Bizarre Foods is one of those shows that you can’t help but watch even if you find what Andrew Zimmern eats as disgusting and revolting. My husband and I love to watch it whenever we get the chance! Besides learning about a country’s religious practices or its historical landmarks, food is a major slice of a cultural experience in understanding different parts of the world. So we thought it’d be fun to create our own Bizarre Foods archives. Our version of Bizarre Foods will probably be one of my most read blogs, considering everyone loves food and… well, yeah, that’s it. Everyone loves food. (And reading about the bizarre). The following is a compilation of all of the unique, crazy, wacky, out-of-the-oridnary, non-traditional, non-American, types of food and snacks that we have sampled along our 3 year journey here in the Pacific. We will add or update more as our journey continues…
- Flavored Kit-Kats: ALL OVER Japan!
- These are only a few of the handfuls of kit-kats that we’ve tried in the years we’ve been here. Of course, there are SOOO many other flavors sold that I do not have pictures of or haven’t had the chance to try!! But I think this gives a good idea of how kit-kat crazy Japan is!
2. Kopi Luwak (cat poop coffee): Malaysia & Bali.
- Kopi Luwak is the world’s most expensive coffee because of the uncommon method in the way it’s produced. It is produced from the coffee beans which have been digested by a certain Indonesian cat-like animal, known as a civet cat or palm civet. Hence, Kopi Luwak is also known as cat poop coffee.
- This coffee is mild and very smooth tasting. Don’t think about where it comes from and it goes down deliciously 😉
3. Horse Meat: Mt. Aso, Kyushu, Japan
- Growing up on a farm and owning horses, I couldn’t bring myself to eat horse meat- to me it’s like going to China and eating dog… not gonna happen.
- They sell different parts of the horse to eat. (Kind of ironic they also offer horseback riding right across the road).
- Taste: soft and very lean meat.
4. Motsunabe (Cow Intestines Soup): Fukuoka, Japan
- A popular hotpot dish in Fukuoka. Known to be highly nutritious and low-calorie filled. Mostunabe is usually made of beef, pork and offal or internal organs. “Offal” can be kind of an odd food for westerners but they’re eaten largely for supposed health benefits. Apart from offal, you can enjoy eating Mostunabe with cabbage, leek and chili pepper. The base soup includes soy sauce with garlic and chili pepper or miso. You need to cook it the conventional way of cooking a Japanese stew.
- Taste: Intestines are chewy but they don’t really have any specific taste. Mostly just a bland flavor, but you can mix it with rice and egg as well for something different (again, doesn’t really change the taste much). Yet, we just preferred the original soup and ingredients that were served as is.
5. Live Squid: Yobuko, Karatsu City, Japan
- Below is a plate with a live, raw squid covered by crystalline strips of squid. The squid is about 10 inches long and the outside is removed and cut into grassy filaments in the kitchen. These are arranged over the inner body and tentacles of the live squid. It is still moving. You don’t eat the moving part, just the filaments that cover it. When you have eaten the squid sashimi, they will take the rest of the squid to the kitchen and bring it back to you as squid tempura.
- Taste: The squid flavor is very mild and the texture is like a cool, chewy and slightly slippery noodle. Dipped in the soy sauce on the side, it tastes delicious!
6. Octopus Balls: Sasebo, Japan.
- You can actually find these snacks at pretty much any festival or event. There is usually always a stand selling them.
- A ball-shaped Japanese snack that’s made in a special takoyaki pan. They are made with a wheat-flour based batter and filled with octopus. The toppings are usually either a dark brown sauce that tastes similar to Worcestershire or mayo.
- Taste: Most of the breading is doughy and very soft, but the actual octopus pieces are rubbery and chewy.
7. Fugu (Pufferfish): Tokyo, Japan.
- Pufferfish are the world’s most toxic group of fish. Their livers, ovaries, and skin contain tetrodotoxin, 100x more lethal than cyanide! In Japan, they are called fugu and are a very expensive but delicious treat. They are prepared only by trained, licensed fugu chefs (which I have read takes 3 years of practice and only 1/3 of applicants actually pass-wow!). One mistake during preparation can have lethal consequences! Yet, despite the possible dangerous outcome, fugu remains an unwavering popular delicacy.
- Taste: Fishy 😉
8. Habushu (Habu Sake): Okinawa
- Habushu is an awamori-based liqueur made in Okinawa. Awamori is an alcoholic beverage indigenous to and unique to Okinawa. It is made from long grain indica rice, and is not a direct product of brewing (like sake) but of distillation (like shochu).
- Also known as Habu Sake or Okinawan Snake Wine, it’s named after the habu snake, Trimeresurus flavoviridis, which belongs to the pit viper family and is closely related to the rattlesnake and copperhead. Habu snakes are venomous and native to areas in Southeast Asia and other large island groups including the Philippines, Ryukyus, and Japan. A bite from a habu snake can cause nausea, vomiting, hypotension, and possibly death.
