We are forever hearing from people coming over to Asia about their plans for culinary feats. Even in interviews, DJs boast about how adventurous they get with food while on tour in the region. Not for the uninitiated, we've decided to challenge you all and put together a list of cringe worthy but must try foods for the next time you're in Asia. How many have you tried?
1. Taiwan - Stinky Tofu
There are two kinds of people. There are those that are wildly obsessed with stinky tofu and salivate buckets anytime the smell is in the air and there are those who will gag if they are within 100 feet of the Taiwanese delicacy. Apparently the overly pungent smell and taste will grow on you after a while, kind of like blue cheese, but a whiff of it whilst inebriated is enough to make your stomach turn. Stinky tofu, known locally as chou dofu, is deep fried fermented bean curd with crispy skin and is usually topped with vinegar, pickled cabbage, chili and garlic. It can be easily found in night market and most food stalls, many of which can be line Taiwan’s bustling nightlife meccas. Don’t worry about not being able to read the signs, we promise that you will smell it.
[photo via: Hungry Girl in Taipei]
2. Hong Kong - Chicken Feet
It was a toss up between chicken feet and thousand-year-old eggs but chicken feet take home the win because of how horrifying it is to watch a local devour them. I was once unfortunately seated next to one hungry fan while traveling through Hong Kong and witnessed a cringe worthy devourment of the gelatinous feet that should not be allowed in public. Not a tissue was left from between the very small bones. Imagine eating a chicken wing but with talons. Wrinkled and claw like, they are made up of bones, tendons and cartilage, deep fried and served with a fermented bean sauce. The are often used to make soup stock as well. Locals believe that they are loaded with collagen and will therefore keep them looking younger for longer (hey, could be true, Asians do age well). Careful sinking your teeth into one of those, you can actually hurt yourself.
[photo via: Hungry Girl in Taipei]
3. Phillipines - Balut
The WWF can’t be happy about the popular Filipino delicacy called Balut. It’s a boiled duck or chicken egg with a partially developed embryo still inside and it might be most revolting and morally wrong culinary edible in the world. The 18-day-old fertilized egg is eaten warm from the shell and the amniotic liquid is sipped before eating the yolk and semi-developed fetus much like you would a hard boiled egg. A culinary fascination indeed, but Balut will revolt even the most adventurous foodies. Balut vendors usually come out at night, probably because it’s darker and therefore easier to stomach and are popular with people coming off of alcoholic binges. But don’t do it. There is no arguing it. You’re eating a baby bird. Just don’t.
[photo via: YouTube]
4. South Korea - Live Octopus
We’ve fortunately (or unfortunately) never witnessed someone actually chomping down on a live octopus, locally referred to as Sannakji, but the Internet is awash with videos of brave souls trying to get the writhing octopus down and that’s where we found out about it. The smaller of the sea creatures are taken fresh from the water and eaten whole but the larger ones are quickly chopped and served squirming on your plate. Be careful, because the suckers keep on sucking even after it’s cut up and chewed so you just have to get the thing down as fast as you can. Apparently, choking is common especially in those intoxicated and there have been deaths reported stemming from ingesting octopi.
[photo via: Metro]
5. Japan - Fish Sperm
While some might argue that all Japanese food is outlandish, we like to think that the weirder the better. That definitely applies to shirako – or known to foreigners as fish sperm or milt. But in fact, the word directly translates to white children and the sperm sack is usually harvested from fish like cod. The popular bar snack is served both hot and cold, resembles a white mass of scrambled brains and tasty milky and buttery. The texture is a bit like jello but creamier, almost like a custard and not that far off from an oyster. It’s surprisingly tasty and hardly cringe worthy, I mean, if you think about it, people consume sperm all over the world every day, right?
[photo via: The Offalo]
6. China - Snake
The Chinese have a saying, “If it walks on the land, swims in the sea or flies in the air, we’ll eat it”. And they take that saying to heart. And that means eating the heart and every other part of every living thing that exists on this planet. Oft lauded as a culinary haven, there is no arguing that China is a food lover’s paradise but there are more than a few that will send you running for the bathroom. Snake is no exception. And not only can you chose your snake while it’s still alive and slit its throat yourself, but you can also drink its blood and bile and eat its beating heart (an especially common practice in Vietnam if you're in the neighborhood). Since the blood and bile is usually served in a shot glass with rice wine, this would be a good option for pre drinks, especially since it’s considered the Holy Grail of aphrodisiacs. A few shots of this and you’re sorted as far as stimulants like Viagra go. Once you’re good and drunk, there are a myriad of ways to eat the snake, like shredded in soup or in a casserole, and girls will be happy to know that they aren’t ingesting any fat or cholesterol. Oh, and we recommend the more venomous ones for the added health benefits.
[photo via: Lifepart2]
7. Cambodia - Tarantula
My first time in Cambodia, my friend and I bought a fried tarantula roadside just for the novelty of getting a picture while taking a bite. We ended up carrying it with us through the scorching heat for half a day and upon arriving at our hotel, we asked the staff to throw it out. One man looked at us as if we were mad and popped the arachnid into his mouth whole. Eating insects is widespread all over Asia, things like grasshoppers and beetles, but a tarantula – that’s next level. But then again, anything fried in MSG and garlic is good. Bred in holes around the country, the crunchy creepy crawlies are widely available throughout Cambodia and it won’t be hard to find them upon leaving the bar. I feel like one might need some liquid courage anyway to chomp down one of these venomous arthropods.
[photo via: Time Travel Turtle]
8. Thailand - Raw Pig Blood
You’ve really got to have an iron stomach for this one. Eaten as soup and often with contents like brain, intestine and heart, pig’s blood is eaten raw so proceed with caution – bacterial infections are not uncommon. It’s refereed to locally as Nam Tok and the gory soup is served spicy with toppings like kaffir leaves and pork skin. If you're brave enough to get through a bowl of this without hurling, bless you and bless your insides.
See Anthony Bourdain chow down below.
[photo via: How Is The Taste]