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Photo by Harry 棟樑

Eating in Asia requires a certain degree of guts and a wild sense of adventure.
1. Thailand’s deep-fried grasshoppers

Right in the heart of Bangkok’s red-light district, street vendors peddle a huge array of deep-fried bugs – from ants to hornets, caterpillars to grasshoppers. Anything that hops and bites is fair game for the palate. Add some chili powder, and you’re in for a sizzling, jumpy ride.

Photo by avlxyz

2. The Filipino Balut

The boiled half-hatched egg is exceptionally crunchy as you sink your teeth into the partially-formed fetus, complete with feathers, eyeballs ,and translucent skin. The locals like to dip it in vinegar and soya sauce. The down side- you might find feathers stuck between your teeth! Mangababaluts (balut-makers) can be found in the district of Pateros, Manila.

Photo by Hanoi Mark

3. Dog meat in China

Have you ever thought about why only the Chinese eat dog meat? Try it for yourself and you might find out why. Hugely popular in Southern China, namely Guangdong and Sichuan, stewed dog meat is offered by most restaurants in winter, while some are even dedicated to selling only dog platters. Even along the bustling Meishi Street in Beijing, there are a few posters advertising dog meat for sale.

4. Singapore’s turtle soup

Though they’re close to extinction, turtles are cooked with Chinese herbs and made into soups in the eastern world; the Chinese believe turtles are aphrodisiacs and are excellent for health. Despite all the traditional sayings, modern Singaporeans love the medicinal soup for its thick texture and herbal taste.

5. Oriental chicken feet

Sharp and thin chicken feet are a common delicacy in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and China. As a popular dimsum (steamed snacks in bamboo baskets), chicken feet are stewed in black bean sauce and steamed for a long time before the soggy skin crumples and the cartilage becomes chewy. Be careful of the chicken’s toenails though: you don’t want to choke on them!

Photo by epup

6. Rooster’s testicles in Taiwan

Bouncy balls bigger than you’d imagine, with thin veins and a tight plump texture, these testicles are only suitable for the daredevils with the balls to try them. The male chicken testicles are usually boiled and eaten simple and plain, but you can always ask for spicy stewed or garlic stir-fried.

With a tight skin like a sausage, the interior of the testicles taste soft and tofu-like. Be sure to find some in the famous Snake Alley Market in Taipei.

7. Hong Kong’s home-grown Chau taufu

There is nothing exotic about tofu (bean curd), unless it’s of the overwhelmingly strong variety! ‘Chau’ means stinky in Cantonese and the dish literally lives up to its name, smelling like a bucket of human dung left out for 2 weeks. Locals hunt down this fermented and deep-friend goody in the Mongkok Night Markets, where you can definitely smell it from afar.

Photo by kudaker

8. Isaw Manok in the Philippines

Barbecued chicken intestines are a national dish for the Filipinos, who have a soft spot for internal organs. Chicken gizzards, liver, and heart are all grilled on bamboo skewers, garnished with sweet and spicy sauce, and cooked to perfection. Not enough to satisfy your senses? You might just prefer the barbecued chicken head or pig’s ears.

9. Malaysia’s durians

Known as the king of fruits in Southeast Asia, the durian’s prickly green appearance and exceptionally strong and odd (some say vomit-like) smell have led it to fame. But that’s not all there is to this quirky fruit; its yellow, soft, and tasty meat has earned durian its crown in Southeast Asia.

Most foreigners frown at the thought of savoring this bitter yet sweet fruit, but soon enough, the heavenly taste is sure to win them over. Don’t forget to try the best species, D24, for the fleshy and juicy meat!

10. Indonesian bats

Besides flying off the back of a vampire, bats can be eaten as well. Sold in Malioboro Street of Jogjakarta, bats are often smoked to crispiness. They might look gory, like skeletal brown mice, but taste like beef jerky, especially the stiff wings! Locals in Manado love their specialty – the Fruit Bat Soup, where an entire bat is cooked in coconut milk, and the soft meat on its feet and wings is savored.

