antipodes and local versions were made there, after imports were affected... by war I think. Australia invented a new name for their product, whereas the NZ product kept the British name (but made by a different company... Sanitarium NZ. They are all somewhat similar in color and flavor, made of yeast extract culled from brewery wastes, and quite salty. To my taste UK Marmite. The original tastes sharp, Vegemite has earthy undertones. It is also less "glistening" and more satiny in texture, perhaps because of vegetable extracts added, and the NZ Marmite has a perceptible sweet edge to it. Masterfoods Promite is even sweeter. Each product has its adherents, usually comprising a fair percentage of the population of the nation of origin. Finally, the best and most popular usage is with lashings of butter on bread, toast and biscuits. My Mum took it as a hot beverage to help combat morning sickness.
Be very, very careful what you say about Marmite where a Brit might hear you. Real British men can spread Marmite like peanut butter and still enjoy it. In fact, some of us spread Marmite AND peanut butter in equal quantities on the same slice, but we may be the exception. Marmite and jam, or jelly in USA-speak is more common. The best use for Marmite is on Marmite Soldiers. Take a slice of toast, thinly spread with butter then Marmite and cut up in to strips. The strips must be narrow enough to be dipped into a decapitated soft boiled 2.5 minute egg. Breakfast of Champions. Tastes much better if your mother makes the soldiers and boils the egg for you. It ain't called The Growing Up Spread for nothing. Opinions, even within the Isles, are divided. You either love it or loathe it.
- Vegemite (Australia, New Zealand, UK): Sandwich spread made of yeast extract, pungently smelly and salty. Oddly, it's an American company's product but a true national symbol of Australia.
I used to work for the company that makes Marmite and the yeast used to make the yeast extract was obtained from the local breweries. The makers of Marmite try to remove the "beery" taste from their product, whereas, the makers of Vegemite don't. This is what makes the greatest difference in the tastes of the two products. See also Marmite.
- Iceberg Lettuce (USA): Carefully bred and most popular variety sold in stores... but why? It is STILL the most popular variety of lettuce seed sold for USA home gardening, which boggles the mind even more!
- Peanut Butter (US): As a Canadian living in New Zealand, I can tell you why New Zealanders and Australians gag when North Americans talk fondly of peanut butter and jelly, preferably Welches Grape Jelly, sandwiches--"jelly" in New Zealand and Australia means "Jell-O" and they call "jelly" jam--there's no distinction between jam with seeds and the strained, set variety--it's all jam to them. They eat "jam" doughnuts [they're not good at doughnuts down here] instead of jelly doughnuts. So whatever you do, never order anything with jelly in the southern hemisphere, unless you want Jell-O.
- Mountain Potato (Japan): A root that is eaten raw and grated, often with raw tuna and a raw quail egg. When a mountain potato is grated, it secretes a translucent slime that is the exact consistency of mucus, yet is totally without flavor.
- Natto (Japan): Fermented beans. Even many Japanese dislike it. The guidebook warned about it. But it was served with breakfast at the Youth Hostel in Tokyo, of all places. A strange honey-like syrup forms on the beans, so faint threads of it dangle from your chopsticks. Vile.
- Poutine (Quebec, Canada): My vote for the most unsavory dish is a concoction they call 'Poutine' which is grease-impregnated French fries called Frites or Chip by the locals, soaked with fat-laden gravy topped by cheddar curd cheese which melts from the heat of the French fries and gravy into a sticky and stringy mess.
Gentlemen and Ladies: I am responding to comments about the most disgusting fast food place. You are obviously not acquainted with Quebec's venture into TMDFFP--Poutineries--a unique perversion of the humble chip shop. As far as I can tell, they exist only in la belle province. We are not talking south of France. Simple recipe: French fries, very greasy, topped with generic brown gravy which might be served in a proto-BBQ chicken resto, or a restaurant where they don't know the difference between grilling and BBQ. Add to this fresh cheese curds. The curds melt over the gravy and fries producing a greasy gooey mess which, I am aware, sounds absolutely delightful. For something truly exotic add a dollop of a meat based tomato spaghetti sauce. Voila--Michigan poutine.
Traditional poutine "real poutine" is actually, what I have been told by my acaidian teachers, is potatoes, hollowed out a bit and stuffed with cheese and meat and deep fried until it turns grey. Tasty! Even better I live in New Brunswick and they have CANNED poutine at my local grocery store. EEEEWWW! You are talking about Fast Food poutine that they make at Mc Donalds and Burger King in French areas of N.B. and in Quebec. It is just gravy, probably made from beef from the hamburgers, fries and cheese curds I made it once it turned out fine but add the fries and cheese curds to the gravy so they won't get too soggy.
Apparently poutine used to be a meat and cheese pie in a mashed potato crust. It simply degenerated into what we see today : The mashed potato crust turned into French fries, the game meat by instant gravy, and the cheese by curd. Just goes to show what can happen to real food. Of course, this might be an urban legend. I don't think poutine used to be anything else. I'm a reporter who has investigated poutine, and I once actively went looking for its origins. There are several theories, but the most likely have the dish originating in the area around Arthabaska, Quebec, in the heart of a dairy region. Cheese curds are produced in quantity, and potatoes are a staple. The dish has been around for about 25 years and has spread across Canada and into the USA Quebec poutine is not to be confused with an Acadian dish called Poutine Rapee, which is made with grated potatoes shaped into a ball around some meat and boiled.
- Sweet bread (Philippines, Indonesia): Not sweetbreads, the offal dish, but bread which is sweet. Foreigners like me get used to it, but it's one of those annoying items adapted from Western influence to local tastes. It looks like standard square white bread, though only about 8 or 10 slices with no end-bits/heels. However, unlike 'Western' bread, this stuff's very sweet. For a Westerner, it's very annoying as it tastes sickly but looks okay - no near yet so far. Filipinos often coat this bread in condensed milk to eat it. A more popular topping is a thick layer of another destroyed Western favorite - mayonnaise. Pinoy mayonnaise is sickly-sweet too! Boo-hoo!
- Pease Pudding and Mushy Peas (North England): As the name suggests, this highly avoidable delicacy is made from large marrowfat peas. The peas are cooked in water until they completely dissolve, resulting in a green, gooey mush. The resulting swamp-food is used as a sort of vegetable and sauce combined. A very vexing habit in parts of England is in takeaway chip shops, where a big splash of mushy peas is added amongst the fish and chips, which are wrapped in a bag and usually eaten with the fingers. Just imagine it as trying to eat soup with your fingers.
- Frites and Mayo (Holland): French Fries and mayonnaise. I worked with Dutch colleagues who, though as cosmopolitan any anybody, have their home favourites too. A standard favorite, which I got used to, was frites and mayo. Frites are potato fries which are eaten with mayonnaise on the side. I really liked that and developed it further, using Heinz salad cream, like a vinegary mayonnaise. Excellent! A Dutch item which used to frustrate me was their cold cuts. Whereas your average American or Brit, when confronted with plates of fresh bread slices, various cold meat slices, Edam cheese slices, salad leaves, tomatoes and mayo, will inevitably take n' make a big sandwich, grabbed in both hands, a typical Dutch person will lay down a bread slice on their plate, top it with cheese, cold meat etc and then eat the open assembly with a knife and fork. It seems such a waste of effort! I used to make them laugh by making DIY sandwiches.
- Ugali (Kenya): White, opaque, almost tasteless substance served in a slice or lump. Similar to solidified wallpaper paste. Best enjoyed if almost starving. Probably similar to poi.
- Ramps (USA South): A very strongly flavored member of the onion family. The first fresh green vegetable to appear after the winter in Appalachia, it is gathered and ceremonially eaten. This can leave such a powerful flavor on the breath that kids do it in order to be sent home from school. Wonderful ramp stories are told in the American folklore collection called "Pissing in the Snow, " edited by Vance Randolph.
- Tofu (Japan): Soybean curd, sometimes called "bean crud." Bland, innocuous, healthful and politically correct, it still nauseates a lot of suspicious customers In Chinese, cho do fu or tso do fu literally translates as "smelly tofu". Fermented tofu. Smells like an outhouse.
- Seaweed (Japan and Others): All forms of seaweed are edible and many are tasty and nutritious. But, many people are repulsed by the idea.
- Jalapeno Peppers (Mexico): Hot peppers from the town of Jalapa. The word jalopy derives from the French word chaloupe, which is (was) a kind of sailing ship.
- Miso (Japan): Japanese travelers get very homesick for their familiar food--even more than most other nationalities. And this fermented bean goo soup is one of the principal foods that makes them sentimental.
- Grits (USA South): Cereal made of hominy, which is blanched white corn meal.
- Gari (West Africa and Brazil): Grated cassava root. Somewhat like poi.
- Fiddlehead Ferns (USA Northeast): These are the sprouting, curled tops of new ferns, which resemble the head of a violin. They are eaten as a springtime vegetable. Unusual, but is it so weird? Here's an article in the October 8, 1994, Vol. 146, no. 15, Science News.
Just as undercooked meat or fowl can make a meal sickening, so, too, raw or lightly cooked ostrich fern may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Though harvested commercially for years in the northeastern United States and in western Canada as a seasonal delicacy, Matteucia struthiopteris seems to be the common element in several outbreaks of food poisoning this past may, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC in Atlanta. At one time, native Americans in eastern North America considered this fern a spring vegetable, one adopted by Canadian settlers in the 1700s, the CDC notes. Nevertheless, in New York, one restaurant received complaints from 40 people who ate fiddleheads sautéed for 2 minutes, while no one who ate similarly harvested ferns cooked 10 minutes at another eatery experienced symptoms. Likewise three outbreaks occurred in western Canada, two at restaurants that also cooked the ferns just briefly. Health department officials tested uncooked ferns for bacterial and pesticide contamination but found neither. Nor did they track any other possible causes, the CDC reports in the Step. 23 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. They conclude that the ferns may contain a toxin that adequate cooking--steaming for 10 minutes or boiling for 15 minutes-- destroys.
- Ambuyat (Brunei): This is a dish that is very popular here, in Brunei. The natives of the area use every part of the Sago palm tree. One interesting part is that they will take the center of the trunk, plane it into sawdust, boil the sawdust in water for several hours, until it has the same appearance and texture as rubber cement, and serve. It is eaten with a kind of forked chopstick. You are supposed to roll it on, like pasta on a fork, dip it in some peanut or other flavored sauce, since it is almost tasteless by itself, and swallow it. It is useless to chew and you won't be able to breath as long as it is in your mouth. You must eat it while it is hot before it dries into a hard plastic. It actually isn't that bad, and they say that you won't gain weight from it since it is mostly water. It not only seems like you are eating glue... you are, they also use the same stuff to stuck roofing materials onto the top of their houses.
- Gingko Seeds (Japan): The seeds of the gingko tree, native to China, are a delicacy. I had them in a yakitori restaurant, where they were threaded with a pine needle and roasted over charcoal. Very tasty. What's weird is how people learned they were edible, because the ripe fruit of the gingko smells pungently like vomit. This repulsive flesh has to be stripped off the seeds, which are boiled before roasting.
- Habanero Peppers (Mexico Yucatan Peninsula): Green when unripe, bright orange or red when ripe. Hottest pepper known, coming in at over 300,000 Scoville Units. The "Scotch Bonnet" is closely related, if not the same pepper. They are both Capsicum Chinenses. In response to the description "much hotter than jalapenos, " Dan writes: Sure, just like a forest fire is "much hotter" than a summer's day. I have a habanero pepper plant, and they're best treated like plutonium.
- Patatas Korv (Sweden): There is "patatas korv" (potato sausage). This is ground potatoes and ground pork, seasoned with salt and pepper. Some people also add diced onions. We steam ours in a "waterless cooker" but usually the pork-potato mixture is stuffed into sausage casings and then boiled. Either way it is delicious. This is definitely Scandinavian. And there are also potato dumplings. Ground potatoes, mix in enough flour to hold it together, make a ball of it with a ball of ground pork or sausage. Put them in a big pot of boiling water and boil. Eat with lots of butter. The leftovers (you make a big bunch of them so you have plenty left over!) are very good (perhaps even better) fried and, again, eaten with lots of butter. I really enjoy these but you sort of have to grow up with them to really enjoy them. They are heavy. My uncle Hjalmar called them "bombs".
