Top 10: Exotic foods in Asia
While I claim myself as an adventurous foodie, I have to firstly put out a disclaimer that these 10 exotic foods may be only baby level for some while daring for others – especially westerners. This is just a snapshot of my personal top 10 for exotic Asian foods (that I’ve tried). My list will begin with #10 for least adventurous to #1 for most daring dishes. So here we go…
10. Crispy Fried Scorpions, Beijing, China
Even though I am a Scorpio, I have to say this is indeed a delicious snack. I first ate this scorpion on stick in China but it seems to be a common street food in Cambodia as well, coming in even bigger sizes. Well, don’t judge it by its appearance but think of it as a sweeter version of dried shrimps.
9. Deep Fried Mixed Worms, Yunan, China
Honestly I have wanted to try worms for a long time, ever since I watched Timon and Pumbaa eating succulent worms in the jungle. The reality is they do taste of protein but aren’t as juicy as I expected. Yet the crunchy texture and deep-fried oily taste certainly make it a good pairing for beers.
8. Spicy Raw Ant Eggs Salad (Koi Khai Mot Dang), Bangkok, Thailand
Does it look familiar to you? Yes, this dish from northern Thai cuisine (Isan) is similar to Larb (spicy minced meat salad) or Som Tam (spicy green papaya salad) but made with the eggs of red ants. Again another protein rich fare as you may have guessed, fatty and sweet but terribly spicy.
7. Chicken Heart & Liver Sashimi, Fukuoka, Japan
Speaking of raw food, this is a must-eat and an all-time favourite of mine at yakitori places in Japan. Believe it or not, in my opinion chicken sashimi is better than the usual fish variation. The chicken breast sashimi is surprisingly sweet while the heart and liver are fresh and crisp. You can never see this outside Japan. The dish is just beyond words and I guarantee you won’t regret trying!
6. Grilled Chicken Uterus with Proto-Egg (Yakitori Chochin), Tokyo, Japan
Chochin means lantern in Japanese which represents this skewer of undeveloped egg hanging from the uterus. This is an even rarer find in Japan than chicken sashimi because of the skills required to cook it. However if you see it on the menu or at the bar, you must not miss it as it’s just simply wonderful. Be mindful of the hot runny egg yolk bursting in your mouth!
5. Awamori Fermented Tofu, Okinawa, Japan
Many of you may have tried fermented tofu before, but perhaps not tofu fermented with Awamori, a unique liquor made in Okinawa. Interestingly, the fermented tofu of China and southeast Asia is considered a food for commoners. In contrast, the Awamori fermented tofu used to be a tribute to the royal family of Okinawa. Its color is more red and comes with an intense alcoholic taste and content, on which you can get drunk. You can totally finish the whole piece as a stand-alone dish because of its smooth and ice-cream like texture.
4. Funazushi (鮒寿司), Shiga, Japan
Funazushi is also made of fish and rice but hardly resembles the sushi you would think about. It is a traditional specialty from the Lake Biwa region in the Shiga prefecture of Japan. Fresh funa fish are preserved in salt and stuffed with steamed rice to ferment inside a barrel. The strong smell may deter some people but I enjoy its vinegary and sharp flavors. A bowl of rice complements it well.
3. Fermented Skate Fish (Hongeo-hoe 홍어회), Seoul, South Korea
Don’t be misguided by its tame white color! This is a super pungent raw fish dish from South Korea of which just the first mouthful is already either shocking or choking. Even among Koreans many cannot handle its taste. As a foreigner, you will need some persistence to order it because restaurant owners will try to warn you away. That being said, it really does take time to understand and appreciate the dish.
2. T.P.P. of Goat, Guizhou, China
This is not the Trans-Pacific Partnership but the Testis, Penis and Placenta! (lol sorry for the lame joke). The soup undoubtedly tastes very strong of goat and the organs are quite gamey. This one’s surely only for the goat fans. If you can stand the idea of exactly what you are eating, they do taste fine. I should add I would rate the penis better than the testis followed by the placenta. One thing you might want to consider is the internet has it that they are a good source of collagen. Haha!
1. Eyes of Goat, Guizhou, China
Last but not least, this is by far the most exotic or should I say yucky foods by my standards, simply looking at this pair of eyes staring back at me. Though I love eating fish eyes, and I have dissected ox eyes in high school, eating a mammal’s eyes sounds a bit ill. But I have to say the texture is quite good although bland in taste.
Getting excited now or fed up with the heavy and strong flavors? Let me appeal to your appetite with the now seasonal Shanghainese hairy crabs! Order yours at 大閘蟹.asia before this autumn ends.
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