Community Connection

What’s the most exotic dish you’ve ever eaten? Where’s your favorite place to eat it? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Food


 

About The Author

Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a worshiper of the sun, wild adventures, and new discoveries. Her love for food has brought her traveling through culinary capitals Italy, Greece, Thailand, Vietnam, Morocco, and Turkey. She has taught in Spain and Tanzania and lived in Miami and London. Now back in Asia, she writes for interest, works as a freelance translator, and continues exploring her thirst for the unknown.

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  • Itinerant Londoner

    How about deep fried Mekong River frog, as served in Laos? I had a whole plate of them in Pakse, southern Laos, and they were excellent. Have a look at a picture here, just before I popped one in my mouth: ” target=”_blank”>http://itinerantlondoner.wordpress.com/2009/01/08…

  • Doodlebug Delinquent

    Deep fried snake on a stick in Tokyo. It was… chewy.

  • JULIANE

    Are chicken feet really that weird anymore? I mean, pig knuckle is pretty accepted now right? Or am I the only one that loves to eat both ha.

  • JULIANE

    I had snake soup in Taipei! Tasted much like fish and had way too many little bones to pick out.

  • Nellie

    Oh yes, Pig knuckles make me go weak in the knees too! As an Asian, chicken feet is literally 'chicken feet' (if you know what I mean – nothing weird about it). But from the not-overly-enthusiastic response of my foreign friends, Chicken feet seems a little too exotic for them to handle.

  • Steve

    Frog uterus, served in a melon. A Chinese delicacy.

  • Chris

    Cow intestines in Turkey. Kokoreç is basically the very end of the cows poop shoot grilled to a crispy on the outside – chewy in the inside rings. Served with dried oregano and chili. Great to prevent a hangover.

  • JULIANE

    Yea I getcha. It's probably the nails that freak them out haha. What other "exotic" foods do you like? What about chicken heart? Duck blood? I think my mouth is watering…

  • Nellie

    Chicken heart – yes, popular in Singapore too! the Spanish Morcilla (dried and cured cow's blood) – is one of my favourite. It's just too bad that many people stay away from these foods just because they're not the norm. ;) Steve, I would definitely like to try Frog uterus!

  • Coach Kip

    In Taiwan they serve just about everything in their "Hot Pot" I have had Intestine, Stomach Lining, of course Chicken Feet, and lots and lots of Squid on a Stick,

  • Sarah_Menkedick

    Yep, I had all sorts of internal organs, and saw even more passing on plates in Beijing. I remember walking into a restaurant in Houhot, Inner Mongolia, where there were tubs of beetles, frogs, snakes, scorpions, cockroaches, turtles…live. You picked your dinner then and there and they fried it up for you. The menu they handed us had a picture of two giant smiling frogs on a plate. Unfortunately, we weren't bold enough to go for it. I don't know if it was the smiling frogs or the hundreds of cockroaches, but… They do fried grasshoppers in Mexico, too–in Oaxaca the legend is that eating them means you'll come back to the city someday. They also do pigs' feet in vinegar. The jars almost make me heave but my friends love 'em. In cantinas, they serve bull's penis, as if the machismo factor weren't high enough already.

  • Nellie

    Woo hotpots are one of the best inventions in Asia – exotic food aside, anybody loves the Taiwanese ´Mala´(hot and sour) Hotpot as much as I do? Pig's feet in vinegar – my mother cooks that on a daily basis- trust me it´s orgasmic! Bull´s penis.. THAT is hard to swallow. I guess like they say, if you´re man enough for it.. In Spain, they stew Bull's tail (Rabo de toro) as a type of tapas, and yumm… the strong taste mixed with flavoured spices – one of my favourites! Moroccan Sheep's brains are also interesting, taste more like tofu than anything thou.

  • Gennaro

    Nice idea for a list. I'd love to see a poll to see the number of Americans who would eat dog. Any westerners for that matter.

  • Kenny

    Dog meat is not only consumed in China. Korea has a long and proud tradition of eating dog meat. While it may be illegal(done so to avoid Western critics during the 88 Olympics), no laws against it are really enforced. In fact there is a small farm just down the road from me that sells dogs for meat. I think they may eat it in the Philippines as well. Also while in china you can try scorpions on a stick.