- Indian Ice Cream (India): Among the Tanaia of S central Alaska and (particularly) the Indians of coastal British Columbia, Indian ice cream is made using the soapberry plant (Shepherdia canadensis). The sour bitter tasteless fruits contain a (soapy) saponin that allow it to be whipped into a foam resembling soapsuds. They usually add sugar and cream to this. Definitely an acquired taste; the saponin gives it a very bitter aftertaste. They also use the plant medicinally to treat cuts, swellings, stomachache, constipation, heart problems, arthritis, gallstones, and tuberculosis. The soapberry berries will not whip if there is even a trace of grease.
- Baby Octopus in Soju (Korea): You are given a bowl of live baby octopuses and a plate which is covered in soju (Korean alcohol). You pick one octopus up and wipe it in the soju which puts it to sleep and then eat it. More fun near the end of the meal when there is less soju on the plate or the octopus doesn't go asleep and starts to fight as you're eating it.
- Raw Beef and Onions (USA): Another Christmas staple at Grandma's house. It was raw ground beef, close to 100% lean, spread on dark rye bread and topped with slices of raw onion. This went on for decades and, believe it or not, nobody ever got sick. I don't know where this originated; it was common holiday fare in my east-central Wisconsin hometown.
- Matzoh (Jewish): I grew up eating matzoh with butter and ketchup. That tangy/sweet with butter just tickles the taste buds. My family is not Jewish but my husband is. When he found out I liked butter and ketchup matzoh, he thought it was the grossest thing he ever heard of!
- Romergrod (Norway): Notice that you didn't mention Romergrod (with slashes through the o's)... I had it in Norway - it's some kind of wedding porridge. I still remember this clogging, mucus suffocating sensation as I tried to eat it (no option except to eat it as we were being treated by my friend and her Norwegian relatives. ) We tried dumping lots of sugar in it, too, without much success.
- Vinegar Pie (USA): I imagine that it goes back to the days when apple cider could only be preserved as vinegar. There is a restaurant on I-85 in South Carolina that advertises it but I have seen it all over the South.
- Fried Food (USA): Fried pickles, fried squash, fried eggplant, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, and (but of course) fried ice-cream in a corn flake batter.
- Ube Ice Cream (Philippines): This purple concoction is what makes a lot of Filipinos homesick until they find it in their own local Asian Market. Ice cream made with purple yams. Tastes like heaven!
Weird Foods: Amphibians
This group includes frogs and salamanders.
- Fried Frog Legs (US South): Here in the deep South, we batter, season and deep fry the two large back legs of frogs. I hate to say it, but they taste like chicken.
- Salamanders (Japan): Skinks or salamanders lovingly grilled on a stick and served on lightly wilted lettuce. A rural favorite.
Weird Foods: Bird
For 65 million years, dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and they often snapped up small warm furry mammals. Now it's our turn. Dinosaurs evolved into birds. How about a bucket of Kentucky Fried Dinosaur?
- Chicken Livers (US South): Breaded with a simple mixture of flour, salt, and pepper then fried. Good eating! Still served in some KFC restaurants, in North Carolina anyway.
- Balut (Phillipines): (This is also spelled Baloot, Baalut, Baluge, or Balute.) Half-hatched chicken egg. A baluge is a fifteen- or sixteen-day fertilized chicken egg. Open an egg and pop a sixteen-day-old incomplete chicken fetus into your mouth, complete with partially formed feathers, feet, eyeballs, and blood vessels showing through the translucent skin of the chick. My grandfather told me about this. He says the bad part is picking the feathers out of your teeth
- Arroz de Cabidela (Portugal): Arroz de Cabidela (Chicken with rice in blood). Traditional Portuguese Dish. For 6 people: 1 Chicken or Duck; ½ a cup of vinegar; 2 onions; 500g of rice; 5 soup spoons of olive oil; 1 Garlic tooth; 1 Branch of Parsley; Salt and Pepper. When you kill the bird, collect all of the blood in a container, where you already have the vinegar. Stir this mixture well. Cut the chosen bird in parts, and stew it with the oil, the diced onion, the garlic and the parsley. When necessary, add water, salt and pepper and continue to stew on a very low flame with the lid on the pot. When the meat is tender, add enough water to create a broth to boil the rice. The quantity of the water depends on the consistency that is wished for the Cabidela. To obtain a wet Cabidela, you should add at least three parts water to one part rice. When the mixture has boiled, add the rice, already washed and dried and let it cook. Finally you add the chicken (or Ducks) blood, as soon as it starts to boil you take it off the cooker and serve.
- Turducken (USA): (tur.DUK.un) n. A boneless turkey that is stuffed with a boneless duck that is stuffed with a boneless chicken. Opinions about our holiday turducken feast broke down along largely gender lines. The male demographic appeared to be quite pleased with our 15-pound Cajun delicacy a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken.
"Now, that's a quality hunk of fowl" said one male person, digging in at our Christmas dinner table. "I mean, a quality hunk of three fowl."
However, the female demographic was decidedly less enthused. "I didn't want to say anything at the dinner table," said one young female person afterward. "But it made me want to throw up."
Jim Kershner, "Why one meat when you can have three?," Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA), January 4, 2003
When subscriber Brian Cole told me about the turducken, I thought he was kidding. Sure, his e-mail arrived in my inbox at 12:11 AM on April 2nd, but he could have sent it on April Fool's Day. I suspected fowl play. However, some quick investigative journalism assured me that this Frankenbird was no canard and that, in fact, it was invented I want to say "manufactured" by none other than the famous chef Paul Prudhomme back in the early 80s. Unfortunately, why he felt the need to construct a kind of Russian doll in meat remains a mystery. (At least Chef Paul isn't responsible for the pigturducken (1997) which is you guessed it a turducken stuffed inside a pig, the resonant symbolism of which I won't get into here.)
- Dookers (Scotland): What was earlier described as dookers from scotland actually originated from this... One of the earliest accounts written about the Western Isles was by Dean Munro, who visited the islands in 1549. His description of Sulasgeir mentions that the men of Ness sailed in their small craft to "fetche hame thair boatful of dry wild fowls with wild fowl fedderis". How long before 1549 the Nessmen sailed to Sulasgeir each year to collect the young gannets for food and feathers is not known, but it may be assumed that it was a tradition for centuries. That tradition is still carried on today. A report written in 1797 says: 'There is in Ness a most venturous set of people who for a few years back, at the hazard of their lives, went there in an open six-oared boat without even the aid of a compass'. Excellent seamanship was certainly essential for the success of these expeditions - rowing across miles of turbulent Atlantic was no pleasure cruise.
The flesh of the young gannet or 'guga', pronounced gookha, is regarded as a delicacy in Ness today though, for others, it is an acquired taste. Even so, it was a popular meat in earlier times in Scotland. In the sixteenth century it was served at the tables of Scots kings and was a favourite with the wealthy as a 'whet' or appetizer before main meals. In the autumn of each year, a hardy team of Nessmen set sail for Sulasgeir to kill around 2000 young birds and bring home their catch about two weeks later, to meet an eager crowd of customers, who snap up as many of the birds as they can. The demand is often so great that the birds have to be rationed out to ensure that each person does not go without a taste of guga.
The annual cull of birds has been the focus of attention of bird protectionists, who recently have tried to ban the cull completely. But tradition dies hard and the Sulasgeir trip still goes on, with a special dispensation written into the 1954 Wild Birds Protection Act by Statutory Order, which allows the Nessmen to continue their taste both for adventure and for the Guga.
It tastes like rotten leather, smells awful, truly really really bad, like the worst shit youve ever done x100,000, plus the way the store them on the island is to cover them in salt and wrap them in newspaper so you can read the date of the thing while its being prepared. And the claws, apparently, are the best bit.
- Goose Grease (Germany): While serving in the Army, my parents were stationed in Germany. One of their closest friends was a local woman who's favorite breakfast was bread dipped into the fat from the pan of a roasted goose, with pickled eggs on the side and washed down by several pints of dark beer. My mother would fix a goose at least once a month and save the drippings for her, and as a result, I'm not that big a fan of roast goose. You'd think it was hideously unhealthy, except that she was one of the slimmest people I've ever known. If eating really, really greasy turkey drippings is your thing, it wouldn't be too bad. Just be sure and leave the window open when you hit the bathroom.
- Mollejas (Spain): Fried gizzards of chicken. Delicious!!
- Duck Feet (China): Much more tasty than chicken feet are duck feet: more cartilage to chew on. In China, they are a delicious treat, and guests get all the delicious treats put in their bowl by the host. Goes nicely with rice and soy sauce.
- Nankotsu (Japan): Chicken cartilage. It's either eaten fried, or on a shish kabob. It's very chewy and sort of hard. A common dish served in drinking establishments in Japan.
- Stuffed Goose Liver (France, Hungary): Not to be confused with a goose liver that has been stuffed. Oh no, this is a liver from a goose that has been stuffed. Sometimes weighing more than 2 kg (5 lbs), this is truly a delicacy to die for (at least for the goose). This is the best food in the world! It is not possible to describe the taste. Rather like silk than food.
- Owl Soup (China): An acquaintance, Hong Kong Chinese, relates a banquet story from the PRC hinterlands. What had appeared to be something like chicken soup turned out to be owl! His hosts produced the owl's head from the pot as proof.
- Chicken Feet (Hong Kong): Several cultures eat chicken feet, but the Chinese dim-sum version is very good. The feet themselves are tasteless. I used to live in Hong Kong and in supermarkets, you could get 2 types - bones-in and bones-out. The shrink-packs with the bones taken out look like joined-up macaroni and are squishy when you press the clear plastic! In dim-sum, it's usually the bones-in variety, but what makes them delicious is that they're coated in a spicy rich sauce.
- Chicken Feet (USA South): In soup or pickled whole.
- Baalut (Philippines): How about that great delicacy of the Philippines... Baalut. You take a fertilized duck or chicken egg, bury it in the ground for a few weeks and then enjoy. Also known as "the treat with feet" or "the egg with legs". Best enjoyed after many, many, many beers. This is a Filipino delicacy--a duck egg containing a half-formed duckling, soft-boiled and eaten out of shell with a spoon. (Slurp! Crunch-crunch! Yum!)
- Bird's Nest Soup (China): Made from the nest of a particular kind of cave/cliff swallow. The swallow secretes a substance from a gland (similar to a salivary gland) as an adhesive to bind twigs and leaves and such together to make the nest. A good way to gross out people is to tell them what bird's nest soup is made from. Did that to my ex-sister in law, while we were having some. She was going, "Hm, this isn't bad, " so I filled her in. She immediately dropped her spoon and refused to touch it afterwards.
- Rook Pie (Wales): Self-explanatory. A rook is a large black bird in the crow family, a bit smaller than a common crow. Four-and-twenty blackbirds in a pie...
- Song Birds (Italy): Roasted and eaten whole. Hunters have nearly eliminated many of the migratory species.
- Dookers (Scotland): My father, a native of Kintyre, Argyll, in the Western Scottish Highlands, was raised near a harbor town called Tarbert at Loch Fyne. He recalls that, in times gone past, up to maybe the 1950's, many inhabitants of that coastal fishing port used to regularly eat 'dookers' caught either among the seaside rocks or at sea by the fishing boats. Dooker is the local name for the guillemot, a type of long-beaked, black and white diving seabird. Apart from being incredibly salty, they were apparently very tough birds to chew. The only way to cook them was the boil the be-jesus out of them. However, so popular were these birds for those locals, that the town's inhabitants became known as "Dookers".
- Turkey, Deep-Fried Whole (USA): Justin Wilson "the Cooking Cajun" did this on one of his TV shows. He did the cooking outside using a large, portable gas burner and a very large stock pot, the kind they use for fish fries down south. The bird actually looked pretty good when done, although I wince at the calories.
Paul Prudhomme has this recipe in his book, Prudhomme Family Cookbook . Justin Wilson later picked up on it and greatly simplified it. Justin's results aren't quite as flavorful as Paul's, IMHO. The bird is injected with a garlic/onion/pepper spice mix the day before cooking, and then deep fried for 3 minutes per pound. The skin comes out very crispy, while the meat is moist and tender.
