Tuesday, November 10, 2009

14 Asian “Delicacies” You Probably Couldn’t Stomach

Asian food is considered one of the most delicious in the world, but there’s a lot more to it than sushi, dumplings or rice. The only problem is not many non-Asians could handle these exclusive dishes. Here are 7 “delicacies” that will probably kill your appetite:

Bee Larvae

Not as disgusting as other Asian foods, bee larvae are very popular in China and Japan. They are either deep fried and seasoned with salt and pepper, or cooked with soy sauce and sugar. They’re crunchy and sweet and the locals eat them like popcorn, but some people just can’t get over the fact that they look like maggots.

Fried Spiders

Insects are considered delicacies throughout South-East Asia and Cambodia can be safely called the insect-eating capital of the world. Cambodians are so fond of bugs that they’ve nicknamed the small town of Skuon, Spiderville. Here the streets are filled with women carrying large trays full of fried Skuon Spiders. They’re said to taste like crab but the fact that they are the size of a human palm doesn’t make them very popular with foreigners. Cambodians are believed to have started eating spiders during the time of the Khmer Rouge, when almost the entire population was starving. Now spiders are a national delicacy.

Snake Blood

Like many other strange foods, snake blood is believed to enhance male potency and it’s actually used more as a panacea than as a food. Snake-blood masters simply cut off the snake’s head and let the blood flow in glasses. Then they add the bile and serve the drink to anyone brave enough to try it.

Snake blood is most popular in Taiwan and in the capital of Tapei there’s a place called Snake Alley where you can find all kinds of snake super-products.

Fried Rats

Just so you know these are not the kind of rats you see lurking around your local dumpsters; these ones live in the fields. People eat them deep fried and seasoned with all kinds of delicious spices, especially in Vietnam or Thailand. Sometimes even foreign tourists gather all their courage and have a taste, but their stomachs have a hard time digesting the meat.

Doctors say rat meat can be dangerous if not cooked properly, causing diarrhea and other serious conditions, so think twice before you try it.

Bird’s Nest Soup

The main ingredient for this exclusive Asian dish is the Swiftlet nest. The Swiftlet is a sparrow-like bird living in the southern islands of Thailand that makes its nest out of saliva. Swiftlet nests are one of the most expensive food ingredients in the world and companies in the business would go to any length to protect their investments, even killing those that get too close to their bird colonies.

When boiled, the nests give the soup a gelatinous texture, so you’re basically eating water and bird saliva…delicious.

Kopi Luwak

Kopi Luwak is the rarest, most expensive coffee in the world. That’s what most people know about it, but few know it actually comes from the excrements of an Indonesian animal called the Luwak. This cat-like creature eats only the ripest coffee berries, but because its stomach is unable to digest them, they come out whole. The stomach acids and enzymes that perform the fermentation of the beans give the coffee a special aroma.

Kopi Luvak is a luxury gourmet product that can’t be bought for less than $50 for 100 grams.

Monkey Brains

If you think simply eating monkey brains is strange, I wonder how you feel about eating them while the poor monkey is still alive. This is a popular practice in southern China, where some restaurants have specially designed tables to allow monkeys to be restrained and their skulls opened. Sometimes monkey brains eaters use the top of the skull as a bowl where they mix the brains with alcohol.

Monkey Brains are not only a weird food but they are also hazardous to your health. There’s a risk of getting spongiform encephalopathy, a disease of the brain, that could be fatal.

Horseshoe crabs

One of the creepiest creatures of the sea, the Horseshoe crab is also a delicacy in many Asian countries. Sold for around one dollar in the US, and used as bait for eels, in countries like Hong Kong, China or Vietnam, female crabs sell for $20-$50.

The eggs found under the shell are the most appreciated part of the Horseshoe crab, but it’s an acquired taste, and most westerns say they taste absolutely horrible and wouldn’t even recommend them to people who like to try weird foods.

Dried lizard soup

Just like Europeans and Americans eat a bowl of chicken soup as a tasty cure for the common cold, the Chinese eat dried lizard soup. Boiled in a broth with Chinese dates and yams, the dried lizard is said to taste like fish.

Found in medicine shops all across China, dried lizards are sometimes sold as couples, a male and a female, and many pharmacists recommend they both be cooked in the soup, to get the best results. Some Chinese also believe lizards are good for the heart and lungs.

Fried scorpions

Chinese street cuisine became very popular during the 2008 Olympic Games, when many brave foreign tourists tried out different deep-fried bugs. Scorpions may be one of the most poisonous creatures on Earth, but they are like a magnet to non-Asians. It must be the adrenalin rush that comes with eating something that could kill you.

Scorpions are very much alive when they’re dropped in the boiling oil, but their venom is completely neutralized. The small ones are crunchier and just taste like overcooked meat, while the big ones are chewier and a lot more disgusting.

Stink bugs

In the jungles of Irian Jaya, Indonesia, the stink bug is considered a tasty treat by native children. They hunt for them in groups and call out “mo mo mo” when they find some, to keep them still.

The children handle the pungent smell bravely, then they pack the bugs in leaves and hold them over an open fire to cook them. It’s not the kind of thing you’ll find on a restaurant menu, but in the Indonesian jungle food doesn’t get much tastier.

Natto (fermented soy beans)

If you can’t handle stinky cheese then you should stay away from this old Japanese delicacy. Its strong ammonia smell is the first thing you’ll notice, and then as you begin to stir it, you’ll see a lot of spider web-like strings forming, like mozzarella stretching on a pizza only not as tasty.

Natto is a very old dish and according to some sources it originated in medieval Japan, when Minamoto no Yoshiie was fighting a campaign in northeastern Japan, between 1086 and 1088. His soldiers were boiling soy beans for their horses when they were attacked. They packed the beans and only opened the bags after a few days. They had fermented but after tasting them they realized the beans were tastier this way.

Natto is normally served at breakfast, with rice.

Tuna eye

Unless you have a problem with your food staring right back at you, tuna eye may prove quite tasty. You’ll find it in all the major Japanese grocery stores for no more than one dollar, and it’s very easy to cook. Just drop it in a pot of boiling water, season it with some salt and serve it with lemon juice.

The eyeball itself is surrounded by some fish fat and severed muscles that actually don’t taste half bad.

Cod Fish Sperm

One of the favorite winter delicacies in Japan is “shirako”, cod fish sperm sacs. Shirako looks a lot like a piece of human brain, white soft, squishy and very slippery. Most Japanese appreciate its light, delicate taste, with enough fishiness to remind you that it’s not a dairy product.

The sperm sacks may melt in your mouth like soft butter, but it is said they have just the opposite effect on men who want to perform better in the bedroom. Despite this, very few western men rarely try this Japanese


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