  • Nellie

    hey you're right – I remember reading somewhere that they eat dog meat in the Philippines as well, but never knew about Koreans eating it. Thanks for sharing the info! Do they also hang dog's heads on the stores like in Sichuan?

  • kenny

    Hey Nellie I got the email notification of your reply but i do not see it posted here. Anyway to answer you question, I have never seen the dogs head being hung anywhere. The most popular cut seems to be the ribs with paw attached. They seem to remove the feet most of the time. Its hard to get a picture of becuase when the sellers see a Westerner with a camera we just get brushed away. They can get very aggressive if you actually take the picture. Can't say that I blame them. I'm sure they know we only take the pictures so we can say how gross it is. Who wants their culture talked about in such a way? There is also a very very small chance that they could get fined or arrested for selling the meat.

  • Pu Niao

    Erm, #9 should be renamed to Singapore's Durians and whereas Singaporeans are not really into turtle soups nowadays.

  • Savonna

    Chicken gizzards and hearts are quite good. Boil them for a bit to tenderize them, then roll in corn meal or flour and bake with some onions. Good stuff. But you can buy those at your local grocery store in the US. More of a southern thing. Since I moved up north I rarely see it in the supermarket, but if you ask, they have them. My boyfriend loved them till I told him what they were. My grandma cooked some awesome ox tail and turtle soup. I was to young to cook them and didn't learn before she passed on.

  • Hal

    Yeah, dog meat is widely eaten in Korea (though somewhat clandestinely, as Kenny points out). I had it there…it was interesting, I'd eat it again. Another peculiar Korean food is silk worm larvae, a snack most preferred by kids.

  • Nellie

    Hey Pu, truth be told, Singaporeans do love our durians (I'm a Singaporean by the way) – but the BEST ones are still from Malaysia – especially D24 – the best breed of durians, are all found in the Segamat area of Malaysia. Turtle soup is still a popular dish among Singaporean families, like mine, but perhaps you're right, the young people are slowly steering away from the traditional recipe to MacDonalds and Carls' Junior. It's a pity really.

  • Nellie

    Kenny, to be honest I didn't see any dog heads hung on stores, but google it, and you'll see tons of pictures. I did see lots of dog meat stores in Beijing, with the big Chinese word on it – 狗…just couldn't bear to eat it. There is this market in Sichuan, called Xi Chang market, where dogs are butchered in 5 minutes and sold for their meat. (dogs” target=”_blank”>http://www.chocolatecity.cc/blog/wp-content/uploa…(dogs hung outside foodstores).

  • Sarah_Menkedick

    I tried durian several times in Malaysia and it always tasted to me like bubble gum. Weird, gummy, sometimes slimy bubble gum. I didn't particularly like it, as in, "Wow, I'm really craving some durian," but I didn't mind it. They used to sell it every night in Kota Kinabalu in the night markets. There were also many places, particularly buses and hotels, that had big signs forbidding durians. The forbidden fruit…that made it all the more appealing…

  • Lopar

    Similar to the The Filipino Balut , in Vietnam you can find semi-developed duck eggs to eat quite easily. This list certainly shows that there are more parts to the animals we eat than just the meat.

  • Expat Rockstar

    I tried Bat cooked a few different ways when I first moved to Indonesia – Pretty much every way is cooked with a ton of sambal (hot chili relish) so it is so friggin hot you cant even taste the bat wings. But I thought it was pretty nasty Some of the other odd foods in Indonesia I have tried: Guts Soup – It is exactly what it sounds lik, the guts chopped up and boiled Snake – About 3 blocks from my first apartment was a snake joint. The reason I noticed it was because I kept seeing these drop dead gorgeous women going in there – apparently Indo women believe that eating snake is good for skin problems. It does NOT taste like chicken (the snake, not the Indo babes) Deep Fried Chicken Skin – They sell this in the grocery stores, it tastes like the chicken skin at KFC, frigging delicious.