- Schmaltz (European Jews): Chicken fat
- Chicken Heads (Philippines): Sometimes used in Adobo stew, other times barbequed intact. Never seen it myself, by my Philippine wife tells me it is so.
- Chopped Liver (European Jews): Chopped chicken livers. usually known as "chopped liver": a finely ground mixture of cold cooked chicken livers, hardboiled eggs, onion, garlic, and pepper. Eaten on a cracker. A common dish in Russian cafe-bars.
- Schmaltz (Russian Jewish): Not exactly a chicken fat. It is rather a dark brown crust that remains once the chicken fat melted away. Kind of a chicken bacon. It is used as a spice and it adds a wonderful "smoky" taste to a porridge or roast.
- Kishke (Russian Jewish): Kishke is basically a sack made out of stitched chicken skin stuffed with a mixture of flour, butter and spices which is boiled in a chicken broth. Once it dries, slices of it make a great snack or a great addition to the chicken soup itself. Yummy! It is much easier to prepare this meal if you manage to preserve the skin on the chicken neck intact. For this reason the name for this meal in Russian is "Sheika" or literally "the tiny neck". Tragically my grandmother passed away so the secret of its preparation is irreversibly lost.
Weird Foods: Bugs
Insects are one of the best sources of protein. If you join the Marines, you learn to live on bugs. And they taste good!
- Scorpion (Vietnam): I saw this on a video from Vietnam that my Vietnamese roommate was watching: scorpions. Another of my friends said he had eaten them, and the taste was so-so. A third friend said they were quite good, commenting, "They're bugs, aren't they, like lobster."
- Baby Bees (Japan): (Sorry, no description was submitted. If you know about these, please write!)
- Bugs (Everywhere): An article on eating insects
- Huhu (New Zealand): Huhu grubs (larva) are A traditional Maori food in New Zealand. I've never had the guts to try them myself but people say they taste like buttery chicken.
- Ants (Belize): In a village near Orange Walk after a good tamales lunch, my cousins would go and dig the ants nest from behind the farm taking out all the ant eggs. They would then eat the eggs and sigh with satisfaction. Tastes quite like citrus juice mixed with some strong gin. Also known as "ghetto caviar".;)
- Ants (Australia): (Australia, Northern Territory.) In the North of Australia a favorite type of bush-tucker is the abdomen of small 'green ants'. The ants themselves have brown bodies and legs, but a large green abdomen which curiously shares a similar flavor to lemon sherbet. To eat them you pick them up by their head and squash it (so they won't bite you) then bite off the abdomen and enjoy the taste sensation. Beautiful!
- Tarantula (Cambodia): In the town of Skuon around 55 miles North of Phnom Phen tarantula spiders are very commonly eaten by the locals, travelers who pass through often try them too. The practice began in the days of the Khmer Rouge, when food was scarce, but apparently the locals developed rather a taste for the furry 8-legged arachnids and now they still form a major part of the towns dietary intake. Hundreds of these spiders are hunted, cooked and sold everyday in what must be one of the more unusual 'fast food' arrangements I've seen.
- Mopane Caterpillars (Africa): Mopane are eaten in various South African countries (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana). For more info please visit: Mopane
- Hu-Hu (New Zealand): Hu-Hu grubs! Those who have tried these fat white globular bugs are split into two camps - those who think it tastes a little like peanut butter, and those who think they are disgusting!
- Ants (Thailand): Yellow ants or ants eggs in lime and chilies.
- Bugs (Thailand): Thailand street vendors serve up good tasty treats on Koh San road in Thailand. One cart had Maggots by the hand full, Grasshoppers, King Scorpion, Huge Cockroaches, and several others. Most of it actually not bad at all..
- Tequila Worms (Mexico): The little worm, the gusano, that lives on the agave plant gets stuck in the bottle. Mmmm. There is even a special brand sold in 2-ounce bottles called "Dos Gusanos", two worms for those who can't get enough.
Locally, which is to say in North America, a not too uncommon confection is the tequila sucker--a tequila flavored lollipop, complete with worm. The first two ingredients are listed as "High fructose corn syrup, insect larva...". My question is this: if an insect larva can pass the Food and Drug Administration as an explicitly listed ingredient, what the hell's in the stuff that the FDA rejects?
- Water Bugs (Thailand): This thing looks like a giant black cockroach, but with harder shell. It's highly priced for the aroma, and it's used in cooking. Good stuff!!
- Hornet Grubs (Thailand): Finally a solution for hornets.
- Fried Crickets (Philippines): My Philippine wife tells me these are quite a treat in the Philippines. I must remember to avoid the bar-snacks next time we're there!
- Fried Spiders (Thailand): I watched a TV programmed which showed the popularity of taking big hairy spiders and frying them in a wok. They're a popular snack.
- Cicada (Mediterranean): This is an OLD story, but irresistable... The French entomologist Henri Fabre reports eating roasted cicada larvae, caught as they were surfacing to morph. Apparently Aristotle said that this was a delicacy. Although it did not taste too bad, Fabre concluded that Aristotle, with his fantastic record on experimental science, was probably tricked by some rural farmer's opinion.
- How to Bug the Cook: For the cook who has everything, consider "Entertaining With Insects" by Ronald Taylor, with 95 recipes including cricket pot pie, mealworm chow mein, fudge hoppers and beetle sausage. To order, call (800) 395-1351.
- Witchety Grub (Australia): In Oz now it is considered patriotic to eat Witchety Grub, a plump insect which has become the symbol of Aboriginal cuisine. It is served in fancy restaurants, but I don't think many Oz have actually screwed up the courage to sample it. On the subject of witchety grubs, I had been to Ayres Rock on my first trip to Australia (my Mum is a former Aussie... we were visiting family mostly,) and the tour guide was honest enough to tell us WHAT the grubs were and something about their background before trying to talk us into trying it. About 10 years later, I went back to catch up on the family and discovered (in a newspaper ad) that there is a resort near Ayres Rock now... and on their list of exotic resort fare are WITCHETY GRUBS! This went from a weird oddity only eaten by Aborigines and desperate bushmen to resort food in only ten years!
- Roasted Ants (Colombia): The ants are very large. These are fried or roasted. These are often served in paper cones at movies. They have a smoky taste, a bit like very good jerky. Nice and crunchy.
- Chitoum (Ivory Coast, Africa): A couple of years ago, Montreal's Insectarium held a taste-test to which I, as a reporter, was invited. I ate grasshoppers and crickets easily enough, the only real problem was that their legs and wings kept getting stuck between my teeth. But I was grossed out by a West African bug called a chitoum. They were imported from Ivory Coast, were dry and black and had all the charm of dessicated garden slugs. I thought they tasted like a cross between dried twigs and green Chinese tea. It did not help that I was told that to prepare them for drying people squeeze their guts out. I ate half of one and went back to popping chocolate-covered crickets.
- Spiders (Cambodia): In Cambodia as well as other parts of the world, certain spiders are consumed as a special treat. They are rich in protein but hard to come by, so they are more of a special snack than a staple. I tried some when I was in Cambodia a year ago. I believe it is a deep-fried tarantula. The taste was quite good - similar to deep fried soft shell crab - but I had significant psychological hang-ups that kept me from enjoying the special treat to the full extent.
- Silk Worm Grubs (Korea): Steaming, grey silk worm grubs can be found in vendor's carts on the back streets of Seoul, Korea. There's this one oriental grocery store near me that I've been going to for several years. At first, as expected, when I asked what strange things were I get the standard "You won't like that." I soon got past that stage with the owner. It's probably been over a year since I've got the you-won't-like-it explanation. Today I got it again! The food in question? "Chrysalis." It's a can of bugs. Of course I bought it, but I don't know what to do with it. I opened the can, and it certainly smelled strange. I was assured that it was delicious and very healthy. Do I just heat it and enjoy? Would fresh chrysalis bugs be better than canned? Thanks for the help. Guess: A caterpillar spins a cocoon around itself when it is ready to mutate into a butterfly or moth. At this stage it is known as a "chrysalis" or "pupa". Perhaps they're silkworm pupae, since the orient produces a lot of silk.
- Grasshoppers (Mexico): Just came back from a trip to Mexico. In Oaxaca, they sell "chapulines" (grasshoppers) as a specialty. They're not necessarily disgusting, but to our northern palates they sure were weird--kind of like really, really salty anchovies (if you can imagine anything saltier than anchovies.) From: Louise Mateos. In Africa and Thailand, grasshoppers are fried in oil. Good for you!
- Tasty Bug Recipes
- 2 large packages gelatin
- 2 1/2 cups boiling water (do not add cold water)
- Stir boiling water into gelatin. Dissolve completely.
- Stir in dry-roasted leafhoppers.
- Pour mixture slowly into 13 x 9 inch pan. Chill at least 3 hours.
- BLOX will be firm after 1 hour, but may be difficult to remove from pan. Cutting blox: dip bottom pan in warm water 15 seconds to loosen gelatin. Cut shapes with cookie cutters all the way through gelatin. Lift with index finger or metal spatula. If Blox stick, dip pan again for a few seconds.
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 bananas, mashed
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup dry-roasted army worms
- Mix together all ingredients. Bake in greased loaf pan at 350 for about 1 hour.
- 2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
- 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons skim milk
- 1/2 cup reduced calorie mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp. dill weed
- 1 1/2 tsp. Beau Monde
- 1 cup dry-roasted rootworm beetles
- Blend first 3 ingredients. Add remaining ingredients and chill.
- 2 1/4 cup flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 1 12-ounce chocolate chips
- 1 cup chopped nuts
- 1/2 cup dry-roasted crickets
- Preheat oven to 375. In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In large bowl, combine butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla; beat until creamy. Beat in eggs. Gradually add flour mixture and insects, mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded measuring teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Weird Foods: Drinks
This is one of the most contentious areas for Weird-Food.com. Everyone thinks their local potion is normal. Yes, but only in your neighborhood.
- Pearl Drinks (Asia): Tapioca pearl drinks. (will someone write more about these?) And those Vietnamese drinks with sweet red bean paste in them?
- Glögg! (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark): Glogg.html
- Baby Mouse Wine (China): I had this either in Hong Kong or China - I forget which. (maybe you drank too much Baby Mice Wine? :-) Basically a rice wine bottle full of baby mice (and I swear they were smiling!) Tasted like gasoline...
- Boba Ice Milk Tea (Taiwan): This has become one of my favorite drinks over time and is now a definite comfort food. Boba or tapioca tea is large sweet potato tapioca that is the size of a marble and dark brown that you suck through a huge straw of ice milk tea and then chew. At tea stations you can get many different flavored boba drinks. My favorites are Coconut milk tea and watermelon boba. In some areas it is called bubble tea. very common around universities and in cities with large Asian populations. Boba is a Taiwanese drink.
- Lizard Wine (S. China):
- Seagull Wine (Eskimo): Put a seagull in a bottle. Fill with water. Let it ferment in the sun.
- Fermented Mare's Milk (Mongolia):
- Ammonia Coke (US South): Coca-cola with a little of ammonia. It was popular in West Virginia to cure various ailments. It can still be found in older pharmacies with soda fountains.
- Slurpies (USA): They're a convenience-store delicacy of ice and the purest, most evil food colorings and artificial flavors available to mere mortals.
- Shaved Ice (Panama): Very similar to the Shaved Ice found in China. It's shaved ice with condensed milk and your choice of flavored syrup. It was simply delicious! My mom's friends made a home version of it. They made ice cubes with water and condensed milk. Sometimes for a kick they'd had fresh pineapple juice. Yummmmm!
- Shaved Ice (Indonesia): I want to add shaved ice, ice kachang. It's "kacang", It includes beans and nuts. Peanut is "kacang tanah" or ground nut, while soybean is "kacang kedelai". I loved shaved ice of any kind. They even put nata de cocho and seaweed on it as a topping. Yummy! Now I live in USA, I miss all of those weird food.
