15 CRAZY THINGS I’VE EATEN IN ASIA

February 8th, 2014, by Steven in Asia, Cambodia, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, The Philipines, Uncategorized, Vietnam.

There is an old saying that:

“the Chinese eat everything that flies, except airplanes; everything with four legs, except tables; and everything that swims, except submarines”

Food is central to Asian culture, not just the Chinese, but throughout all of Asia. Asian food is generally delicious, and often very strange, to an American traveler. Asians tend to use the whole animal. Sometimes the results are great, sometimes not so.

Here are 15 of the strangest foods I’ve had:

15. CHICKEN NECK

Qingdao, China

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(photo by Joyce Yang)

It’s the neck of a chicken, skewered on a stick and served with cheap drafts of local Tsingtao Beer. It’s mostly skin and bone. I actually like spicy duck neck, as there is some meat to enjoy on there, but the chicken neck is just not much of anything.

IS IT GOOD?  2/10

14. GOAT BRAIN

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

IMG_9635

(photo by Steven)

Goat brain came served in a hot pot (large communal soup) with other, more ‘normal’, parts of the goat during a long dinner in HCMC last year. After it spent some time in the soup, it was a bit like tofu- absorbing the flavors of the soup and overall edible and unoffensive. Not bad.

IS IT GOOD?  5/10

13. FRIED SPIDER
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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(photo by Steven)

This one, Tarantula spider, happened during my first year in Asia and it was a tough one to finish (I didn’t). I had one at a rest stop on a bus trip to Phnom Penh. I ate the legs first and they were alright- crispy, well-seasoned, almost shrimplike if you can use imagination. The body, however, I couldn’t swallow. It was gooey, cold, just….inedible. The only thing on this list I didn’t finish.

IS IT GOOD?  legs 6/10; body 1/10

12. DUCK FETUS
Manila, Philippines

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(photo by Stephen Bischoff)

Balut is a developing duck embryo. The fertilized duck eggs are kept hot in the sun for about 20 days and then, when the fetus has grown to a nice, disgusting size with some feathers and cartilage, they are boiled and ready to be eaten. Eating it is like a large, intense hard-boiled egg.

IS IT GOOD?  6/10

11. SILKWORM LARVAE

Yeosu, South Korea

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(photo by Steven)

Koreans eat this from a can, or fresh from a street vendor. Beondegi is really just boiled cocoon. It tastes like an attic.

IS IT GOOD?  2/10

10. HORSE

Tokyo, Japan

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(photo by Steven)

Although considered cruel in the US, horse is actually fairly common in Central Asia and Japan. I had some horse in Tokyo at a sashimi bar. It was lean, bloody and delicious.

IS IT GOOD?  9/10

9. CHICKEN McNUGGET

Yangshuo, China

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The most dramatic McDonalds in the world (photo by Steven)

I still can’t believe how beautiful this McDonalds was. It rose like a phoenix from an ancient lake, under the dramatic backdrop of karst limestone peaks. Inside was the same shit as anywhere else. But, sometimes after a month of the unfamiliar, a little golden bite-sized old friend never tasted so good.

IS IT GOOD?  you already know the answer to this one

8. SPICY DONKEY LIVER

Yiliang, China

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(photo by Steven)

What made this meal unusual is that I was first brought behind the restaurant to see where the donkeys lived, or waited to be eaten. In the US, this would never happen and would probably result in lots of vegetarianism. We had raw donkey liver followed by roasted liver with peppers. The spicy liver was great.

IS IT GOOD?  8/10

7. FRIED PIGEON

Harbin, China

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These “flying rats” are considered urban pests and I’d never eaten one, or seen one cooked, before coming to China. The color and taste is more like duck than chicken. I liked it a lot and I still crave it.

IS IT GOOD?  9/10

6. DUCK TONGUE

Taichung, Taiwan

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(photo by Steven)

I’ve had pig tongue and cow tongue in the US, but the meat is visually indistinguishable from a fatty ‘normal’ filet. A duck tongue, however, looks like it was ripped right out of the face and put on your plate. Duck tongue is mostly fat and cartilage. And, since you’re eating the whole tongue (not cut up like a pig’s tongue) you really know it’s tongue. Included with the tongue are the little cartilage things that run down the ducks face and neck. You’re really eating a tongue.

IS IT GOOD?  7/10

5. LAMB STOMACH

Guangzhou, China

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(photo by Steven)

I’ve had haggis in Scotland and, while it is wrapped in a lamb’s stomach, the intense flavors and textures of the filling overshadow the lamb’s stomach. In Guangdong Province lamb’s stomach is a popular snack. They boil it, cut it up and serve it to you with a toothpick.

IS IT GOOD?  5/10

4. STEAMED SNAKE

Guangzhou, China

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(photo by Steven)

Snake, like nearly everything else unusual in Chinese cuisine, is considered to be “good for man.” I hear that cobra snake is great when it’s well-cooked. However, I picked my little $15 garden snake from its cage and ordered it steamed. It was mostly skin and bone + I didn’t notice anything happening down there.

IS IT GOOD?  3/10

3. SCORPION

Qingdao, China

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(photo by Steven)

Scorpions in China are small- bitesize, and apparently packed full of vitamins and nutrients. When fried and covered in spices it tastes like most other night market snacks: crunchy, engaging, chiliesque, satisfying.

IS IT GOOD?  6/10

2. DOG

Zhanjiang, China

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(photo by Steven)

Westerners have never been comfortable with the Asian practice of eating dog. I’m in the camp that you can’t draw the line at animals some may consider cute or loyal or smart. I won’t eat dog again, but I don’t regret trying it.

IS IT GOOD? 5/10

1. LIVE OCTOPUS

Seoul, South Korea

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(photo by Steven)

Korean “live” octopus is called san nak ji and it is something I’ve had many times and always enjoy watching newbies try it for the first time. Technically, it’s dead, I guess. The head is chopped off seconds before, or at your table, and yet the legs come to you on a plate, still squirming, crawling and sucking. Some legs crawl off the plate. Some fight with each other. Some fight with your chopsticks. They still suck and move in your mouth. Dipped in a little sesame oil and salt, it’s like taking an ocean wave to the face.

IS IT GOOD?  8/10

Steven (84 Posts)

Steven is a roaming traveler, writer and urban planner based out of Asia. Connect with Steven on Steven Muzik on Google+!








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