  • "Barbecued chicken intestines are a national dish for the Filipinos" – So NOT True. Yes we consume BBQ Chicken Intestines but to go as far as saying its a national dish is just pushing it too far.

  • albeitalways

    …i agree with that, most Filipinos do eat isaw but not all do. i for one don't, since isaw are chicken intestines and god knows what toxins lie on those intestines for all i know… but balut, perhaps. however, you can only find feathers on baluts that are already old and stale, so the chances of eating balut with feathers stuck on your mouth is when you get conned buying stale ones…

  • Amy Wilson

    Fried tarantulas are eaten in Cambodia. The arms are crunchy and the bodies are soft and mushy. Rat is eaten as well. During the rainy seasons people will gather around common rat dwelling areas to collect the scurrying creatures to take home and cook.

  • j

    I’ve lived in Singapore most of my life but haven’t had turtle soup in twenty years! Most people i know wouldn’t touch turtle soup with a ten foot pole.. it’s not a popular dish.

  • http://www.desmendoza.com frockstar

    Some still do eat dog meat in the Cordillera region of the Philippines however this is not usually done openly as it is already prohibited. Eating of dog meat or animal offering ritual is only legal if you are a member of one of the ethnic groups in the Cordillera region, who have been practicing the ritual for centuries.

    Balut and chicken intestines is not only native to the Philippines but other Asian countries as well. There are more exotic foods in the Philippines such as “Ibuk” (ant eggs) and “tamiloc” (woodworms from decaying mangrove trees).

    Every country has their own set of exotic food but there’s abundance of unusual meat in Asian countries. We may even call it “taboo” but depending on the geographical areas where people live this is their only access to protein/meat thus this could also be a reason for “nothing should go to waste”. Variety is the spice of life.

  • Natalie

    There’s also a dish from the Philippines called “dinuguan” that consists of pork blood with pieces of squid. Haha, be slightly wary when a Filipino offers you “chocolate meat” ;)

    • http://www.desmendoza.com frockstar

      LOL. Natalie, you’ve been punked. Those “squid” in “diniguan” is not seafood. It’s pig innards and intestines.

  • http://jonnyontheroad.blogspot.com/2009/06/beating-your-meat-or-dogs-as-food-in.html Jonny

    “Have you ever thought about why only the Chinese eat dog meat? Try it for yourself and you might find out why.”

    I’m not sure what you mean.

    Like other commenters have pointed out, dog meat is eaten in other countries as well. I’ve had it several times in Korea, and it can be really good and really bad. It depends on how it’s prepared, just like any food.

    The reason “only the Chinese eat dog meat” is not something you would discover by trying it. Most Westerners cringe at the thought of dog meat because they love dogs. Many Koreans don’t eat dog meat because of how they are sometimes killed, by beating beaten or tortured to death.

  • selwyn jamir

    in the philippines name it all,and you can find everything from frogs, ‘papaitan”dog intestine or cow intestine with bile, pig’s blood,ant’s egg, fermented shirmp,bat’,turtle,cow’s skin,and many more.

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  • http://siktak.blogspot.com Sang

    Do I have to be horrified? or Do I have to be proud for the varied food in Asia?…Well don’t know. I know food is food. We have to respect the culture revolving around foods…Even Koreans eat dog meat with which I also enjoy^^
    However, my favorite foods (Asian) are Peking duck, Sujebi, Chicken Teriyaki, Vietnamese summer rolls, etc..lots of foods in Asia.
    I can say that, with the food posted here, Asian foods are good for our health…

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  • http://www.theartofgettingdressed.com eross

    I thought I was daring when I ate rocky mountain oysters….now I seem like a wimp

  • http://matadornights.com/dog-meat-and-rooster-balls-the-10-most-exotic-asian-foods/ nijnoj

    Has anyone here ever tried fried silk worm? its delicouse ilove canada’s whale blubber taste the best with inuit garnish and spices

  • http://www.antiagingreference.com Caleb Green

    I love the smell and taste of Oregano when added in some recipes.*.”

