In the Spirit of Halloween I’ve decided to conjure up all the deadly delicacies I consumed around South-East Asia. I vowed to myself to try EVERYTHING, no matter the colour, texture or life-form, however revolting or repulsive it may be. If the locals eat it, then you must eat it, I thought. Unlike England, food is central to culture in Asia, so I wanted to understand this by tasting everything. Eating was educating. However, this did result in me consuming some rather scary snacks with blood, slime, claws and a few too many legs. In fact my round-up isn’t a far cry (or scream) away from a witches spell-book…
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Weak-stomached readers, beware.
And into my Cauldron goes…
The Gut of a Frog and the Skull of a Rat taken from Rural Siem Reap, Cambodia.
During my homestay in Bakong District outside Siem Reap, the generous Haeng family fed my friend and I three delicious meals a day all served with a plentiful portion of locally grown rice. Meals included coconut and pumpkin soup and freshly grilled fish with chilli and sugar cane sauce.
One evening we were presented with a bowl stacked with pieces of meat in a disturbingly distinctive shape. Claws up, in a foetus position, with an uncanny likeness to Mr Burns, our helpless looking rat had ‘leave me alone’ written all over it. But, the Haeng family ,with delight at their new dinner guests said ‘nam ba’ – eat up!
Eager to eat my rodent like the locals, I pointed to the Skull as if to ask ‘do I even eat this part?’ My reply was an encouraging nod so I picked up the rat and in one crunch it’s brittle little head diminished into a hundred little pieces.
The taste wasn’t horrendous, nor that flavourful. A crispy skin with a chewy chicken-taste inside. The only nasty thing about eating rat is the texture. It is a rather strange sensation having your tongue clawed.
There was only one of us who could speak both Khmer and English, a local monk who ran a school across the path. However, his limited English vocabulary did not include the word which would transform our green stuffing balls into another cauldron constituent. So, taking advantage of blissful ignorance we ate it anyway. Inside our stuffing were crunchy nuggets of bone, verging on inedible. We had a difficult time crunching into these. On the other hand, the stuffing had a delicious lemon-like flavour.
Still attempting to translate, the Grand-dad pointed to the garden and made hopping actions with his hand. Hmmm…hopping, green. We looked at our dinner and realised our green garden friends were the same amphibians we had seen being sold on the roadside earlier that day, but too repulsed to try…
One Grass-Hopper and One Maggot From the Dirty streets of Bangkok
Thai locals know that these crunchy crawlies are a tourist novelty so deep-fried maggots, grass-hoppers, beetles and scorpions pile high on carts down backpacker district Khao San Road. These insects tempt those backpackers after one too many whisky buckets wanting to make a strange photo album of a night out in Bangkok. Undoubtedly, that includes myself. I tried a maggot and a grasshopper. The former had a pungent fish taste which can be tasted from just one minuscule maggot. And the latter was so deep-fried it didn’t taste of much at all. I did have to resume drinking with maggot breathe… and a grass-hopper leg lodged down my throat.
A Beating Snake Heart From Hanoi, Vietnam
Hanoi’s snake Village- the only place to become a blood-thirsty barbarian and truly overcome a snake phobia. Hanoi Backpackers run popular group tours to here for $18 and is a fun way to bond with fellow vampires. Your amuse bouche is a beating Snake’s heart. But, getting your teeth into it is the nasty part. Each person is given their own snake, presented to you, alive, at the end of the table by a waiter. You kneel down, the snake is held length-ways in front of you and the waiter makes an incision at the heart. The heart is then squeezed out , and, relentlessly, you must rip the heart out with your teeth in the most primitive manner. Being an alive snake, you will feel a heartbeat before swallowing the organ, whole.
Afterwards feast on other innards including garlicy lemon bones, glazed snake-ribs, snake meat-balls, snake spring-rolls and a snake-skin stir fry. Make sure your heart is well digested with a shot of bile and blood. Savage.
For a different Snake Village experience from another blood-thirsty blogger visit Bunny.Eats. Design and click on the following link:
I must point out that all these bloods and guts do not highlight the Indochinese as uncivilised human-beings with bad taste in food, but proves the resourceful nature of these developing countries. And, don’t let this fusspot put you off trying things too…