Sunday, October 17, 2010

Halloween Special: World's Most Terrifying Foods

If you are a fan of Andrew Zimmern, the host of Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern," then you are probably familiar with the myriad types of really bizarre dishes our chubby host has tasted in his travels around the world. On the show's website, you can watch a slideshow of some of the grossest foods that Andrew has come across in his travels. Among them, bats, turtles, squirrel, etc.

Well, here's my own list of some of the more scariest dishes (in terms of taste, look and those that may cause physical harm), which I have culled from the wide world of the internet:

Fugu (Japan)
On top of my list has to be the notorious fugu, a Japanese dish made from the meat of the pufferfish. So what's so terrifying about an animal called the pufferfish? Well, this innocuous-looking fish has a lethal amount of poison stored within its organs. The poison paralyzes its victims and they eventually die of asphyxiation. Not the most pleasant way to meet your maker, I assure you. The most popular dish made from the pufferfish is of course, fugu sashimi. Only licensed chefs are allowed to prepare fugu and you would be advised to go one of the licensed establishment if you are looking for your fugu fix.

Balut (Philipines)
Now, that is just plain scary! What is it and who is gonna eat that! Well, balut is a Filipino delicacy, sold on the streets as a snack and eaten whole. It is a fertilized duck egg that contains a nearly developed embryo. It is boiled (like you would boil a regular chicken egg) and eaten with different types of condiments, depending on where you are. If you are willing to give this little guy a slurp, be careful not to choke on the tiny crunchy bones!

Lutefisk (Norway)
A traditional Norwegian delight, lutefisk looks harmless enough (too bad you can't smell it!). It is a whitefish, typically cod that is salted and dried in a series of steps using the corrosive chemical, lye. Lye is a corrosive alkaline and will cause chemical burns if it gets on your skin. In this case, lye is used to dry the fish, producing a jello-like consistency and the chemical is then removed by soaking it for days in cold water. If the thought of having traces of a corrosive agent go down your throat as you eat it doesn't bother you, then the pungent smell might just turn you off! Lutefisk is also a delicacy in Minnesota.

Fried Tarantula (Cambodia)
Arachnophobes need not apply! Streets vendors on the streets of Cambodia will offer tourists and locals the chance to savor the taste of fried tarantula, a delicacy in that part of the world. It is crunchy when you snack on the legs (just like soft shell crab). It is squishy when you bite into the abdomen, as the gooey nuttiness of the tarantula's insides gushes out into your mouth! Just remember to make sure that the vendor selling you this bite-sized snack has taken the liberty of removing the fangs first!

Casu Marzu (Sardinia, Italy)
Everyone loves cheese, right? Well, take a load of this cheesy goodness from the region of Sardinia in Italy. Derived from pecorino cheese, casu marzu goes beyond just the usual fermentation process accorded to most cheeses. Cheese fly larvae is introduced into the cheese to promote a very advanced state of fermentation. The acid from the larvae's digestive system helps to break down the cheese fat. Some might even consider this process decomposition! And I don't really need to remind you of the smell!

Jellied Moose Nose (Alaska)
Featured on a "Bizarre Foods" episode in Alaska, this is one of the stranger foods I've ever seen. It is made by boiling the upper jaw bone of a moose (just below the eyes) and then removing the hair. Boil it again, this time with vegetable and spices until it is tender. Leave it overnight to cool and you will get a jello-like consistency from all the fat the was rendered. Yum!

Live Baby Octopus (South Korea)
Come to think of it, eating live octopus is not really a big deal, except maybe for the wriggling tentacles as they slither their way down your throat! We've all had raw fish (sashimi) and oysters, right? But this is inherently different. It is as fresh as plucking the little sucker (no pun intended) from the sea and gulping it down while it is still trying to fight its way up!

Coagulated Pig's Blood (Malaysia)
This one's a delicacy from my own hometown. You've heard of blood sausage and you kind of know that an animal's blood is used in some cuisines around the world. How about a few cubes of coagulated pig's blood with your bowl of noodles and soup? Might I mention that it tastes as minerally (lots of iron, that's for sure) as it should be?

Deep-Fried Butter (U.S.A.)
Finally, we've arrived at the pinnacle of scary foods. State fairs around the country are renown for their artery-clogging deep-fried delights (they will try to deep-fry just about anything, eg. deep-fried Twinkies). This year, another entry enters into this heart-attack pantheon and it is........Deep-Fried Butter! And it even comes in various flavors like garlic, cherry and grape. The butter is first whipped until it is light and then frozen and battered before frying. Garnish with some powdered sugar and you have yourself a heart-stopping snack!

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