  • anonri

    Morcilla is actually made with pig’s blood, not cow’s blood, and it is absolutely delicious! Of all the strange foods that I love to eat, Spain’s morcilla is my absolute favorite. Grilled mollejas (‘sweetbreads’ – thymus glands from lamb or beef/veal) with garlic and parsley are also amazing. Spain is unquestionably the best place to enjoy pig in all its glory… having said that, the babi guling (BBQ suckling pig) in Bali is something I would go back for again and again!

  • http://www.heartnecklacejewelry.net Caroline Bryant

    Chinese herbs do work because it is time tested..;:

  • Mish

    I agree. I’m an expat living in Hong Kong. I’ve tried a lot of ‘weird’ foods here but the one I won’t try is dog meat. The reason: the way the dogs are killed. If they were killed humanely I would try dog meat. But they are not. Mostly, they are stabbed in the chest, in front of all the other dogs and left to die on the concrete, howling and writhing. Not my cup of tea.

    • rom

      i dont eat dog meat neither… same reason with you mish.

  • dennis

    Dogs are intelligent as a 4 year old, feel pain and are long human beings best friends and protectors. Many dogs “eaten” are stolen from their owners and it is like eating someone’s grandchild. The way they are killed it usually brutal and hidden in dark alleys due to the fact that people in restaurants stopped eating dog when they actually saw them beaten and hacket to death while still alive.

    Eating do IS NOT an Honored Korean tradition. Dogs were only eaten during the war as a last resort since they were considered honored companions, as they are today.

    Before you eat a dog, make sure it is not someones companion and then insist on viewing the actual killing. If you can still stomach it, then good luck.

  • Jabe

    Had a chicken’s ovary in a Tokyo yakitori. Definitely an acquired taste.

  • lynie

    I was once tricked and ate adobo mountain rats in Iloilo, Philippines who would think that it taste like chicken, but i guess never if I knew it before!

  • Allan

    Dog meat is a delicacy in the Northern parts of the Philippines, and not only in the Cordilleras. Birthdays in the province is not complete without dog meat and bottles of Ginebra San Miguel Gin. hahaha

    The Philippines also has “Betamax”. Skewered and barbecued pig-blood.

    In the Philippines, as long as it’s not poisonous and that its cooked, is fair game.

  • http://www.chinatours.com China Travel Deals

    Interesting post!
    Some of the Asian delicacies sound or look weird or even disgusting.
    Indeed, they may be quite nutritious and taste delicious.
    My favorite Chinese delicacies include boiled duck neck with spices, Chau taufu (literally means fermented bean curd), Beijing Roast Duck, salted duck egg, barbecued beef, etc.
    Thanks for sharing the information!

  • rom

    does anybody tried cow’s eyeball? haha! its yummy in spicy noodles soup!

  • Irene Joy R. Wuest

    I have eaten frog meat, rat meat, dog meat, grass hopper and mole cricket. I have eaten fish eyes, fish brain, pork blood, chicken blood, chicken brain, chicken feet, chicken intestines and goat testicles. All of the above were cooked of course. Oh, I also love to eat pinapaitan- a soup made of a cow’s internal organs and intestines added with bile to enhance taste, but my favorite is balut. I grew up in the Philippines but not all people from my country is as adventurous as I am when it comes to food, my mother for one cringes just by the sight of a bowl containing a cooked python meat.

  • Kat

    Curried Rabbit,
    Alligator,
    Seal with tomatoes

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  • http://www.farawayeyes.org darmabum

    How all the posts above reactivated my culinary memory . . . skewered and cooked over a small wood fire – chicken hearts in Peru . . . Delicious! . . . The night before flying to Lhasa in ’85, dinner in Chengdu, on the menu, in English, “Dog in Brown Sauce” . . . then, in Lhasa, at my favorite restaurant, a severed yak head beneath the cooks table . . . was there for my entire stay (well preserved in the constant freezing February temperatures); and most likely, in many of the dishes I ate there . . .

