Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Travel Bloggers Unite: I Can't Believe I Ate/Drank That! (Part 1)

Do you go outside of your culinary comfort level when traveling? If you're anything like the travel bloggers featured here, you certainly do.

Whether it's sampling the local delicacy or trying something truly strange... consuming traditional and local food/drink can can certainly make a trip memorable.

In Part one of a two-part series, 10 Travel Bloggers write about their experiences with local fare, for better or for worse.

I can't believe I ate/drank...

1) Bugs in Bangkok, Thailand (Christine, NYC JetSetter)

Details: During the Summer of 2013 I ate bugs in Thailand, where it is completely normal to snack on insects as it is part of their culture. I was on a tour where I was brought to an insect stand. I had a hesitation but decided to go for it! Specifically, I tried a fried worm and grasshopper. 

I closed my eyes, popped them in my mouth and hoped for the best! It did not taste like anything, although they were really hard to chew and swallow. I couldn't finish chewing the grasshopper. It didn't want to dissolve!

Comparison: They both tasted like over-fried pieces of bark.

Would you eat it again? Once was enough for me!

2) Tarantula in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Scott, Intrepid Escape)

Details: A group of us went out to try some of the crazy foods available from the street vendors in Cambodia, we'd tried a few insects and local 'delicacies', but the tarantula stands out as the most outrageous. Mainly because every one of us had a slight phobia of spiders, whether we'd like to admit it or not. So the thought of putting the thing into your mouth seems like madness! There was no reason why we did it, it's just something you try in Cambodia. Partly due to peer pressure and party because travel is about new experiences, and this was certainly one of those.

At first it's just a chewy burnt bit of hairy chicken, the legs are fine but its when you get to the body that things get interesting! The juices flow and you're overcome by a slightly weird taste, there's nothing I can liken it too I'm just happy that the sauce it was soaked in (similar to sweet chili) was taking my mind off of what I was actually eating. I'd recommend trying it, at least one of the legs.

Comparison: I can only compare it to chewy deep fried chicken, the kind where its so deep fried you can barely taste the meat!

Would you eat it again? Yes, Why Not!

Read more after the jump!!!

3) Cured Horse Heart in Budapest, Hungary (Lance, Travel Addicts)

Details: During our trip to Budapest we took a food tour of the city’s Central Market. I went into the experience saying I would eat anything and everything, although I really didn’t know what that meant. At the sausage and charcuterie stand I tried a number of salamis and cured meats. Our guide took me at my word that I would try it all.  

I didn’t find out until after that one of them was actually cured horse heart. Horse meat is traditional in the Hungarian culture. The horse heart had a heady, gamey taste with a very fibrous texture.

Comparison: Like a cross between venison and an unsalted beef jerky.

Would you drink it again? I would probably not have it cured again, but would have it prepared differently.

4) Manicou in St. Georges, Grenada (Sabrina, Wander From Norman)

Details: As an adventurous traveler, I always enjoy a local experience. My most exotic, yet disturbing eatery I have ever tried would have to be during one of my visits to St. George’s, Grenada. My cousin gave me the opportunity to “lime” with his local friends. Every Sunday, some of the locals travel by boat, just off the main land, to an island called Hog.

There I saw lying on a brick was a Manicou sliced right down the middle. As disturbing as the creature looked in its bare skin, by the time the cooking was complete, the rodent was actually very tasty! Seeing as though opossums are caught by animal patrol in the states, I can attest that this animal can make for quite a meal.

Comparison: A bit tender, you could pull off the meat and almost confuse the taste of pork.

Would you eat it again? Yes! :)

5) ????? in Shanghai, China (The Guy, Flights And Frustration)

Details: Even after 13 years I still wonder what I ate that night.

I consumed something in late 2002 on my first trip to Shanghai. As a foreign visitor I was given the full VIP treatment and taken out for a fancy meal by 3 Chinese colleagues. They ordered all the main dishes which arrived at the table, mostly without consulting me. For the first hour they happily shared information on what I was eating. Then towards the end some weird looking dishes arrived. My colleagues refused point blank to tell me what I was eating. They said if they told me then I wouldn't eat it.

Feeling some peer pressure I tried maybe 5 or 6 tasters of these funny dishes. Some were meat-like, some like jelly or plants. To be honest most of them tasted vile.

Even to this day when I ask the colleagues I am still in touch with they refuse to tell me what I was given that night. I'd hate to think what it could be. In the years since I've been to places in China which have served dog, monkey brains, unchopped birds and even somewhere serving lamb testicle and lamb penis. Yet if this is anything to go by I dread to think what I tasted that night.

Comparison: It is hard to compare to anything since the dishes (maybe 5 or 6) were quite unique. Some were soft and jelly like, others very rich and bitter.

Would you eat it again? Since I've no idea what I ate, probably. I'll often try something at least once so I guess my taste buds will explore these again.

6) Dinuguan in Manila, Philippines (Aileen, I am Aileen)

Details: Dinuguan is a local dish in the Philippines and it's basically a pork stew simmered in a spicy thick sauce of pork blood. Yes, you've read that right... Blood! Sometimes, the meat is even mixed with innards such as intestines!

