Weird Asian Foods that You Must Try (Part 1 or 2)

Posted 05 June 2014 by

Asia, for centuries, has been known in the West for its delightfully strange culture, cuisine, and customs. While there is no doubt that there is plenty to love about Asian cuisine, there are some truly weird dishes that can scare even the most adventurous of gastronomes away.

Here is a list of weird foods from Asia that you must try during your travels to the largest continent in the world.

Fried Tarantulas (from Cambodia)

Fried Tarantulas

The locals of Skuon have developed a taste for these furry arachnids when they were trying to survive the famine during the Khmer Rogue regime. These scary, large spiders are an excellent source of protein, even if they do not look especially appetizing. Fried tarantulas are available in other parts of Cambodia, including Phnom Penh, but Skuon is truly the place to visit to take a bite of tarantula. The spiders—called a-ping in Khmer and Haplopelma albostriatum by biologists and academics—are roughly the size of a human palm. An a-ping will be tossed in a combination of sugar, salt, and MSG before frying, and garlic will be added in the oil. The spider will be cooked when the creature’s eight are stiff—the local vendors say that at this point in the cooking process the spider’s guts would not be so runny.

Those who have tasted this Cambodian delicacy have reported that the outside parts of the spider are very crispy, and the “meat” resembling fish or chicken. Fried tarantulas are perfect for those who want to prove that creepy crawlers do not scare them.

Fertilized Duck Eggs (from the Philippines)

Fertilized Duck Eggs

For a country with very warm and hospitable people, the Philippines is home to some truly weird dishes, with the balut as the most popular. The balut looks harmless—it is, basically, a duck egg. But the embryo inside the egg has started developing before it was boiled and sold from insulated baskets on the streets. Balut can be found almost everywhere in the Philippines, but in many places, only after dark.

You can eat the balut by cracking the top of the shell a bit, adding a pinch of salt, and sipping the “broth” before proceeding to eat the yolk and the unfortunate duckling inside. The egg white might be too tough to eat if the chick inside is further along in its development, but you can eat everything except the shell. Best served with beer, balut is best known among locals for improving the stamina and libido.

Fresh, Squirming Octopus (from South Korea)

Fresh, Squirming Octopus

Raw seafood dishes have been considered a delicacy for decades in various parts of the world—usually in the form of delicious (and expensive) sashimi—but South Korea takes raw and fresh to another level with sannakji. Basically, sannakji is freshly sliced octopus, seasoned with a bit of sesame oil and seeds, and served immediately to diners. The tentacles and other parts of the animal are often still squirming when it reaches your table, and diners must take special care with the active suction cups that could choke a person.

Sannakji is often served in restaurants specializing in raw seafood, while some local bars offer this delicacy as a perfect companion for soju, a Korean rice wine.

Do you want to read more? Part 2 of Weird Asian Foods that You Must Try can be found here.

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