  • Ann

    You forgot the Rabbit Satay in Indonesia. It was delicious though. And then, there’s also Sek Ba: A soup of a pig’s guts, lungs, meat, blood, pickled vegetable, and tofu with spices. It also tastes incredibly good with rice, actually.
    An Indonesians eat Dog’s meat too. The seasoning is just different.

  • Bo

    Oh, don’t forget donkey penis in China – good for man, god for woman (http://www.globespots.com/places.php?category=Exotic%20food).

  • Bo

    Oh, don’t forget donkey penis in China – good for man, god for woman
    http://www.globespots.com/places.php?category=Exotic%20food(correct link)

  • Bo

    Oh, don’t forget donkey penis in China – good for man, god for woman.So sorry for posting this 3 times, but the link got screwed up every time.
    http://www.globespots.com/places.php?category=Exotic%20food

  • Waterstarbanks

    monkey head is especially good in some parts in China. it is absolutely delicious. It is mostly served stir-fry or stew

  • Erneilaguerder

    like it gross nasty and disgusting]

  • http://i2harmony.info/ I2-Harmony

    Don’t forget to eat fried grasshopper or fried mantis on Bantul, 20 kilometer from Malioboro, Jogjakarta, Indonesia.

  • Mpartrid

    It wasn’t that long ago that humans everywhere ate every last bit of anything they could get their hands on.  Ask anyone raised on a farm.  Sadly we have been so far removed from our food source that we find these exotic.  I met a young kid here in the US not recoginzing a drumstick as chicken because all he ever had was Chicken McNuggets.  Sad in deed. 

    • Batmancat870

      it’s also sad you can’t spell indeed. 

  • Amee

    it’s not only Chinese who eat dog meat. Some people in some part of Sumatra and Sulawesi (Indonesia) also eat dog meat. and cat. and bat. and lizard. 
    you don’t want to know the rest.. 
    (but if you do, come to Tomohon Market in Manado, North Sulawesi)and just for the note, if you have seafood allergic, especially prawn and shrimp, I wouldn’t recommended you to try fried grasshopper. 

  • Usmcfru

    China follows the Vietnamese tradition of roasting Dog Meat.This article seems to pin a lot of exotic meals onto China’s traditions. Some have began in other countries. Though it may be good to spread word of these meals, it’s also partially offensive to dis include the origins of the meals.

  • Bgfjersey

    our family always butchered our own chickens for use in soups. Usually an older fat hen that had slowed up her egg laying was put to the purpose. When we dressed them the heart, liver, gizzerd and egg producing organs were saved as yum yums. The egg producing organs were washed, turned inside out and washed again, then soaked in weak salt water for a couple hours. After this they were dredged in seasoned flour and fried in butter till lightly crisp. In the spring they were served with mushrooms from the woods.

  • Justfeelwhatifeel Vivianestalane

    :))

  • Faine Greenwood

    Suggesting eating bats, dogs, and turtles is grossly irresponsible, considering the serious problems with disease (hello, rabies!) and conservation consuming such species represents. You are not “cool” or “badass” if you eat these foods — you are irresponsible and directly contributing to cruel, non-sustainable trade. And may very well pick up a nasty disease while you’re at it.

    • Kjersten Kruzemissile

      But the foreigner in Asia thinks it’s de rigeur to try these things, as they’re “exotic,” while the traditionally raised Chinese person (and the occasional Indonesian) is born into a culture of “try everything with four legs but the kitchen table.” (Sorry to generalize; there are an increasing number of Chinese animal rights activists and politicians working to get meats like dog and turtle out of restaurants!) So it seems to be a problem of two very different cultures coming into “Asian” cuisines with very different end-goals. :/

    • Kjersten Kruzemissile

      But the foreigner in Asia thinks it’s de rigeur to try these things, as they’re “exotic,” while the traditionally raised Chinese person (and the occasional Indonesian) is born into a culture of “try everything with four legs but the kitchen table.” (Sorry to generalize; there are an increasing number of Chinese animal rights activists and politicians working to get meats like dog and turtle out of restaurants!) So it seems to be a problem of two very different cultures coming into “Asian” cuisines with very different end-goals. :/

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