8 crazy animals I ate in east Asia
Part of the fun of traveling and visiting new places is exploring new foods. And a subset of new foods includes crazy foods. In East Asia, I got a chance to try a bunch I’d never tried before. Technically, this lists includes animals, animal parts, and weird (for Americans) ways of eating said animals or their parts. Here’s what I tried:
- Raw fish (sashimi): I’d only tried this in limited quantities before Asia. And by “limited quantities,” I really mean I’d tried some sushi rolls a few times. Sashimi, Japanese style, takes it to a whole ‘nother level, especially in when you’re actually in Japan or even Korea. This one I grew to love.
- Korean blood sausage (sundae): It looks like sausage, is made of noodles, and takes like… well, nothing I can really compare it to exactly. It’s kind of weird, but with the right salt and the right mindset, I totally enjoyed this one, a common street food in Korea. It also happens to be one of the few foods that made me flat out sick for 24-hours straight, but that’s probably just because I got a bad batch. 🙂
- Silk worm larva (beondaegi): My friend, David, introduced this one to me, actually at a Sashimi place. Served with the rest of the meal, it wasn’t too bad. I was kind of worried about putting it into my mouth at first, since it was my first taste of insects. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It tasted like soggy cardboard.
- ‘Live’ octopus (sannakji): Okay, this is where things start getting really weird. A friend who visited Korea from Pennsylvania wanted to try this too, so on one of his last days in the country, we went out hunting. Thanks to another friend’s help, we ended up finally tracking some down after dark. The lady pulled the nakji (it’s like a small octopus with a few less than eight legs) out of the tank, stuck a chopstick into its head, turned the head inside out, cut off the legs, chapped them up, and served them to us with peppers and oil (it’s kind of plain otherwise). It was both slimier and tougher to chew than I expected. And there’s definitely something freaky about feeling suction cups sucking the sides of your mouth and legs trying to squirm out while you’re eating.
- Chicken anus (dahkddongjib): They’re chewy, kind of like gristle. But they taste good. I ate this on multiple occasions. One of the girls I worked with loved them. They’re served fried and sometimes with a red sauce. I liked the peppered ones best without the sauce cooked on.
- Jellyfish: When my friends, the Bennetts, got married, they did the whole Korean wedding thing and had a buffet for the guests. Korean buffets are all about seafood, or at least that’s large part of what they include. And buffets are a terrific way to experiment with new foods without the commitment of having to stick with just what you order. So I tried the jellyfish. It was sliced into strips that made it feel like I was eating seafood noodles or something. It wasn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t bad either.
- Grasshoppers: These were tasty. I had one version that wasn’t seasoned as well, so it just tasted like grassy stuff. The other ones I tried, though, in Thailand were seasoned with spicy peppers. They were actually quick delicious, not something I could make a meal out of but definitely a cool, if spicy, snack food, taking the place of popcorn or something at the movies. 🙂
- Sea squirt: Okay, hands down, the least delicious of this bunch. I guess it has a ton of iodine in it. Whatever it is, it’s crazy. The flavor, the texture – I like what someone on YouTube said about it: “It’s uncomfortable to eat.”
I wanted to try dog and raw horse in Korea too, but that never happened. Dog meat is technically illegal, so on top of it just being weird, that made it extra tough to get. And for the horse meat, the friend traveling with me at the time just wanted to get pork that day. I guess I’ll have to eat these guys some other time.
What about you? What have you tried? Or what would you like to try or like for me to try sometime?