- Tequila Jello (USA): Tequila Jello shots: much like beer Jello but in shot form
- Kvass (Russian Jewish): Actually it should rather be called "kvas". Make no mistake, the wonderfully tasting, thirst quenching kvas sold from tanks on the streets has nothing in common with the horror known as "kvass" at SCA gatherings.
- Kvass (Russia): Beer-like beverage made by fermenting old bread in water. It's sold from tank-trailers on the street during the summer.
- Skipsol (Denmark): In Denmark, there's a popular low-alcohol beer called "skipsol," or "ship's beer, " which is flavored with resin-flavor, originally imparted the same way as the retsina got its flavor.
- Tea with Yak Butter (Tibet, northern India): Don't ever try to use butter as a substitute for milk in your coffee. It will just create a greasy film.
- Spruce Beer (Canada): This is made from the boiled boughs of black spruce. The beer is made with yeast, molasses and raisins and takes less than three days to brew.
- Oellebroed (Denmark): Beer-bread. Oellebroed is a thick soup, almost a porridge, made from soaking stale Rugbroed Danish-style rye bread in water and boiling it in beer with some sugar. This is served hot with whipped or heavy cream. My mother once forced me to finish my oellebroed after I had told her I didn't like it. Big mistake! All over the table, the chairs and the floor, too. Served her right. I didn't like it at all. I can eat it now, but only homemade. It's available as a powder you stir into hot water, a la powdered mashed potatoes, and I suspect this was what my mother tried to get into me. I don't think it is disgusting at all, but you have to like the taste of beer and it's rich from the cream, warm and sweet, and this combination tends to make me nauseous. However, the dish was perfect for the fishermen in Babette's Feast because it was cheap, nutritious and very easy to make. But filmmakers are what filmmakers always were: it was the presentation and the sloppy way it was eaten that provided such a yucky appearance of oellebroed, especially when juxtaposed with Babette's haute cuisine.
- Retsina (Greece): White wine with pine resin added. Legend has it that this was started by religious authorities trying to discourage drinking. Taxes were levied on wine that wasn't altered. Then people developed a taste for the cheap stuff with the resin in it.
The original retsina had less than 1/10th the amount of pine resin as do the retsina today. A politically influential, and doubtless slightly insane wine maker in northern Greece got the legislature to mandate his high level of resin in order for a wine to call itself retsina for export, and that is why we are stuck with resin plus a few fermented grapes instead of a wine with a very delicate hint of pine. In fact, it's because barrels sealed with pine tar, which imparted the flavor, regardless of the kind of wood, were used to store wines.
- Cynar(Italy): Bitter liqueur made from artichokes. Have you ever left artichokes steaming so long that they go dry and burn the pan, then you soak it desperately to clean it, creating a vile-smelling brown liquid? Tastes, smells, and looks just like that.
- Campari(Italy): Bitter liqueur.
- Beer(USA): The ultimate degradation of one of the oldest prepared foods in human history. The USA brewing industry uses the term "lawnmower beer" for the largest segment of its market, with obvious disdain for any texture or flavor properties.
- Iced Tea(USA South): This is the most common summer beverage. A travel handbook for New Zealand reassures Americans: "Don't feel self conscious about ordering iced tea. We don't find it any stranger than you would if we ordered hot bubbling Coca Cola."
- Irn Bru(Scotland): Mustn't forget Irn Bru. Scotland's answer to the rest of the world's disgusting soft drinks. It's flourescent orange, tastes vaguely of bubble gum, and has the best non-beer adverts on the TV. From: Richard Caley.
- Urine (Kenya, Tanzania): Bovine Urine is reputedly used by the Masai. In India bovine urine is used as a sedative and human urine is drunk by yogi such as Gandhi, who drank his urine every morning.
- Yak Milk, Rancid (Tibet): Where would one get yak milk outside of Tibet?
- Pruno (USA): Pruno is alcohol that's made illegally in prisons. Very bad stuff. Here's the recipe. How to make pruno.
- Halo-Halo (Philippines): A dessert served in a tall glass, like an Asian knickerbockers glory. The glass is filled with a mix of shaved ice, a lump or two of ice cream, carnation or liberty evaporated milk, and a mix of bottled chopped fruits in syrup, with mango, papaya, langka etc, and pulses in syrup, jellified coconut flesh [macapuno] or coco-jelly [nata de coco], sweet-corn [mais], various types of beans [navy beans etc], a blob of purple sweet-potato paste [ube]. The beans and nata de coco is often colored bright red, green etc. Really nice on a hot day! A fave of mine!
Weird Foods: Fish
- Sea Slugs (Korea): While in Korea (and slightly inebriated from drinking soju), I tried a sea slug. They were kept alive in a large tub. The old lady who sold them, took one out, sliced it into pieces (threw the guts away) and gave it to me with a yellow sauce in a cup. It was surprisingly crunchy, and tasted sort of like a radish. I would eat one again, but they just don't sell them here in the USA. -- Tim
- Shark (Iceland): Traditional Icelandic food is not as bad as it sounds: in fact several dishes are actually edible. The one glaring exception is hákarl, putrefied shark meat that has been buried for up to six months to ensure sufficient decomposition.
- Jellyfish (China): The jellyfish is cut into thin strips and served in a bowl as an appetizer. It tastes like crunchy, salty, thick rubber bands. -- andreas
- Cuttle Fish (Hawaii): Shredded dried cuttle-fish with a dusting of hot red pepper. It looks a bit like hay, but stringier. If you can imagine mineral asbestos the color of hay then you have it exactly. When you open the package everyone in the room knows there is a dried fish product available. Tough, stringy, delightful - I used to get through a package of this every few days.
- Xinchin (Yucatan): Xinchin is a fermented fish sauce made with citrus juice and chilies. Similar to crevice except that it has been allowed to ferment and becomes somewhat ripe in odor. Can be tingly on the tongue like tuna salad gone bad. The heat of chilies is what save this clear viscous sauce from being as nauseating as ludefisk. Can be found in restaurants on Isla Mujeres and around Cancun.
- Oysters (US Seattle): Once when I visited Seattle, Washington, I tried "oyster shooters", basically shrimp sauce with vodka, and raw oyster in a shot glass. It's best not to look at it before you try it, but it tasted pretty good. Nice tangy-spicy-fishy taste(not to mention chewy!), didn't taste the alcohol at all.
- Rolmops (Netherlands, Denmark): Raw herring wrapped around a pickle and/or a cocktail onion and secured with a toothpick. Served cold.
- Herring (Netherlands): Haring, it's a type of raw fish we eat in Holland. It shouldn't be missing from your fish section. We eat it optionally with unions (usually) on the streets at a haring-car and hold it by the tail, tilt back our head and eat it. The head of course is taken off, and its been cut with the thingies, fishbones out etc.
- Raake Orret (Norway): A trout is caught in fresh water and must be dealt with there and then before landing to avoid possible botulism (soil dwelling bacteria)It is left in water containing a small amount of sugar and salt and stored in cool even temperatures in garages etc. for months. it smells like rotten decaying fish, is smooth in texture to eat and very mild. it is eaten with flat bread made from yellow peas and, allegedly, home made spirit drunk with it. it is not available other than from domestic sources and potentially poisonous if the wrong bacteria contaminate the food.
- Surströmming (Sweden): Your Fish List is totally incomplete without the foulest smelling food you can ever imagine! swedish.html
- Herring (Sweden): Surströmming (Fermented Herring). It's herring which spends a year in a barrel (You can't imagine the smell!). Gut the fish on your dinner plate. Fermented herring, potatoes, onion and tomatoes served on tunnbröd (thin hard bread)
- Morton Bay Bugs (Australia): They are kind of like a lobster, but taste a lot nicer, well, not to me but everyone else seemed to enjoy them immensely.
- Poke (Hawaii): Raw seafood dish. The seafood can be ahi (Hawaiian for tuna), tako (Japanese for octopus), or other fish like salmon on rarer occasions. Usually has shoyu (Japanese black salty soy sauce), garlic, and a variety of veggies which can include any or all of the following: green onions, onions, limu (crunchy seaweed).
- Surströmming (Sweden): Surströmming (Fermented herring) Let me just state from the beginning, Surströmming is NOT my favorite food (even though it is from my country). You leave a huge amount of slightly "under-salted" (at least for tinning) herring in a wooden barrel for a couple of months. The result is that it starts to ferment. The smell (much worse than the taste) is like rotten egg, but the taste is like something fermented/rotten and salty. You can NOT open the tin that the "fish" is packed in after the fermentation process (that is bulging) indoors. You have to do that outdoors, in a plastic bag or under water!! Eaten with potatoes, bread, onions and "gräddfil" (curded cream) and a strong hard cheese. This is a course more popular in northern Sweden, but I'm afraid that some people as south as Stockholm it this crap (not counting people with heritage in the northern part of Sweden).
Don't try it, don't even get close to it. It might be fun though to try to import a tin or two just to see what the custom people in your country would do with it, I'd love to see their faces when they open the tin.
(Another Report) The most disgusting thing I've ever attempted to eat in my life must go to a Swedish dish called Surstromming, translated into English as 'fermented herring.' Now, surstromming is something that I often heard mentioned by friends, "Hey, Bob, have you eaten surstromming yet, hah hah hah?" I knew that it was fermented fish and that eating it would be a challenge but, having eaten all sorts of weird seafood when I lived in Spain, I was determined to give it a go.
One day, just around lunchtime, I was shopping in my local supermarket when I came across a tin of the stuff. "Well, now seems as good a time as any," I thought, and popped it into my shopping basket. When I got back home, I put it in the middle of the kitchen table and took a tin opener out of the drawer. Now, what no one had told me was that fermenting builds up quite a lot of pressure inside the can and that you should always cover a surstromming can with a cloth before you open it. The other thing I didn't know is that surstromming is usually eaten outdoors.
I leaned over the tin and just at the moment I pierced it, there was a hissing sound and then a fountain of juice shot into the air and spattered the left lens of my glasses - thank goodness I was wearing glasses; I hate to think what it could have done to my eye. Then, the air in the room was filled with a stench that was reminiscent of a public toilet that hadn't been cleaned for 20 years. I picked up a piece of the fish on my fork, held my breath, screwed up my eyes and placed it into my mouth.
Can you imagine how a solidified lump of surgical spirit would taste? Well, that's the feeling I had as it burned into my tongue. I rushed over to the kitchen sink, spat it out, coughed a lot, and drank several glasses of water. Then I went back to the table, tied up the can in 3 plastic bags and dumped it in the garbage. Some of the juice had spilled onto the plastic tablecloth, so I wiped it up with a dishcloth, opened the window to get rid of the stench and then left the room.
When I went back into the kitchen 10 minutes later, I beheld the most nauseating thing I've ever seen in my whole life. The room was full of flies - about forty of them and they were just going absolutely crazy, charging all around the room at supersonic speed, bouncing off one wall, then bouncing off the opposite one. I put my handkerchief over my mouth (the fact that I didn't throw up was close to miraculous), ran over to the window and closed it. I then ran for some fly spray and just sprayed continuously for over a minute. Then I left the room and waited for about 10 minutes. Finally, I looked back in - all the flies were lying on the floor. I got the vacuum cleaner out of the room and swiftly disposed of the remains.
Sweden has some nice dishes. I loved pytt i panna, Janssons frestelse, and pickled (as opposed to 'fermented' herring) washed down with Swedish schnapps is a wonderful treat. But as for surstromming... well, enough said. (This came from Bob Jones' website at tradisjoner.no. For more items about surstromming, see Surstromming and Surstromming)
- Herring (The Netherlands): In the Netherlands, raw herring gets decapitated, gutted, and eaten raw, mostly with chopped raw onions. It is typically eaten on the streets as a snack, either holding the fish by its tail and lowering it into your mouth, or chopped in bits, on a little paper plate. Every year, there is a herring festival ("vlaggetjesdag"), and the queen gets presented a bucket with the first catch of the year.