I am a Filipino and from the word itself, I knew what it is made up of so I naturally steered clear of it for years. However, my friends would always mention how ridiculously delicious it was; that's why one day, I've had enough and I said: "Okay fine, why not?" After several bites, I had to cry...

...because I hated myself for not trying it out sooner! It was so good! It's icky for sure if you know what's in it, but the sauce was just too extremely rich and hearty! It even becomes sinfully appetizing when you mix it with rice or puto that today, it has become one of my favorite comfort food! Give it a try!

Comparison: The closest thing that I can compare it to is like eating a very thick and textured chicken soup — but without the chicken but pork, innards, and lots of blood.

Would you eat it again? Yes!

7) Bull Penis in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Derek, The Holidaze)

Details: Known in Malaysia as torpedo soup (for obvious reasons) I immediately knew that I had to try this delicacy upon learning of it's existence. After all, as I always tell people: "Don't be afraid of what I eat -- be afraid of what I WON'T eat." My only fear was that the penis would come in one solid piece, a literal torpedo floating in broth. Putting my fears aside, I went on the hunt for "penis alley" in the Chow Kit neighborhood of Kuala Lumpur, the only place in the city that has torpedo soup -- conveniently located one alley over from where all the ladyboys hang out.

Thankfully the penis was diced into bite-size pieces. Most of the chunks were soft and chewy however there were a few bites that were rock hard. I didn't dare think about what portions of the penis those might be and instead just swallowed them with minimal chewing. I documented the entire experience on video but unfortunately forgot to bring my microphone, so the audio is not the best. However you can watch the whole video here.

Comparison: I've eaten a lot of strange and macabre things over the years but this one is not really comparable to anything else I've even indulged in.

Would you drink it again? Yes, without a doubt. It certainly isn't the worst thing I've ever eaten, although it is one of the most controversial among westerners.

8) Cacao Pod Mucilage in Bavaro, Dominican Republic (Tiana, Power Couple Life)

Details: Last year in Dominican Republic we had the chance to visit a Cacao farm, where they make the chocolate and coffee for many major manufacturers. We were expecting a few tastings of chocolate and coffee but that is about it really. As we walked through the plantation, there were huge pods hanging from the trees and the owner plucked one off and cracked it open. 

I was half expecting chocolate beans or something brown at least. Nope! The thick shelled cacao pod contains "mucilage", a sweet white pulp that surrounds the bitter cocoa beans. He asked us each to pull out some of this gooey white stuff and taste it. Not sure what I like more now, roasted cacao beans and chocolate or their mucus surroundings.

Comparison: It felt like... boogers, but tasted like heaven!

Would you eat it again? I would eat this again, anytime!

9) Rice Whiskey in Chiang Mai, Thailand (Ted, Traveling Ted)

Details: I was on a trek in the Karen villages outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand doing the obligatory elephant ride, hiking, and bamboo rafting tour. We stayed in a remote and very primitive Karen Hilltribe village. When we got there we enjoyed some cold beer that they were selling and they made us dinner. Unfortunately, the beer soon ran out. After all the other travelers went to sleep, I hung out with the other guides who were passing around a clear liquid in a bottled water container.

Rice whiskey is your basic fermented alcohol. I don’t know how it is made, and I don’t want to know how it is made. It was absolutely hideous tasting and had no redeeming quality outside the obvious intoxication inducer.

Comparison: I would say rice whiskey is like formaldehyde, but that would be an insult to pungent gas.

Would you drink it again? I have actually consumed rice wine and rice whiskey since, but it has never been as bad as the gut wrenching formula produced in the hills of Chiang Mai.

10Cuy in Quito, Ecuador (Rechito, Expedition Hobo)

I was in Quito for my birthday when I decided to try the cuy (kuwe), or fried guinea pig. A unique food, to say the least, that my Ecuadorian coworker had dared me to try. I knew my friends back home would frown upon this, and they did, so I created the story that cuy was “the birthday meal of Inca kings”. If this was good enough for kings, it was good enough for me. 

Yes, it’s recognized as a pet which makes it taboo to eat, but in Ecuador and Peru it's considered a delicacy. My guide also got me to eat the head!

Comparison: ”Does it taste like chicken?” you ask. No, more like a suckling pig but a little bony.

Would you eat it again? I would eat it again without consuming the head, which was a one time thing.

Thanks to all of the great stories, Travel Bloggers! If you're reading this and want to contribute to a future "I Can't Believe I Ate/Drank That!" post, email me and let me know.

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  1. This looks like a great selection of weird and wonderful stuff. Not sure I'd try them all but when in Rome!

  2. I love to travel and I love to eat but I guess I am just not THAT adventurous of an eater. Good on y'all.

  3. Hmmm seems I have a few new dishes to try hahaha. BTW that photo of Rechito with the cuy is the best photo I've seen all year! Absolutely perfect, especially with the utensils in each hand, ready to go ;)

  4. This turned out great! I was obsessed with dinuguan until I found out was it was as a teenager, so glad it made the list!


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