- The awamori is first mixed with herbs and honey giving the clear liquid a yellow hue. A pit viper is then inserted into the liquid. There are two methods of inserting the snake into the alcohol. The maker may choose to simply submerge the snake in the alcohol and seal the bottle, thus drowning the snake. Alternatively, the snake may be put on ice until it passes out, at which point it’s gutted, bled, and sewn up. When the viper awakens when thawed, it quickly dies in an aggressive striking manner, which is what most producers look for. The manufacturer will then put the habu in an ethanol bath for a month to preserve it. To continue the process, the habu is put in a 59% alcohol mix for 40 days and finally put in a 35% awamori mix to prepare for consumption.
- A main distributer of habushu uses around 5,000 habu snakes per year!! The distillery uses crushed rice and Koji mold to produce the awamori that goes into the habushu. It is a typical practice to age the awamori for a longer period.
- The alcohol helps the venom to dissolve and become nonpoisonous, so don’t worry about being killed!
- Taste: Extremely strong… this one burns going down!
- Habushu is believed by some to have medicinal properties. A common superstition is that these strengths are passed on to those who drink habushu:
- A habu can go without eating anything for as long as a year and still have immense energy.
- The positive effect on the male libido. A habu snake is able to mate for as long as 26 hours, which causes some to believe that a drink of habushu may help sexual dysfunction in men.
9. Okonomiyaki: Hiroshima (central Honshu), Kumamoto, & Sasebo, Japan.
- Labeled as “Japan’s Pancake,” this dish is available all over Japan, but is most popular in the west, particularly Hiroshima and Osaka. Though it does consist of batter cooked on a griddle, okonomiyaki has nothing of the sweetness or fluffiness of pancakes, not to mention that it’s usually filled with octopus, shrimp, pork, yam, or kimchi. Therefore, some say that a more accurate English comparison would be that of a pizza.
- Okonomiyaki is a popular pan fried food that consists of batter and cabbage. Selected toppings and ingredients are added which can vary greatly (anything from meat and seafood to wasabi and cheese). This variability is reflected in the dishes name; “okonomi-” literally means “to one’s liking.”
10. Dried Bamboo Worms: Chiang Rai area, Northern Thailand
- Tastes like light, dry, crunchy crackers. No flavor.
11. Fertilized Egg: Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
- Khmer style Scotch egg- crumbed fertilized baby duck egg, with pork, black pepper, lime, & garlic dip.
- Taste: There was a strong yolk/egg taste and a fermented/stale taste, but no taste of duck at all!
12. Bee Sake: Kawaguchiko, Mt. Fuji.
- Not much is written about this unique find that we discovered at the foot of Mt. Fuji. But with a little digging I did uncover an article written about Japan’s bee sake! (www.odditycentral.com)
- This bizarre alcoholic drink is a rare concoction that isn’t usually commercially available in shops.
- The Japanese giant hornet has a quarter-inch stinger that pumps out venom containing an enzyme so strong that it can literally dissolve human tissue. The sting of a giant hornet causes excruciating pain, yet some people are willing to endure some stings while trying to capture them in order to make a special kind of shouchuu (Japanese liquor similar to vodka).
- The venom-infused liquor is said to make the skin more beautiful, boost recovery from fatigue and prevent “lifestyle disease” (??).
- In order to make the drink, one first has to catch the hornets. If their nest is built underground, catchers place a net over it and simply rattle the insects so they fly into it. If the nest lies beneath an overhang, a plastic bag is placed over it, and if the hornets are in flight, they’re smacked with a large swatter.
- To prepare the liquor, a large number of wasps are placed in a mason jar, which is then filled with shouchuu. The jar is then sealed and the hornets left to drown in the alcohol. Desperate to escape, they release their venom which gives the drink its signature taste and curative properties. The hornets are left to ferment for a full 3 years before the shouchuu can be consumed. Just like the venom of the habu sake, the effects of the bee venom are neutralized by the strong alcohol, making it safe to drink.
- Taste: So strong that we had goosebumps all over just from drinking one sip! But the taste is a lot like American vodka (regular Japanese shouchuu).
13. Hot Sake with Fugu (Pufferfish) Fins: Sasebo, Japan.
- There is a hint of fishy-ness with this mild-tasting sake. This is one of my favorite tasting sake’s.
14. Smoked Eggs: Hakone, Mt.Fuji.
- These eggs smell like campfire and actually have a smoky after taste! When peeled, they looked exactly like the inside of a regular hard-boiled egg. I prefer regular boiled eggs to these myself.
Stay tuned for more…
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!