- Crayfish (USA): Crayfish- a.k.a. crawdads, crawdaddies, or (arguably more appropriately) mudbugs. Small, fresh-water crustaceans which look like miniature lobsters. The biggest are barely as long as your hand, from tail to claw tips. Found mostly in the southern United States, with a big crop to be had in Louisiana. Used to be used as catfish bait in some places until someone figured out what Cajuns knew all along - they're delicious. A popularized Louisiana event is the "crawdad boil," where crawfish, corn on the cob, potatoes, sometimes crabs, and occasionally other vegetables are boiled in water mixed with liquid or packaged spices inside a huge propane-fired pot on someone's back patio. The cooked result is drained and then emptied out onto tables covered with butcher's paper. Beer is the most popular side dish.
Like lobster, the tail is the most commonly eaten part. The claws and legs are usually too small to be worth the hassle of digging out the few atoms of meat they hold. True aficionados will tear the tail off of the head, squeeze out the tail meat, and then suck the heads to get at the tasty fat.
Live crawfish can be found in some stores in my home State of Texas. Most grocery stores carry frozen tails with the shells already removed. Some frozen packages contain crawfish from China or Southeast Asian countries.
The taste is similar to a fine lobster if you get fresh crawfish. Frozen can sometimes come close, but usually the taste of frozen is closer to little fishy erasers.
I have personally downed a couple of pounds of freshly boiled mudbugs at a sitting, including the mandatory head-sucking. Yum.
- Shiokara(Japan): Fresh raw fish (usually squid) served in a sauce made of fermented fish/squid guts. Truly awful. I'd sooner eat a quart of natto than down more than 1/2 cup of this stuff. From: Curtis Jackson.
- Sild(Denmark): Salted, pickled herrings. They are cured outdoors in barrels for about three months, then marinated raw in vinegar and spices. If the herring aren't gutted before salting, they turn a deep red color and have a musty taste. It's unusual to meet an American that will eat "Roede sild" (red herring) especially if they are told about how it's made. Similar foods are found all over Scandinavia.
- Belachan(Malaysia): Dried shrimp paste. There is no substitute. It is often sold in a rectangular brick. It has a very strong smell that might put off the untrained nose. A word of warning, make sure you are in a well ventilated room when you open it. See also BLACHAN, NGAPI-JAW. You want to make sure you seal off the kitchen from other parts of the house. The smell is VERY potent. Try to open all windows, doors, and so on, in your kitchen to make sure the smell goes out. Belachan can be stored in the fridge. just keep it wrapped up in the paper it came in, put a layer of plastic bag and so on, on top and shut it tightly. a nice place would be an air tight container.
- Fugu (Japan): Blowfish, with an organ containing a toxin so deadly that only specially licensed chefs are allowed to prepare it. Supposedly it is the delicious flavor, not the macho thrill, that draws consumers. I noticed a little physical buzz, but that might easily have been psychological rather than physiological. Certainly the danger is part of the appeal. I read that fugu poison kills by paralyzing the muscles including the lungs, but does not make the victim lose consciousness. Imagine being wide awake but completely unable to move or speak as you count off the seconds until you suffocate. Kills about 300 in Japan per year according to Mac Clancy in Consuming Culture . But people keep eating it.
- Ceviche (Mexico, Spain): Raw fish marinated in citrus juice overnight. "Cebiche is the traditional dish of the Mexican coastal towns, where it takes many different guises, the ingredients being as varied as the people that prepare it. Red snapper is the most popular fish used, but cod and haddock can be used instead. "
- Sa Kuo Yu Toe (China): Fish head soup
- Sashimi (Japan): Raw fish
- Sushi (Japan): Variety of exquisite morsels, often including raw fish. Sushi seems like the standard food of Japan, but it was invented only in the 1950s.
Woman To Have Sushi In Space TOKYO --Japan's first female astronaut is looking forward to marking another milestone--being the first in space to dine on sushi. Dr. Chaiki Mukai rocketed into space Friday aboard the shuttle Colombia on a two-week laboratory research mission. The 42-year-old heart surgeon from Tokyo told Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono and Makiko Tanaka, director general of the science and technology Agency, on Sunday that she was looking forward to eating sushi and octopus cakes and other traditional Japanese foods.
The mission is packed with experiments on the effects of weightlessness on fish, newts, jellyfish, frog eggs, sea urchins, fruit flies and worms.
Many sushi places, especially in the local regions where the items are actually caught fresh, pride themselves on serving very fresh foods, which usually means that the food is usually still alive and kicking until you order it. This includes fish that are filleted while alive, tiny fish that are swallowed whole and alive, AND the worst one I just saw on TV the other week--in Hokkaido, they had a sushi place that had live octopus. The sushi master pulled the live tako out of the tank, cut a piece of its appendage off and served it to the show's host. The bugger was still wriggling on the chopsticks. One little tako leg. Bleaugh. She waited until it stopped spazzing--but she said when she put it in her mouth, it suckered onto the inside of her mouth and wriggled around.
- Tako (Japan): Octopus. see Sushi
- Takosu (Japan): A bit fancier than takoyaki, this is a simple dish in which slices of boiled octopus are soaked in rice vinegar. Vinegar softens the octopus flesh and adds the distinctive sour flavor. My mother always put sliced cucumbers or wakame, a kelp-like seaweed with the octopus; I don't know if this is a common practice.
- Takoyaki (Japan): Little balls, 1-2in diameter, made primarily of flour/eggs, with a piece of boiled octopus in the center. Uncooked octopus is way too slimy to be eaten. Most people add other ingredients as well; I usually put shreds of raw ginger that are dyed red using sour plums, called beni-shouga. Typically served with generous toppings of Worcestershire sauce and seaweed bits, or aonori. Takoyaki is a traditionally sold by roadside vendors, particularly at festivities.
- Gefilte Fish (European Jews): poached balls of ground fish, mixed with ground onions and maybe ground carrots, salt, pepper, sugar, depending on where your family comes form, and then boiled. Often in a fish broth, but not always. Some people like to make a jelled broth, like with the bones. The ironic thing is that in yiddish this jelled stuff is called yuch. Actually, that's the Yiddish word for broth, but it just always struck me funny in this particular context.
- Geoduck Clams (USA Northwest): Big clams with a huge long neck. Very popular, just looks weird. Often called "Gooey Duck." You forgot to mention their real charm--the "huge long necks" bear an uncanny resemblance to an obscenely oversized penis, including the head and a hole at the end from which water oozes.
- Hakarl (Iceland): I have tried and survived hakarl!!! Well the Icelandic delicacy is hakarl -somniosus microcephalus- Greenland shark. The hakarl is poisonous when it is fresh. The production process does not include any peeing, but the body fluids of this shark contain different compounds of ammonia and urea, the same that give your piss that special smell... Actually the shark meat is put through a fermentation process. Earlier this was done by burying the meat deep in the ground, about 1.5-2 meters wrapped up in something to cover it. Nowadays this is done by packing the meat in air-tight plastic. The meat is left to ferment for some weeks and is then hanged up in air to dry and get a nice color for some more weeks. Hakarl is eaten without anything with it, like jerk-meat. It is only the tourists and urbans who get it served as tiny cubes on a toothpick. No UL.
- Ricci di mare (Sicily): See Uni
- Lobster (USA Northeast, among many): The best part of the lobster is also the yuckiest part: the lobster butter. Crack open the head. There's a green mucus stuff. Scoop it up with your fingers. It tastes really good. It's also in crabs. In Steve McQueen's last movie, Tom Horn, he plays a cowboy at a banquet, confronted with his first lobster. Trying to look unperturbed, he says, "Well, I will say that's the BIGGEST bug I ever ate!"
- Lutefisk (Norway): Cod fish soaked in lye. As an alternative to prison for non-violent offenders, the latest trend in penology is to make the consumption of lutefisk a condition for parole. Apropos lutefisk, I understand that the pizzeria in Grand Marais Minnesota, USA, Sven & Ole's Pickled Herring Club, will make a lutefisk pizza--if you give them $1, 000, 000 to compensate them for the smell. "I've never had lutefisk, and I'm so grateful to my Norwegian parents."
- Ngapi-Jaw (SE Asia): See also belachan This one has various names in different countries and is a stir fried concoction containing chilies, garlic, onions, dried shrimp and some of the previously mentioned fermented shrimp/anchovy paste. It's known as ngapi-jaw in Burma, kapi in Thailand, and blachan in Indonesia. While you're making it, your house reeks of dead fish.
- Oyster Sauce (China and others): This is fermented oyster juice.
- Dried fish (Philippines): Different types used. Smell bad in the packet, stink like hell when frying, but actually taste quite nice, eaten in chunks in the hand with plain rice.
- Uni (Japan): Raw sea urchin roe. The Sicilians also eat it as "ricci di mare". It can taste either like thick cream or low tide, depending on whether it's really fresh or not.
- Unagi (Japan): Fresh-water eel
- Bagoong (Philippines): Usually salted, fermented prawns which have rendered down into a paste. It is a national dish and is often used as a side dish, as we might use mustard, or mixed in during cooking, or as a relish for dips. A popular way to eat it is dunking slices of raw, green unripe mango in the bagoong.
- Prawn heads (Philippines): Whenever my wife and I eat gambas [prawns], she always gives me the bodies and she sucks the stuff out of the heads. Other Filipinos I know do the same thing. It's quite a good arrangement as we both get what we want and nothing's wasted. They know what they are doing: the head is actually the best part with the best flavor.
- Fish heads (Philippines): Common with Chinese and other Asians nationalities, Filipinos like fish-head stews and soups.
- Sild (Iceland): Did you mention dry fish anywhere? It's kept hanging outdoor for weeks and then beaten to soften it up. It's eaten with butter, sold as candy.
- Octopus (Galicia): Pulpo a feira is a typical dish from Galicia. Take a fresh octopus and put it in a pot , for two hours for the octopus to become tender. Later cut the octopus in small parts and add red pepper. Serve cold or warm on wooden tray.
- Squid Sandwich (Spain): Bocata de calamares is a typical dish from Madrid. It's simply a sandwich full of fried squid.
- Trasi (Indonesia): Trasi is a paste of salted, fermented prawns, similar to the Malaysian belachan. Stink terribly uncooked. During cooking, the smell transforms into a rich, seafood cooking smell and used in food, the food takes on a richer flavor. We always have trasi or belachan in the house. Belachan is like a large greyish Knorr cube. You pull off a small piece and put it into a dry frying pan. You then roast the belachan until it dries off and turns crumbly. It is then sprinkled into the food being cooked. Indonesians use trasi for typical dishes like sate, gado-gado, nasi goreng, mie goreng and such spicy food. Malaysians use it in much the same way.
- Whitebait (England): At pubs, these are a real treat: delectable, whole, i.e., heads, innards and all, little minnow-sized fish, dusted lightly with seasoned flour and then deep fried. They come as a heaping plateful. Absolutely terrific accompanied by a pint of Guinness--and some chips on the side if I am feeling especially reckless!
- Fermented Shark (Iceland): The shark is left in rock covered boxes for two months and then hanging for several more. As if this isn't enough, the shark is accompanied by Icelandic potato wine, known as Black Death.
- Smoked Eel (Germany): I tried these both when little, and as I have not been able to find the first anywhere in the states, or, at least here in Texas I only cook and serve the second. The eel I have only found in Bremehaven, Germany - the closest I have found in taste to it is smoked kippers, but it is just not the same. You peel one side, eat out the meat from between the bones, then flip it over and peel and eat the other side.
- Fish Eyes (Southeast Asia): Fish eyes are a delicacy in the Philippines and probably other parts of Southeast Asia. Recently I went to a restaurant with my husband's extended family, and my sister-in-law claimed "first dibs" on the eyes from the steamed whole fish. I, for one, was only too happy to oblige her! She scooped out an eyeball with her spoon, popped it into her mouth, ecstatically sucked down the juices, and then spit out the cornea.
- Fish Flotation Bladder (China): The air bladder that fish use to control their buoyancy. Chinese cooking uses this for a soup. It's pretty good, actually, sort of spongy.
- Fish Paste, Fermented (Southeast Asia): Shrimp or anchovy paste. Traditionally, you piled up a mound of the critters with salt mixed in and let it sit outdoors until it was thick with flies. Modern production techniques are said to be much more sanitary.
Thai "fish sauce" is absolutely revolting--you take a barrel of fish and salt and let it set in the sun. Now and then you press a board down on the top and collect liquid dribbles out a hole in the bottom.
