Monday, January 19, 2009

Lions & Tigers & Goat Penis Oh My!

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Reading an article recently about ethnic food in Los Angeles I came across this menu item in a Koreatown restaurant—and it wasn’t translated: Goat Penis! It was offered up for $1.50.

That got me to thinking about all the weird stuff eaten by different cultures.

When in college I took a semester break and lived in Sun Valley, Idaho. I remember a local tavern that sponsored a “Rocky Mt. Oyster” [aka calve testicles] eating contest—and the winner consumed something like 165 of them in 10 minutes.


I mean seriously just because you can eat something doesn’t necessarily mean we should. I do not have the iron stomach of celebrity chef/author Anthony Bourdain.

I found this little delight on “In the Philippines they eat “Balute” which consists of a half-hatched chicken egg. A balute is a fifteen- or sixteen-day fertilized chicken egg. Open an egg and pop a sixteen-day-old incomplete chicken fetus into your mouth, complete with partially formed feathers, feet, eyeballs, and blood vessels showing through the translucent skin of the chick.”

Many years ago I remember the fuss created when a restaurant in San Diego served a dinner consisting of exotic meats such as lion, python, tiger, elephant and giraffe meat! Very politically incorrect—people boycotted the restaurant.

When I was in Thailand a few years ago I was astonished to see the street vendors selling baskets of water-bugs the size of your hand—lightly salted and roasted, in those little baskets you get that normally hold French fries. Smaller cockroaches were also for sale in beds of straw. One cart had maggots by the hand full, grasshoppers, beetles and King Scorpions…yikes.

As a young boy in 8th grade at Jerry Meeker Jr. High our science class teacher Mr. Bernard talked to us about the importance of keeping an open mind. After his pep talk he asked the class who in fact had an open mind? I was the first hand that shot up unfortunately…

“Good,” he said, “’cause I have some fried ants I want you to try!”

I opened my mouth and he shoved a generous heaping teaspoon of ants onto my tongue. I was surprised that they didn’t taste that bad—kinda like crunchy salty raisins.

Back to Thailand.

During a tour, we stopped along a beautiful lake in Northern Thailand near the Myanmar [Burma] border. A solitary street vendor sat on the sidewalk. Our driver walked over and ordered something. He squatted on his haunches to eat. I walked over and peered into his bowl. I thought I saw something moving. No… more like jumping out of the bowl. Almost like miniature popcorn popping before my eyes!

“What are you eating”? Our translator told me it was called “Jumping Shrimp Salad”.

I looked closer. And yes oh my God—there were miniature live shrimp jumping around in the bowl.

“Would you like to order a salad”, he asked? I agreed.

The woman took a small net and scooped it through a large cistern of water on the ground behind her. She plopped the net over a bowl and shook out a generous helping of shrimp. They seemed fairly docile until she added some stinging hot Thai chili sauce, lime and Thai basil, some noodles and gave it all a toss.

No wonder those shrimp were jumping like popcorn, after being tossed in that fiery sauce & lime juice!

I gave a taste—and made sure to chew extremely well before swallowing. (I didn’t want to feel any jumping on the way down).

The salad tasted like delicious sweet (softshell) shrimp. The chilies were fiery but with the lime and basil a nice balance. Delicious.

I finished my Jumping Shrimp Salad, again making sure to chew slowly and thoroughly before swallowing.

It wasn’t until later that I started getting a little worried—after-all we were warned to drink only bottled water. I started wondering about the water the shrimp came from and whether it was purified? Would I get sick? But no, thank God, all was good! Maybe the fiery chile sauce had “purified” the shrimp.

What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?


Unknown said...

Hahah! You've never told me those stories.

Weirdest thing I've eaten...Maybe the gigantic piece of salmon roe roll Master Hatsu prepared that I swallowed in one bite. Ooof. Or a pig ear this summer that was so chewy I couldn't swallow.

Occhulo said...

Happy Birthday Gordon. From a fan in the OC who wouldn't get in your card. :-)

crown lanta koh lanta said...

The Balut eggs from the Philippines are actually duck eggs. The grossest thing that I have eaten is roasted chicken intestines which is a street food in the Philippines. It tastes delicious!