Samui Wining & Dining
Do they really eat that?

Weird foods from around the world.


wining - dining 8You might look at the title of this article and turn your nose up, thinking to yourself that you don't eat anything strange. But you'll find that most nations eat 'strange' things, but because they've been brought up eating those things, they don't find them strange at all.

      Let's start in England. A country not exactly known for weird food but believe it or not, they eat pig's blood, and cow's stomach. Don't believe me? Haven't you heard of black pudding or tripe? Can you see where I'm going with this? What about ox tongue? When my aunt announced we were eating it for lunch a few years ago, I thought she'd had too much wine. I was traumatised when I saw the whole tongue and had to leave the room when it was being prepared. But, after it was cooked, I found it tasted just like corned beef. Nothing strange about that.

      The Scots will happily eat haggis which according to Wikipedia is 'a savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal's stomach and simmered for approximately three hours.' So animal guts cooked in an animal's stomach. And if you think it doesn't get any weirder than that, read on...

      Let's hop across the channel from our friends in the UK and visit France. The French know how to cook weird foods and make them taste wonderful. But then again with enough French wine, anything would taste wonderful, like pig's intestine. One year in France, I ordered what was translated as mashed potato and sausage, topped with scallops. It sounded delicious but when it arrived, it smelt absolutely disgusting. I soldiered on because the scallops were delicious but when I was eventually brave enough to ask the waiter what the sausage was, I was a little shocked to discover it was pig's intestine. He was quick to point out that it would give me strength. He must have meant 'strength of character'. I understand there is another 'delicacy' in France that I missed - cow muzzle in vinaigrette sauce which is available in Paris. I think I'll stick to snails and frog's legs because they aren’t weird, right?

     Before we head across to Asia which seems to be the 'weird food capital' of the world, let's quickly pop up to Sweden and have a quick meal of 'head cheese' which is lunch meat made from boiled animal heads. Or how about a drink of Kvass in Russia (a beer-like drink made by fermenting old bread during Winter and then selling it in Summer) or a dish of sheep's eyeballs in Israel?

      And so, onto Asia. Where shall we start? Let's make our way from West to East starting in Cambodia...

       Hate spiders? Me too. So get your revenge by crunching on a deep fried tarantula served with lime and black pepper. And we're not talking street food here; a top restaurant serves over 200 a week.

      On to Thailand where you can feast on chicken feet soup (one of my personal favourites), deep fried bugs, grasshoppers and scorpions; spicy tadpole curry or raw buffalo meat served in buffalo blood. Or a weird dish called 'birds nest soup'. The birds make their nests with saliva. I'm not sure why this isn't called 'birds spit soup'… Would that make it any weirder?

         Anyone for a cup of coffee? Feed a load of coffee beans to some Thai elephants, and then pluck them from their droppings. Apparently it makes a very smooth coffee and recently became the world's most expensive coffee at $1,000 per kilogram. Not yet available in Starbucks.

         The Philippines are rather fond of eggs. Not fried, boiled or scrambled but rather fertilised. Yes, a fertilised duck egg boiled in the shell is their specialty. On the subject of eggs, you can try ‘tong zi dan’ in China which translates to 'virgin boy eggs'. In the city of Dongyang, every year in Spring, eggs are boiled in the urine of young schoolboys. No doubt there's a superpower to be gained by eating these.

         In Japan you can eat raw horse and in Korea live octopus is the dish of the day. Sannakji is octopus cut into small pieces and served while the tentacles are still squirming. (Be careful how you eat this for obvious reasons.) In Vietnam, they have found a way to keep the stray dog population down, no need to expand on that.

         If you thought the elephant dung coffee was strange, in Korea and Japan they indulge in coffee made from cat poo. Well not an ordinary cat but an Asian palm civet that lives in the trees. It eats coffee plant berries, which pass through its digestive system and eventually the animal, wait for it, passes out an enriched coffee bean which is then harvested from the animal's faeces. A cup can go for as much as $80 because of the long process involved.

         Snake wine is popular all over South East Asia. Believed to have excellent restorative properties, it is made by steeping a snake in rice wine, or by mixing snake blood in with the wine.

         Let's stop there and head across to the Americas where we can sit back and enjoy a meal of deep-fried bull testicles (known as Rocky Mountain oysters), or a bit of alpaca, or deep-fried guinea pig in Peru.

         Our last stop is in Africa and we head straight down to Zimbabwe and the beautiful Victoria Falls. Here you can taste a plate of Mopani worms. These worms are relatively short and stocky, a bit like a fat silkworm. You hold the head and squeeze the green mushy insides out and then fry them - lovely.

         So let's end on a high note with bunny chow in South Africa. Before you get all worked up and shocked at the thought of eating Fluffy (although some countries do), absolutely no bunnies are harmed during the making of this dish. It is merely a quarter loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with curry (beef or chicken, before you ask). It was created by the Indian population in Natal, a province in South Africa and is served with a small portion of chopped chillies, onions and tomatoes and eaten with the fingers. You see? No Bunnies.

         So you see, sometimes ‘weird’ isn’t ‘weird’, it’s just ‘different’!


Colleen Setchell


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