Eating in Asia
Posted by simon c on 2008 September 26日 Friday
When you live in Asia, you naturally come across many food stuffs that are considered inedible in North America (European cuisines are more inclusive). Then there’s of course the old adage about how the Chinese will eat anything on four legs except for tables and chairs. But this story from Mongolia tops a lot of what I’ve read or heard before.
Anyways, let’s go through a check list, partially supplied by the article:
- Live octopus tentacles – No
- Baby octopii – Yes
- Duck brain – No
- Fresh sashimi of fish just knocked unconscious (ikizukuri) – Yes
- Snake blood – No
- Fried scorpions – Yes (Chinese restaurant in Tokyo, crunchy and salty)
- Horse, yak, or camel milk – No
- Horse sashimi (raw) – Yes (tasty, with ginger)
- Whale meat – Yes
- Stinky tofu – Yes (Taipei night market, foul smelling, tastes great)
- Mongolian “cheese” – No
- Vodka with beetles – No
- Bright blue and red tropical fishies – Yes (Okinawa, silver fish taste better)
- Awamori (Okinawan distilled liquor) with habu snake – Not yet
- Dog meat – No (it’s a check list after all)
- Cow innards – Yes (quite popular here, actually, and tasty at the right restaurants, like many other ingredients)
- Chicken innards – Yes (also quite popular, on skewers)
- Chicken sashimi (raw) – Yes (no salmonella concerns in Japan, of course law doesn’t require sashimi/sushi to be frozen before serving, and chefs don’t need to wear plastic gloves either)
- Entire sheep innards for breakfast – umm, Not even close
- Sheep head – No
- Fish head – Yes (some of the tastiest part of certain fish are around the eyes)
- Fish eyes – Yes
- Entire fish, head to tail fin (at most middle finger sized) – Yes
- Fried larvae (small) – Yes (Thai restaurant in Tokyo, crispy like kappa-ebisen)
- Boiled larvae (medium) – Yes (Korean restaurant in Tokyo, squishy, me no like)
- Arctic char (fish, semi-jerkey?) – Yes (up in Nunavut, it’s a whole different country up there)
- Caribou – Yes (very gamey, also in Nunavut)
- Poutine – Yes! (the real artery-clogging fries-cheese curds-gravy beauty in Montreal. A special entry, just because, for the Canadian content(?) There’s actually fake poutine available at the Becker’s burger-coffee joint, it kinda does the job when the craving hits)
On our very last morning on the road, the mutton problem became a crisis. At fault was our dear driver, Bimba, who decided it was time to celebrate the trip by buying a whole sheep and slaughtering it. As we went into a local ger to eat breakfast, I noticed that the sheep’s head had been removed, and the internal organs were being poured into a giant pot, the same way you might empty a can of beans.
Surely this was to feed the dogs, I thought. No one really wants to eat the lungs, stomach, and intestines of an aged sheep.
Au contraire. I’m sorry to say that we had to watch the whole mess boiling for a while on the dung fire, yielding bubbles of brownish-gray scum. Afterward, a giant steaming bowl of internal organs was placed before us with some ceremony. Out came knives and a mixture of anatomy lesson and breakfast as we sampled one organ after another. I must stress the degree to which our dear friend Bimba considered this the way to cement our friendship. There was no backing away from trying each and every organ and making a good go of the whole thing. Even fearless Miki looked a little pale.
Anyways, I enjoy Slate’s Well-Traveled series as they tend to go to far flung places where regular people can’t/won’t go for budgetary/time/safety constraints/concerns, but the travelogues aren’t amateur drivel of random traveblogs.