Southeast Asian fermented fish is more important than many realize. Adding sugar, tamarind, and marketing savvy produced the deliberately misnamed Worcester sauce. Adding sugar and tomato paste produced the world conquering Ketjap/Catsup.
And to put some classical Western historical perspective on it, the Romans were known to be fond of "garum, an essence made from fermenting salted fish" [from Pomp and Sustenance: 25 Centuries of Sicilian Food, Mary Taylor Simeti, 1991. Holt & Co., New York. ISBN 0-8050-1601-5]. The English are also supposed to have an anchovy paste called "gentlemen's relish". I won't get into the bawdy derivation here.
- Eels, Jellied (England): Jellied eels are specifically a Cockney food, sadly now in decline. They have an affinity with pie and mash shops where the eel liquor (the eel cooking liquid) is gussied up with parsley and served over a minced beef pie and creamed potatoes as a gravy.
- Cod Liver Oil (USA Northeast): More medicine than food, but eaten for its huge vitamin A content. Polar bears absorb so much vitamin A that their livers contain deadly concentrations, and indigenous people know better than to eat the liver. It killed explorers.
- Cod Tongues (Canada): Deep-fried cod tongues--or cheeks--are as common as hamburgers on St. John's restaurant menus. Eaten plain they're a little slippery, like oysters.
- Cho Do Fu (China): See Tofu
- Dried Fish (China): Various kinds of dried, salted fish are popular in East Asia. One particular Chinese dish is made with ground pork and dried fish, steamed. Delicious, but one of my Caucasian friends says it smells like dirty socks and won't go near it.
- Drunken Shrimp (China): Live shrimp swimming in a bowl of rice wine. You capture them with your chopsticks and bite the head off. I think you're also supposed to eat the head.
- Squid/Octopus-flavored chips (Korea): available in most ethnic shops worldwide... These are actually shaped like tiny squids!
- Lutefisk (Sweden): My mother has told me about this. It is a traditional Christmas dish in Sweden. And I understand that you can find it in stores (all lye-soaked and ready to cook) in stores in Minnesota and other Swedish/Scandinavian-rich areas at Christmas time. Mom says they always served it at home at Christmas time, but they never forced her to eat any. They lived in Nebraska, so I think grandmother had to make theirs from scratch.
- Dancing Shrimp (China): Large live shrimp are taken from a tank and plopped into a scalding hot clear soup broth and served with a side of red pepper paste. Shrimp prepared in this way are usually served in a large glass bowl with a lid. They need the lid because they bring them to the table quickly and the shrimp are still "kicking" and jerking. You bite right into the shells and bodies with your teeth and chew the meat out and then spit out the shells and legs and such. I couldn't bring myself to eat one since I had just seen them moving.
- Sea Slug (Korea): While in Korea (and slightly inebriated from drinking soju), I tried a sea slug. They were kept alive in a large tub. The old lady who sold them took one out, sliced it into pieces (she threw the guts away) and gave it to me with a yellow sauce in a cup. It was surprisingly crunchy, and tasted sort of like a radish. I would eat one again, but they just don't sell them here in the USA.
- Lancaster Perch Rolls (Canada): Served like a hot dog, but only with the top split buns. The buns must be buttered and browned on the outside. The perch is a locally caught pan fish, usually dusted in white flour and then fried in a pan with butter. It's the sauce that makes the dish! Vinegar, cream, sugar and various ingredients like mustard, garlic etc. I still enjoy a couple of Perch Rolls any time I am in the area.
- Hakerl (Iceland): Glad to see you mentioned hakerl - my husband works for an Icelandic company and has gone there on biz trips several time -- he ate whale meat, tried to keep up with the incredibly hard-drinking Icelanders (incl. some vile schnapps), and nibbled on something he describes as "pink guts", but his hosts took pity on him and didn't force hakerl on him.
- Giant Barnacle (USA): At Alma de Cuba in Philadelphia, I had the opportunity to eat a giant barnacle. It was as big as a softball, but shaped like a volcano. The shell was bright white and the "beak" (which is removed to get to the animal inside) is replaced after cooking. (Kind of like a lid). The consistency and color is that of a very light egg soufflé, very delicate. The flavor is its own (no, it does not taste like chicken!) but it wasn't fishy at all nor salty; very ocean-like and fresh. There was also a light breadcrumb topping under the beak. It was absolutely delicious and if I ever have the opportunity to try it again, I definitely will!
- Smoked Eel (USA, Maryland): Smoked eel is one of my favorite foods. It is not cheap: $8 to $11 per lb. After smoking the eel, one skins it and takes out the spine. Many little bones might remain but if one works around them you have a very rich delicacy and texture. I can only locate it at some Jewish stores or high-end specialty food stores. If one can get past the thought of eating a sea/river snake, as I call it, its taste is quite good and not, at all, unpleasant to the smell and taste. (Note: This is also Japanese. I love smoked eels. - andreas)
Weird Foods: Mammal
- Monkey Toes (Indonesia): Deep fried monkey toes, eat it off the bone.
- Hot Dog Circles (USA): Cut slices into a hot dog, cook, and you get a hot dog circle. Now make a sandwich with that. Hot Dog Circles.
- Borewors (South Africa): Borewors - sheep,pig,cattle intestines stuffed with meat and offcuts, spiced with herds and cooked on an open flame (barbeque) and served as a meal or snack.
- Pig Blood (Hungary): Pigs blood with eggs. In Hungary, it is a big deal to kill the first pig of the season. So there I was in the morning watching some of my co-working chasing a pig around in the back yard. they caught it, slit it neck, and colleted the blood in a frying pan and then added scrambled eggs.
- Nutria (USA Louisiana): Nutria are large semi-aquatic rodents indigenous to South America... In the 1930's nutria were imported into Louisiana for the fur industry and were released, either intentionally or accidentally into the Louisiana coastal marshes. Nutria have caused extensive damage to Louisiana coastal wetlands due to their feeding activity. Due to this damage, officials in Louisiana are now promoting Nutria as a food source, even posting recipes. From what I've heard, they don't taste good enough to eat. www.nutria.com
- Biltong (South Africa): Animals ranging from cattle to wild animal - springbok, eland or even elephant, get cut up into strips and hung out to dry. Once it is dry it is ready for consumption. National snack for all rugby supporters.
- Squirrel Brain (US South): Yes, the brain of the small tree climbing rodent. You cook the head with the rest of the body (after cleaning of course), then, using your fingers and a fork, you crack the skull open and dig the brain out. Tastes kind of like mushrooms to me.
- Salo (Ukraine): Salo is pig fat stored in vats and eaten cold, either raw, smoked, fried or boiled. I guess you could compare it to fatback. It's a delicacy over there. Making fun of the invasion of Snickers bars since the fall of the USSR, the Ukrainians jokingly call chocolate-covered salo "Ukrainian Snickers." Worse yet, some enterprising (?) Ukrainian somewhere decided to actually market the stuff! I have not eaten it in its intended form, but used it to grease my iron skillets, for which it is very effective. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3825221.stm
- Scrapple (USA): Good Lord! Has no one written about the joys of Scrapple? My mom used to say that it was made of all the leftover parts (scraps) of the pig except the oink. It's sort of a gelatinous mass made up of the aforementioned strange pig parts (lips, snout, organs, etc.) plus a bit of cornmeal and ???. This grayish mash is apparently cooked for a while before being poured into brick-sized molds to solidify! Sliced and fried, it's part of a healthy Pennsylvania breakfast. My wife and I have a theory that the only way you can eat SCRAPPLE is to have done so as an unsuspecting child so that you acquire a taste for it before you truly understand it's components. Otherwise you'd just throw up.
- P'tcha (East Europe): It's a classic Eastern European Jewish dish that's made from calves' feet and ends up looking like translucent Jello, with a garlicky flavor. It wobbles like crazy, which scares me to no end.
- Beuschl (Austria): Pig liver, kidney, and heart cut in small pieces and cooked together with some spices.
- Rat (Thailand): Rat (Northern Thailand, Karen Hill Tribe) When I visited a Karen Hill Tribe village in northern Thailand (near the Mayanmar border) I was invited to try my host's breakfast with them. This consisted of what was described to me as 'small animal' which when I saw it was clearly a rat, cooked whole over an open fire, then served in a bowl of extremely hot chili stock with a bowl of glutinous sticky rice. The whole family shares this one dish. The Karen people do keep domestic farm animals like pigs, chickens and buffalo, but these are only slaughtered for food on very special occasions. Everyday food is sourced from hunting in the jungle, so consists of whatever small animals end up on the wrong end of a sling shot (and these guys are good with a sling shot!). Rat was quite a tasty way to start the day, the meat tastes a bit like rabbit (and those chilies are HOT!), but needless to say I didn't eat too much...
- Calf's Head (France): Tete de veau (Calf's Head). A delicacy in France. A British relative living in France raved about it so I ordered it in a restaurant. I was green until the waiter took it away. Basically, the fleshy bits of a calf's head, cooked for a long time and cut into squares, each consisting of a few strings of slimy meat and a 1cm thick layer of fat/gelatinous glop. The brain is served in the corner of the plate.
- Scrapple (USA): Variations on this include hog's head cheese and souse meat. Scrapple originated among the Pennsylvania Dutch and basically involves boiling a pig's head and grinding that meat up with some organ meat, mixing it with corn meal, and adding some spices. This mixture is formed into loaves and chilled. It's sliced and fried and eaten for breakfast in the mid-Atlanta areas. The best scrapple is Rapa Scrapple, made in Bridgeville, Delaware. I love the stuff, but lots of people read the ingredients or look at the gray loaf and excuse themselves. The people who aren't from DE/MD/PA who I can get to try it usually end up liking it, however.
- Jellied Cow's Foot (Poland): (Called "nozki" in Polish). Buy a cow's foot in a butcher shop, chop it up and cook for hours & hours in water with spices, garlic, salt, pepper, etc. It is a good idea to evacuate the house during cooking time to avoid the overwhelming smell. Then pour this mess into a large flat pan and refrigerate. It sets to a nice translucent grey jelly with a layer of fat on top. Cut into large cubes and serve with lots of horseradish to kill the taste.
- Beef Tatar (Austria): Raw hamburger with raw chopped onion, salt and pepper
- Pig Head (Hungary): Ok one more story from Hungary. This is called cold soup. Here I was out in the countryside, with my girlfriend and we were going to visit her aunts who had never seen someone from the states. As I walked in to the house there was a pig head with a rod driven though its head. The head was dripping a jelly-like stuff in to a pan on the floor and there were bits of something in the pan, also about 12 cats were also there. So the girlfriend asked me do I want so cold soup, my answer was no thanks, she then scooped out a big helping and started to eat it I was all most sick and as she had a big smile on her face a gloss on her lips she wanted to kiss, I didn't for at least a week. (flashbacks still haunt me)
- Pork Brains (US South): It's exactly what it sounds like and is extremely common (but very seldom spoke of) in the south. For some reason pork brains are canned in milk gravy and sold in many grocery stores around the south. Unlike many "specialty foods", you are more likely to find pork brains in a small-town grocery store. It can usually be found in the same vicinity of potted meat product or other canned meat/meat parts. On the front of the can pork brains are being served atop scrambled eggs... and that's just how I had them (ahh... the power of advertising). When I was 7 or 8 years old, I was forced fed a heaping spoonful of this grey matter w/scrambled eggs by my "best friend". It looked like fried cat food and tasted even worse. I guess it's an "acquired" taste.
- Sheep Head (Norway): Smalahove is the head of a sheep that is smoked for a couple of days and is served half. You eat all of it, incl. the sheep's eyes and tongue. Smalahoved
- Pig Blood (Trinidad): Blood pudding: Pig blood + breadcrumbs + rice. When my grandfather slaughtered a pig, all the men would have to take a swig of blood
- Pig Blood with Scrambled Eggs (Hungary): In Hungary, it is a big deal to kill the first pig of the season. So there I was in the morning watching some of my co-working chasing a pig around in the back yard, they caught it. Then slit it's neck and colleted the blood in a frying pan and then beat some eggs and cooked it, It had a brain like look.
