Our social media wizard Leigh’s recent South American journey wouldn’t have been complete without a nibble at a plate of guinea pig – take a look at his blog to see how much he enjoyed grazing on the Andean speciality. Here are a few of our favourite other odd-edibles from around the world.
Live octopus – Japan
Anyone who has seen the film Old Boy will know they chow down on this in Korea as well, but for atmosphere as you chew (and chew), head to Tokyo’sTsukiji Fish Market for a breakfast to remember. Take a pew at one of the stalls serving up all manner of fare – some irresistible, some toe-curling – then watch your selected octopus curl itself around your chopstick before you take the plunge and tuck in. Expect a wriggling, writhing, tasty start to the day – beats another bowl of corn flakes, doesn’t it?
Scorpions – China
Beijing’s Dong Hua Men Night Market is a reliable destination if you’re eager to follow a gourmet route less travelled. You can fill up on less exotic fare, but for those tempted, this is the place for such culinary standards as seahorses and silkworms, snake and – a perennial favourite – scorpions. Fast food, China-style, scorpions are usually eaten fried, but connoisseurs should keep an eye out for these morsels being served up coated in chocolate or as a soup ingredient. However you eat them, be sure to leave room for the classic Beijing street treat, sugar-glazed hawthorns.
Tarantulas - Cambodia
Extreme food fans will love taking a bite out of Skuon, a busy market town to the north of Phnom Penh. In the desperate days of the Khmer Rouge, locals ate whatever they could get their hands on – and the forests around Skuon proved fertile hunting ground for spiders. Pol Pot may be long gone, but the residents around these parts have kept their taste for arachno-cuisine. Tarantulas are fried up with garlic, then piled high on plates and sold as snacks around town. Expect a crisp exterior, then white flesh and soft innards (cooking tip: when the legs go stiff, the abdomen will no longer be so runny).
Durian fruit - Malaysia
A Southeast Asia staple, the smell of durian is so disagreeable that it has been banned from public transport in parts of the region. Anthony Burgess described consuming it as "like eating sweet raspberry in the lavatory", and freight airline pilots have reported durian fruit to be the least desirable of all cargo – better to have a zoo-full of skunks in the hold than a few durian. Nonetheless the sweet custard-y flesh is catnip for Malaysians. In Sabah, it’s fried up with chilli and onions as a side dish, but more commonly it’s used to flavour sweet snacks and desserts. Pulut durian should be on every visitor’s food hit-list: glutinous rice steamed with coconut milk and served with ripe durian.
Kumis and shubat – Central Asia
Central Asia’s offering of choice is manti– steamed spicy minced lamb and dough served with butter and sour cream. Not, it has to be said, the dieter’s meal of choice, but filling and tasty. Perhaps more interesting though is the choice of drinks to wash down the meal. A cup of koumiss will no doubt be offered to you among the stalls of markets across Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan – fermented mare's milk. Camel-lovers might prefer to seek out the only slightly less popular shubat, the animal’s milk. Cheers!
If you want our run-through some other bizarre drinks from around the world, check out this blog article.
Our sister company Peregrine ventures into the frozen wastes north of the Arctic Circle, so we thought we’d give a bit of love to some of the specialities of the region...
Hakarl (fermented shark) – Iceland
Giving fresh meaning to the term ‘acquired taste’, hakari is traditionally made by gutting a basking shark and leaving it to ferment for a few months. The shark is then cut into chunks and hung for several months more. If you’re going to taste hakari, do yourself a favour and avoid smelling it first. And if you develop a taste for questionable fermented produce, head northwest for the Inuit speciality kiviaq – a few hundred auk birds stuffed into a seal then left to ferment for months before being consumed, bones and all.
The perfect digestif after feasting on all that yummy shark. You could make this one yourself at home, if you’d lost control of your faculties. Simply stuff a dead seagull (in bits, or whole – the choice is yours!) into a bottle of water and leave in the sun. Leave it long enough and voila! a drink that will be the talk of your next cocktail party.