Thursday, May 03, 2007

Thirteen Weird Foods

I pride myself in having a flexible pallate and my iron stomach. I never turn down a chance to try something new. My philosophy is if someone is offering you something to eat, you try it. First, it’s polite. Second, if they are serving it someone has to think it tastes good. You never know, that person may be you. In general, I have had a lot of fun trying things and it has opened me up to whole new experiences and flavors. But it has also provided me with several interesting stories. Here are thirteen weird things I have eaten.

1. Fish Eyes. I hear it takes 14 tries before you start to like a new taste. Let’s just say I’ve been offered fish eyes enough to start to like them. As for the taste, think egg yolks.

2. Jelly Fish. Nature’s bubblegum. It was cooked in a very spicy Szechwan sauce, but it was so chewy I couldn’t swallow it. Burned my mouth with every chew.

3. Sea Cucumber. Nature’s jell-o. Clear, no flavor, and pointless.

4. Sow’s Ear. I hear you can make a purse out of these, which is got to be better than putting them into fried noodles.

5. Pigs Snout. Tastes just like you think it would.

6. Stinky Tofu. This is a favorite street food in Taiwan. It consists of fried rancid tofu. Even the locals will tell you it smells like death while cooking. That is why you never eat it right away.

7. Black Ants. I was at a friend’s house in Lotung, Taiwan. His mom served us a standard diakon soup. As I drained my bowl, I noticed that some of the pepper didn’t look right. Just as another friend was asking for seconds it dawns on me the pepper were black ants. Later I asked my friend if the soup was suppose to have ants in it. He said it wasn’t and they must have fallen in while his mom was cooking. I am not sure I was comforted by that statement.

8. Stinky Fruit (durian). This spiky Southeast Asian fruit looks more like a weapon than something to eat. Its tag line is “smells like hell, tastes like heaven.” I’ve got another six more tries before I will believe the second part.

9. Dragon Eyes (longyan). The Chinese call these dragon eyes because they have a large nut surrounded by juicy grape-like flesh. Consequently, that makes them feel like eyes when you are chewing on them. Very delicious though.

10. Dragon Fruit. This is a popular fruit in Asia. It is oval shaped and with varying shades of pink and green all over it. It also has these curvy little soft thorns. It looks like something from a B-grade sci-fi movie. The inside meat is white with tiny black seeds. It tastes like a sweet kiwi or sour strawberry. Very tasty in my book.

11. Chicken’s Feet. Not the legs, just the feet with claws incuded. They were fried in a hot sauce. The reminded me of the Colonel’s secret recipe. Only the fried skin has any flavor.

12. Bai Bai Food. Many people through China and Taiwan would have home shrines to ancestors and various gods (usually a combination of Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian figures). They often would offer food and incenses as sacrifices on the shrines. I had always been careful to be respectful about the shrines when I was in people’s homes. One day a lady I was visiting asked if I wanted something to eat. She then looked around the room. When she spied the shrine she grabbed an orange from her father’s picture and handed it to me. She thought my shock was pretty funny.

13. Whole Baby squid. I was at a cafeteria in Taipei when I saw these bite-sized babies. You had to be careful not to swallow the beaks and pen. One bonus is it turned your mouth black from the ink. Oddly enough that too tasted like egg yolk.

Bonus: I always wanted to try dog when I was in Taiwan, but never found any. The Chinese call it xiangrou which euphemistically translates to fragrant meat. Also I have always wanted to try Eskimo ice cream, which consists of caribou fat whipped with berries, sheefish, and sugar. Most people tell me it is to die for. Some day I can add these to the list.


Christine said...

You do indeed have a flexible pallate. My background is Greek - so I've eaten lots of squid, none with the pen intact though. I used to work for a Japanese firm, so I've also experimented a lot with Asian food. Never had fragrant meat though!

I'm all about grammar and writing this time round.

Titania Starlight said...

Those were very interesting. But I think I will pass. Thanks for the great intro to some rather unique foods. :O)

impworks said...

Some interesting delicacies there. I've not tried baby squid but I do like squid.

scribbit said...

Oh this just gets me in the stomach.

And my husband won't even touch a mushroom.

And speaking of fish ice cream, if you saw Mark DeCarlo's Taste of America this week he's visiting Alaska where they whipped up a nasty batch and he tried it. I can't think of much that I'd rather eat less.

But after seeing it made I could make some for you when you've got a hankering.

Jeannine said...

I don't think I could eat any but 10 and possibly 9 (would they be Lychee?)
Good for you though.

Ni Yachen said...

Lychee fruit are similar, they are in the same family but different genus. I have eated lychee fruits but they just aren't weird enough to make the list.