- Cat (Hong Kong): Cat meat with steam bread (siopao)
- Horse (Japan): Horse sashimi is a fairly common item on menus in Kyushu.
- Blood Dumplings (Sweden): Made of flour, reindeer blood and salt, served with bacon, butter and lingonberry jam. Cooked or fried. yummy!
- Myseost (Norway): Myseost isn't made from mouse milk. It's goat cheese and it smells horrible. Only Norwegians eat it.
- Blubber (Arctic): Raw fat from sea mammals
- Blood Sausage (Europe): Called Boudin in France, Blutwurst in Germany, and Blood Pudding in the UK. Also called black pudding, made of blood, fat & offal, tastes marvellous cut up and fried. Try blood pudding/sausage/polser in with some baked beans. Skin the sausage first. The sausage should gradually dissolve as the fat melts leaving you with a dark brown crusty glop, with lumps in it. It tastes great on buttered toast. I usually add a drop of milk, and a little cheese at the end of cooking (15 mins or so.):
- Jelled Blood (China): Duck or pig blood; looks like Jell-O, but opaque and salty.
- Blood (Masai in Africa): The Masai subsist largely on milk and the fresh blood drawn from the neck veins of livestock.
- Chicken-Fried Steak (USA South): Steak covered with a flour batter and fried, like chicken. This region is famous for frying everything. Journalist Bill Moyers, in his TV series "Healing and the Mind, " interviewed a heart patient in Dr. Dean Ornish's radically low-fat diet program, who said he was in complete denial for years after his first heart attack. "I refused to even look at my cardiogram." "What is your profession?" "I'm a cardiologist, but I'm a good ol' Southern boy first! Grits 'n' gravy, chicken-fried steak..."
- Bats (Indonesia): In the covered market in Jogjakarta they sell them, smoked. They're only about three inches long, like skeletal brown mice. I ate one, because I'm constitutionally unable to pass up things like that, but for the next six months I woke up checking for symptoms of something unimaginable. Never happened. Tasted like beef jerky.
- Brawn (England): See Head Cheese
- Brains (France): When I was a kid, the med student couple upstairs used to make brains. First year, took it to the department picnic, everyone ate it, asked what it was, they didn't say. Second year, ditto. Third year they figured what the heck, told folks they'd been eating sauteed brains in bread crumbs for two years already. No one ate a bite.
- Dogs (Philippines): Dogs are not the pampered pets found in Western homes, except for Chinese Filipinos, who love their cute doggies. Dogs in cities, towns and villages are effectively camp-followers - scavengers who eats scraps around the floors and garbage-cans. Philippine dogs are a sorry sight, often skinny and nervous, shedding parts of their coats, with sores, scabs and sunburn. 'Owners' can't afford medical care for them, so they have worms and all sorts of defects, some are deformed by beatings. The dogs breed and scavenge uncontrolled, neglected and are hardly more than accidental guard dogs. But some of them serve a higher purpose - being bred for the table. Dog-eating is common in many homes in the Philippines. In Batangas, I once ate a Philippine stew dish, Caldereta, which usually contained kambing [goat meat]. It was delicious. However, one time I ate it, I was told this one was made from a dog. That was after I ate it. It tasted okay, like kambing really. Not totally believing it was a dog, I was convinced when driving through a back-street and saw a dead animal strung up by the neck, having the hide pulled off it, from head to tail. I thought it a kambing, but the head was still with its hide and it was definitely a white/black dog.
- Criadillas (Spain, Canada): Bull testicles. Also called Prairie Oysters in Canada (Alberta). It is called "criadillas" in Spain but has different names in other Latin countries. The criadillas are the testicles of the pig. They are sliced first and then cooked with garlic and parsley, better if they are barbecued. If you don´t know what you are eating, the taste is intense but in a nice and pleasant way.
- Cibreo (Italy): Cock's combs (the wattly stuff on a rooster's head): A classic Tuscan dish.
- Diniguan (Philippines): Blood stew. There is a "Chocolate Pork" recipe, otherwise known as Dinuguan. The "Chocolate Pork" name cracks me up, b/c it's a nice way to get Filipino-American kids and non-Filipinos to eat what is basically a blood stew made with pork stuff (in other words, pork head, liver, heart, blood.) You can find a recipe in "Galing Galing: Philippine Cuisine" by Nora Daza.
- Cheese (Western Civ: An ancient invention, but weird for many other cultures, especially Asians. Blue cheese is basically bacteria-infected mammal secretions. Japanese friends would cringe away from the table if I brought out cheese. Some comedian did a routine about cheese... "Cheese is made out of the milk of mammals, right? Goat cheese, sheep's milk cheese. How about dog cheese? Human cheese?" Gack!
- Bull Penis (Asia): A couple of years ago, I was browsing the meat section of an Asian market. I found a cylindrical piece of meat, about 1-1/2 feet long and 4 inches in diameter, with an uneven surface, severed at only one end, folded in half and frozen solid. The package was marked "Beef Pizzler." I thought, "Naw... it can't be!" But I always wondered...
- Breast Milk (China: A restaurant in the provincial capital Changsha of southern Hunan province, offers dishes cooked with human breast milk. The chef says "When the customers are having the human milk banquet, they can experience maternal love at the same time."
- American Cheese (USA Midwest): Often labeled FOOD PRODUCT as if that were going to reassure you. Processed cheese, or "cheese food", is stuff which disappears if grilled. The really weird version is Cheez-Whiz, the cheese in a spray can. When I lived in Europe, I would show this to friends. They never ate it.
- Bierkase (Germany: Strong-smelling cheese made with beer yeast.
- Yogurt (central Asia, Berkeley: Famous quote: "Anyone who doubts the power of advertising should remember that 23 million Americans are convinced that yogurt tastes good." How can you tell if it spoils?
- Stewed Dormice (Slovenia): A Slovenian cookbook had a recipe for a nice little stew of mice raised and fattened just for cooking.
- Goat's Head (Africa): Customs inspectors have lots of amazing stories, since visitors often attempt to hide contraband foodstuffs in their luggage. At San Francisco International Airport, a businessman's valise was found to contain a partially decomposed goat's head, crawling with maggots. He was quite indignant when it was confiscated--that was his lunch!
- Spam (USA: Recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. "SPiced hAM" tinned meat from the Hormel company was named in a contest in 1924. The handy meat-in-tins became an item of trade prized around the world, while boring and ultimately disgusting US soldiers in WWII. Spam is Hawaii's state food (more Spam eaten here per capita than anywhere else in the country.) Spam Musubi is a favorite finger food here. You slice up Spam, stir fry it in teriyaki sauce (or marinate it,) stick it on a block of squished rice and wrap a piece of nori around it, like a giant sushi. At a Spam cookoff, people made Spampenadas, pretty much regular old meat empanadas, with Spam, of course. One woman made Spampi and cut the Spam slices into little shrimp shapes before making her standard recipe. There were a lot of interesting things like Spam chip cookies and Tequila Spamrises (served by the Spamdinistas, of course.) One fellow fed Spam to his Venus fly trap and it died :- (
- Camel's Feet (France: It's not really fair to include this as French, but my favorite recipe from the Larousse Gastronomique is Pieds de chameau a la vinaigrette (camel's feet.) It begins "Soak the feet of a young camel... " You'll find it just before the recipe for camel's hump.
- Camel Tendons
(China: These are much better than cow tendons, I was assured by a chauvinistic northern Chinese friend.
- Tacos sesos (Mexico: Tacos made with cow brains. A friend of mine told me the local Mexicans in central California would slaughter his cows at no charge if they were allowed to keep the heads.
- Haggis (Scotland): Sheep's stomach, stuffed with oatmeal and steamed. A more accurate definition would be: "a highly spiced sausage made from offal meats with oatmeal filler, traditionally in a casing made from a sheep's stomach." Haggis is accompanied by chappit neeps and tatties (mashed turnip (swede, rutabaga..) and potatoes).
You can make your own. Just soak a shaved sheep in Guiness, roll in a mixture of oatmeal and onion. Perform a simple spatial inversion transformation with the origin in the sheep's major stomach and then gently cook until done, discard hairy parts, hoofy parts, bony parts and voila! Haggis a la americaine. Best done under the guise of a spatial relations mathematician.
Scots Suprise: 1. Get a haggis (7-11 stores all stock them in the frozen food case). 2. Hold haggis in left hand. 3. Hold bottle of Glenfiddich single malt whiskey in right hand. 4. With left hand throw haggis over right shoulder. 5. With right hand pour large portions of whiskey into everyone's glass
- Dog (Southeast Asia): Well, not a recipe, but a story: I was once at a party where I heard a visiting Korean scholar say that at his university when dogs were used in psych experiments (no drugs involved) the dog would be eaten at the conclusion of the experiment by all involved. Apparently the dog, having been taught behaviors which rendered it useless for other experiments, was considered a perk of sorts.
- Seal Flipper Pie (Canada): Newfoundland Cuisine Catching On: ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. (CP) Move over brie and quiche. Bring on the bang belly and damper dogs. And leave room for seal flipper pie. Newfoundland cuisine has come into its own. Once restricted to the kitchens of the island's outport folk, food like brewis and figged duff is finding its way to Toronto or any big centre in Canada where transplanted Newfoundlanders are found. The only thing that might be tricky to obtain nowadays is seal flipper pie. With the collapse of the seal hunt due to lobbying by environmentalists, there are fewer flippers to be had, but independent sealers still steam into St. John's Harbor every spring and sell flippers off the wharf. In April, community clubs all over the city hold flipper pie dinners. The flippers are tender and tasty but it's said few mainlanders acquire a taste for them.
Seal Flipper Pie 4 Seal flippers. 1/2 Cup diced pork fat. 1 tsp flour. cold water. 2 onions, chopped. 1 tsp soda. 1 tsp salt. 1 tsp worcester sauce. Soak flippers in water and soda for 1/2 an hour. Trim excess fat. Dip the flippers in seasoned flour and pan fry in the pork fat until browned. Add the chopped onion. Make a gravy of flour, 1 cup water, and Worcester sauce. Pour over the flippers. Cover and Bake in a moderate oven (350f) until tender.. which should be two to three hours. Cover with pastry and bake at 400f for 1/2 an hour. From: Rachel M. Brodie.
- Placenta (Feminists): And last, because it should be last...The Winning Entry of All Time for Most Weird Food, Marijn van der Waa sent in recipes for human placenta. Who eats this? Radical feminists. But of course, who else? http://www.mothers35plus.co.uk/plac_rec.htm
Weird Foods: Mineral
- Clay (US South): In Georgia & Alabama, in the Southeastern United States, there are rural, generally poor, pockets where eating a particular type of chalky, white clay called "kaolin" is common. People claim to crave it, and it's use is particularly common among pregnant women. They say it settles the stomach. I've even seen it in certain rural food stores sold in baggies.
The persistent consumption of non-food items has a technical term: pica. Eating dirt, clay, etc., is called geophagia.
- Clay (Africa): A special type of clay is eaten by some tribesmen in parts of Africa. The clay is very rich in minerals and is similar to a multi-mineral tablet. Clay for eating is carefully dug and sold in the market-place. This practice is found all over the world, as documented in a 30-minute film made for British TV. The film-makers brought samples to each locale. One woman in Britain liked to buy especially dirty potatoes in order to lick the dirt off them. Many urban people eat laundry starch in place of the clay they used to dig out in the countryside.
Weird Foods: Reptile
- Alligator on a Stick (US South): Chucks of deep fried alligator (tail part, battered in corn meal, seasonings, probably similar to snake recipe) served on a 10 inch wooden skewer. Seen mostly at outdoor festivals. Has a chewy consistency like undercooked pork. Tastes like alligator.
Most people balk at the thought of eating one of these large lizards. When washed well, these can be cooked as anything you like and flavor is close to fried fish, chicken nuggets, or roast BBQ ribs. Mainly from South Louisiana. For more, see www.klieberttours.com
- Turtle Eggs (Nicaragua): There are many odd foods I have encountered in my travels, the one that stands out the most though is raw sea turtle eggs. They look like a boiled ping pong ball. You make a small rip in the soft shell, maybe add a few drops of hot sauce, and then suck the raw contents down, followed by a shot of rum. The taste of the egg is slightly fishy and not at all pleasant. I ate a dozen one night due to the prodding of the locals. I won't go into detail on how the combination leaves one the next day...
