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Asia is known for its variety of delectable and mouth-watering food. Amidst the sashimi, pho, dimsum and nasi lemak, there is also a special class of “unique” food you have to grow up with to appreciate. If you’re an avid traveller, you might believe in the saying, “when in Rome do, as the Romans do” and be garung enough to try some of the local delicacies.
While South East Asia has been taking the brunt of the ews and yucks, North Asia actually has a hefty amount of cringe-worthy food as well. We compiled some of the weirdest delicacies that will make your skin crawl and insides churn. Are you ready? Let’s go!
Foreigners who have tried it say that it tastes both fishy and nutty at the same time. South Koreans love this local delicacy and can gobble them down – multiple silkworms at a time – alongside a bottle of booze. Some tourists, however, called it a lukewarm concoction of spoilt food with a rancid scent you can smell from up to 10 meters away.
If you’re one of the rare few with a taste for this delicacy, they sell canned beondegi in Korean supermarkets too!
South Korea is home to the lovely KBBQ, and also to bug-dish beondegi, which is boiled or steamed silkworm pupa. Found mostly at street markets, the insect is seasoned lightly and then served in paper cups.
2) San-nakji (Live Octopus)
This list would be incomplete without this wriggly serving of live octopus tentacles. This Korean dish has recently gained huge popularity worldwide and contrary to its name, is not actually alive. The octopus is cut up right before serving, but the tentacles continue to squirm on the plate.
Be extra cautious while eating it, for the dead octopus might try to take you down with it. The live suction cups sometimes attaches itself onto the throat and causes choking!
3) Cheonggukjang (Fermented Soybean Paste)
Nicknamed “Dead Body Soup” for it’s horrid smell, this dish is made from fermented soybeans. It largely consists of whole soybeans, but has an overall, paste-like, slimy texture. Much like durian and blue cheese, it tastes delicious if you can overcome its pungent smell.
4) Chou Doufu (Stinky Tofu)
Continuing with the stinky food extravaganza, the next in line is none other than the smelly tofu, commonly found in Taiwan night markets. This Taiwanese special is made from fermented beancurd soaked in a complex mix of ingredients that include milk, meat and vegetables before being deep fried.
It may smell terrible, but the more pungent the smell, the better the taste. For adventurous foodies who are visiting Taiwan, just follow your nose to the most foul smelling food vendor.
5) Zhu Xue Gao (Pig Blood Cake)
If you hate the bloody taste you get when you accidentally bite your lip, you most definitely should stay away from this.
A street food delicacy and local favourite in Taiwan, this cake is made of sticky rice soaked in pigs blood and soy broth before being steamed until it has a chewy consistency. Before serving, it is covered with peanut flour and cilantro.
A similar dish is pig blood curd, which is served in soup or porridge.
6) Shirako (Fish Genitalia)
The direct translation of shirako is, disturbingly, “white children”. They aren’t exactly children but rather, the male genitalia of a fish, which probably doesn’t make it any less unsettling. The sperm sacs look like the human brain when put stacked together.
Shirako is steamed, boiled, fried, or served with sushi, and creates an explosion of sweet creaminess when you bite into it. Possibly a dish you can only enjoy if you don’t know where it came from.
7) Basashi Aisu (Raw Horse Meat Ice Cream)
Remember the time when Ikea accidentally sold horse meat and everyone freaked out? Well in Japan, people buy raw horse meat ice cream.
Basashi Ice Cream has the base of its ordinary vanilla counterpart with chunks of chewy meat incorporated into it. We are not horsing around. This is definitely not a treat for the faint-hearted.
Not freaked out yet? Try out basahi served sashimi-style in restaurants around Japan as well!
8) Spaghetti Popsicle
Pasta can be eaten hot or cold… or liquified and frozen.
Here is a dish to put your love for spaghetti to the test. A less crazy flavour than basahi, but not any less peculiar, the spaghetti popsicle is produced by Akagi Nyugyo, a company that creates some oddly flavoured ice cream including Ultraman and Cream Stew. Would you challenge your taste buds to this sweet and savoury ice cream?
9) Jibachi Senbe (Wasp Cracker)
Who even decided that catching and devouring this stinging insect was a good idea? Regardless, this snack caused a huge buzz on the internet.
Harvested in the villages of Japan, the wasps are boiled, dried and thrown into a cookie mix like you would chocolate chips, and then sold in local markets. The wasps themselves taste slightly bitter, and are actually really rich in protein. Workout snack anyone?
Starfish is a shellfish you probably never, in your wildest dreams, imagined eating.
Found along the streets of Qingdao in China where seafood is abundant, or Beijing city, the grilled starfish is something that looks unpalatable in appearance, but actually tastes a lot like crab or sea urchin. To get to the edible part of the shellfish, you have to break open its hard exterior and dig into the soft, greenish flesh.
Are these cringe-worthy or a new favourite? It’s your call! Do share with us if you’ve tried any of these before!
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