- Iguana (Mexico, Honduras, Belize, Panama): In the Yucatán Peninsula, people eat iguanas (also called "Gallina de Palo" (tree chicken) or "Bamboo Chicken") as if it was some sort of farm animal, or some sort of hunting animal, they hunt it in their own houses or in the forest, there are Iguanas of the size of a dashund dog that live in peoples backyards, In my house there are several of them, Yucatecan People even have a Special Cuisine for Iguanas, cause they have recipes of "How to make Iguana Tacos" and a lot more recipes.
On the Island of Roatan in Honduras, the locals catch and eat iguana. I ran into a worker who was enjoying one for lunch, but was to embarrassed to ask him for a taste. The government is trying to stop the practice.
- Texas Rattlesnake: Sent to us by the Sweetwater, Texas, Chamber of Commerce. The Sweetwater Jaycee's 'World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup' is held each year in March and hundreds of pounds of rattlesnake meat is cooked and served by Chief Chef Corky Frazier." 1. Find and capture a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. 2. Kill, skin and remove entrails. 3. Cut into edible portions. 4. Make a batter of flour, cracker meal, salt, pepper and garlic. 5. Roll your snake portions in the batter. 6. Fry in deep fat, heated to a temperature that will ignite a floating wooden match. 7. Fry until meat is a golden brown. 8. Eat it!
- Tennessee Campfire Snake: 1. Catch, kill, clean, and skin a snake. To clean it, cut around at the neck (in the same place where it would wear a necktie) and then cut down along the belly all the way to the end. 2. Peel the skin off. (You can spread the skin, scale side down, onto the side of the house or on a long plank. Secure it with thumbtacks. Spread a thin layer of salt over it. After a week of sun, it'll be dry.) 3. Cut along into the belly and remove the innards. 4. Cut off the head. 5. Clean and wash. 6. Take a green branch, peel the bark off, and sharpen the tip. 7. Poke the neck onto the sharpened tip. 8. Wrap the snake loosely around the stick. 9. Shake on a bit of salt and pepper. 10. Roast it over a fire. 11. Tastes "just like chicken..."
- Snake (China): The place in HK for snake is Causeway Bay, on HK Island. Queues wait for seats at snake restaurants during snake season. Snakes are served up in a mass of different ways. Then there is the famous 'snake wine'. Served HK style, snake wine uses a spicy concoction which is called 'wine', but its taste is closer to some cranium-lifting hellfire spirit typically conjured up by Judge Roy Bean. Whooo Boy! What makes it snake wine is the snake. A snake is usually tethered from a loop or hook behind the head and left to hang down. Then the chef makes a short cut in the snake's underside to reveal the gall-bladder. Then the gall-bladder is cut open and the gall liquid squeezed out into the glass of 'wine'. Voila - the resulting mixture is snake wine.
Soon after I arrived in Hong Kong to live for a while, I was in a restaurant in Tsun Wan, where they had a special snake menu promotion. Searching through the pages, it read like the Clive Barker of menus. First to catch my eye was "Five Kinds of Snake Soup" which I avoided. I also side-stepped the sea-blubber, fish-lips and suchlike until I came across a very intriguing dish "Braised Raccoon in Traditional Method". Presumably, there is another non-traditional way, such as nouvelle-raccoon! My three Western dining colleagues were as confused as me and we were getting desperate. Then I spotted something 'safe'! Chicken soup. We all ordered it, relieved. When it came though, our hearts sank. The soup looked like cloudy dishwater and the chicken content was only chicken-skin, no meat at all. It wasn't cheating, or the last soup out of the soup-kettle. Chicken skin's what the recipe called for. Eventually though, like a rose growing in the wilderness, a dish was spotted in the menu which we could eat. Lemon chicken. Now, lemon chicken is, according to Chinese people I know, not a traditional dish, but a apparently a modern invention. However, when it came, it was the most wonderful lemon chicken I've ever had. The sauce was sharp and flavorsome, the chicken strips were coated in a crunchy rice-flour batter, which had been then rolled in sliced almonds and fried. Magnificent!
The first time I ate in a harbor sea-food restaurant in the HK territories, I asked for a crab dish. The waiter went to the glass tank behind me and fished one out. He put it in a plastic bag and showed it to me. As it crawled and struggled in the bag, I noticed it had a white barnacle on its top shell, behind one eye. It looked like a cute little hat. Awww - cute little crabby! Then the waiter went off. During this time, I felt a bonding between man and crab and felt a bit sorry that I'd chosen that particular fellow. I told myself they'd actually use another crab for my food! Alas - when the hot, appetizing dish of food arrived, a crab in a spicy sauce with ginger and spring onions [scallions], my heart sank when I saw that barnacle on his little shell. I had murdered my new friend! However, in his memory, he died in a good cause and was totally delicious!
- Snake Blood (Thailand): According to a recent TV documentary this is served freshly-harvested from King cobras, either as a straight cocktail or a mixed drink, for prices ranging up to $USA 200. The blood is supposed to have medicinal and sexual powers.
- Snake Meat (Southeast Asia): In early July 1994, Chinese authorities announced the seizure of five tons of snakes, including many rare and endangered species, destined for restaurant use. They asked that consumers "When you look at the menu, remember the balance of nature." See also rattlesnake.
- Snake Wine (China): A bottle of Chinese wine. With a snake in it. Quite a small snake, obviously, about 6 inches to a foot long. Not a boa or an anaconda or anything like that.
- Lizards (Philippines): These tasty reptiles are about 1 to 2 feet long and are dried and hung up in bunches at rural roadside stalls. They are more popular among ethnic, rural people than city types. I fact, when I worked on a project in Batangas City, security guards cornered a lizard over 4 feet long in a monsoon drain outside my office. They dispatched it and it was strung up, a trophy catch worth a nice bit of cash. I never tried them.
Weird Foods: Other
- Salted Plum Suckers (Japan): These are little hard candies that come in a package featuring a geisha girl holding one to her lips. There are two sizes, small and large. The small balls are plum-flavored candies coated in a layer of brine salt that melts in your mouth. The larger ones do not have this salty outer coating, but once you reach the center, are filled with a shriveled dried plum piece and a gooey, salty liquid substance.
- Loempia speciaal (Netherlands): Large egg roll topped with a slice of ham, a fried egg and peanut sauce. Actually quite good once you get past the idea of breakfast sitting on top of an egg roll.
- Rose Ice Cream (California): In Venice, California at the Rose Cafe they serve a pretty pink ice cream flavored with real rose petals. Locals love it, I think it tastes like grandma's perfume. (This is actually a Persian ice cream. It's wonderful.)
- Green Tea Iced Cream (Japan): As one of my friends described it "It is like drinking a glass of green tea, smoking a fine cigar, and eating ice cream al at once". Rather Wonderful You MUST try.
- Pie Floater (Australia): Pie Floater - eaten regularly from the Pie Cart in Adelaide, South Australia. Take one meat pie, serve upside down in a bowl of thick mushy pea soup, and top with tomato sauce (ketchup). Popularized in the Depression as a cheap, filling food and it never left. An experience.
- Hagelslag (Netherlands): Candy sprinkles (like those used on top of ice cream cones), usually chocolate, but eaten on a piece of buttered white bread. Not bad, but definitely strange.
- Krentebollen (Netherlands): Very much like raisin bread, only shaped into a bun. Not so weird, until you watch one of your colleagues create a krentebol sandwich consisting of margarine, cheese and - yes - mustard! To be fair, this might not be too common. Perhaps I just have some weird co-workers.
- Biscuit with Little Mice (Netherlands): Beschuit met muisjes (biscuit with little mice) - whenever a baby is born it is tradition to serve this odd treat. Little anise-flavored sprinkles (pink for girl, blue for boy) are glued to a thick dry cracker with a layer of margarine. Impossible to eat without the biscuit exploding into a bajillion pieces and raining greasy little "muisjes" all over your clothes.
- Marshmallows (USA): Roasted marshmallows are common in the US. These are basically pure sugar.
- Beer-Jelly(Denmark): We make a beer-jelly used as a "gross" contribution to student gatherings. Just beer and gelatine, possibly with embedded cheese pops. Urgh!
- Jell-O(Midwest USA): WATCH ME WIGGLE (Food Arts magazine): Charles Shamoon, a businessman with an entrepreneurial eye, has challenged the old notion of jiggly, cafeteria Jell-O with an upbeat dessert shop call HELLO... I'M GELLATIN in the Market Square Mall, just outside Atlanta in Decatur. That Kraft General Foods legally nixed the idea of his original name, HELLO... I'M JELL-O, has failed to dampen Shamoon's outlook or success. Serving such fare as Jell-O pizza (a sugar cookie crust topped with a layer of Jell-O, fresh strawberries, and bananas,) raspberry trifle, and mandarin orange parfait from his file of 400 recipes, the shop has pleased thousands of customers since its opening six months ago. Modestly, Shamoon credits the product itself for all his success. "Everyone loves Jell-O, " he says. "It's part of the American culture."
- Jell-O Salad(Midwest USA): Jell-O filled with tiny marshmallows and canned fruit.
- Chewing Gum (USA): Originally made from chicle, the sap of a Central American tree. Now made with PVA polyvinyl acetate plastic, sugar or artificial sweetener, flavors and colors. Some Europeans characterize Americans as dim-witted ruminants because of this habit, which nonetheless spreads worldwide. Should this even be in rec.food or should it, like betel- chewing, be discussed elsewhere?
- Fried Mars Bars (Scotland): Several years ago, this trend started in fish and chip shops in the Aberdeen area, but has since spread to other centers like Glasgow. It is now a firm favorite, a Scottish urban legend made true. Scottish chip shops serve various foods all coated in batter - except the chips (fries). I don't know if they have Mars Bars in the US, but they're a heavy chocolate-coated candy bar, the insides being a caramel/toffee top layer on a thick fudgey 'Milky Way' type filling, the whole candy has a milk chocolate coating.
In Scotland's chip shops, the Mars Bar is chilled (but not frozen), then coated in the same-style flour/milk batter as used for fish, sausages, hamburgers, haggis, black pudding etc etc (flour/corn flour/baking soda/milk). The batter-coated candy bar is then lowered into hot oil and deep fried for ten minutes. Then it's ready to eat. Nowadays, Milky Way and Snicker bars are deep-fried in the same manner. Maybe that helps explain Scotland's league-topping position for heart-disease fatalities!
- Sweet-Corn Ice Cream (Philippines): Unusual concept, but highly popular and very nice actually.
- Fruitcake(USA Midwest and Northeast): A block with embedded bright green and scarlet transparent substances. Peter writes: "Fruitcake is not bizarre!" Fruitcake may be a borderline item. The "bad" version is legendary in American culture, and mocking it is a Christmas tradition.
- Shaved Ice (China): The dish is served in a bowl/plate. They ask if you want some milk on it. Sounds strange, and it is, but it adds to the texture. And then you get to pick a couple toppings. toppings range from strawberry to the bizarre. Usually topped with red beans. Pretty good, but definitely weird.
Here in Singapore and Malaysia, it's known as "ice kachang". I've got virtually no knowledge of the Malay language, but I believe that means ice with nuts and little bitsy things. It's delicious--sweet and cool--wonderful for our tropical climate. Commonly, the shaved ice is topped with various colored sugar syrups a dash of evaporated milk and some corn kernels on top. Under the mound of ice, it's common to find red beans, small pieces of jelly and sometimes fruit cocktail and "attapchee", a crunchy fruit which looks like a peeled longan.
- Sour Candies (Asia): As featured in the short film "Sour Balls, " these are unbelievably sour. Cath calls them "those marvelous Asian lollies "super-lemon", "hot grape", "mega warheads" and so on, --a boiled sweet coated in a very sour or very hot powder."
- Snail (Nigeria): When I was in Nigeria, I ate a variety of large land snails. It had the consistency of stubborn rubber. The meat was light colored and very dense. (Snails are in this section because they don't fit in any other. -- andreas)