When we think of Asia, our minds conjure images of beautiful landmarks, a different way of life, and perhaps some things that make us cringe (Rice paddy frogs, anyone?) Let’s explore the phenomenon of foods that people eat in countries throughout Asia.
I’m sure you already know about the most typical and popular Asian food — Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese and so on. And there’s no way you can come to Asia and not try them. But if you are brave enough to try something new, here are some of the weirdest foods from Asia that you should definitively try:
Steamed Cow Penis
Place of Origin: China
In China, you can find steamed cow penis on the menu at many restaurants across the country. It has a strong taste, which means that it takes some getting used to before you can enjoy it fully! However, it does have lots of protein – so if you don’t like it for its taste alone, then perhaps consider eating it for its health benefits instead!
Place of Origin: China
Snake wine is a traditional Chinese medicine that involves extracting the venom from a snake in the process of making alcohol. The venom is usually taken from the gallbladder of a live snake and then mixed with rice wine or grain alcohol.
It’s been said that snake wine can cure everything from cancer to arthritis, but there’s no scientific evidence to back up these claims. In fact, it’s illegal in China to sell snake wine because it’s thought to be dangerous and potentially fatal if consumed on its own.
Snake wine is becoming increasingly popular outside of Asia as well; some restaurants serve it as an exotic drink for tourists who are willing to pay big bucks for it.
Place of Origin: Korea
Sannakji is a traditional Korean dish that consists of live octopus tentacles served in a small glass. The octopus is usually less than two inches long and the chef will usually serve it while it’s still alive. The tentacles are cut up into bite-sized pieces and served with some sesame oil, sesame seeds and salt.
Sannakji is traditionally eaten by sucking on the octopus’ head and eating its body as it wriggles around in your mouth. If you don’t like the idea of eating something that’s still moving, you can also try using chopsticks to eat the tentacles one by one.
It is typically served at banquets or special occasions as an appetizer or side dish.
Fruit Bat Soup
Place of Origin: Micronesia
Fruit bat soup is one of the most bizarre foods in Asia. It’s made from bats that are smoked, then boiled and served with a hot pepper sauce. The dish originated in Micronesia, but it’s also popular in other South Pacific islands such as Fiji and Tonga. The taste of fruit bat soup varies according to the species of bat used and the spices added. The meat can be tough, but many people enjoy it anyway because it’s considered a delicacy.
Fruit Bat Soup is a popular dish, but not many people there have actually tried it themselves. The bats are too expensive and difficult to catch, so they’re usually reserved for special occasions and given as gifts to guests.
Jellied Moose Nose
Place of Origin: Mongolia
In the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia, you can find a strange delicacy called jellied moose nose. The dish is made by using the noses of male moose, which are boiled and cut into strips. They are then simmered in a mixture of herbs, spices, and vegetables for several hours to create a gelatinous texture.
This dish is traditionally consumed by Mongols during the winter months when fresh meat was scarce due to the harsh conditions. It’s now considered a delicacy that’s served in upscale restaurants throughout China.
Place of Origin: Philippines
Balut is a fertilized duck egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside, boiled and eaten in the shell, that’s a popular street food in Asia. Balut are usually found in the Philippines and Thailand, where they’re sold at night markets. The duck embryo is often compared to a gummy bear, because of its rubbery texture and sweet flavor.
Balut has been consumed for centuries in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. It’s considered an aphrodisiac in some cultures, but it’s not known whether this is fact or fiction.
Place of Origin: Vietnam
The practice of eating dog meat has been documented in China as early as 4,000 years ago. Dog meat is consumed in a number of Asian countries, including Korea, Vietnam and China, but it is especially popular in South Korea and Vietnam.
It typically comes from stray dogs or stolen pets. The dogs are usually beaten to death before being cooked or boiled in large pots. In some cases, the people who sell the meat may have trained the dogs to be aggressive so that they can make more money selling their flesh.
There are some farmers who raise dogs specifically for human consumption; these animals are often kept on small farms where they have little space or proper care.
Bird’s Nest Soup
Place of Origin: China
Bird’s Nest Soup is a Chinese delicacy that is made from the nests of swiftlet birds. These birds make their nests out of their saliva, which they use to hold onto the sides of cave walls. The nests are harvested and then dried into a hard, shiny black material. The nests are an acquired taste and have a gelatinous texture. They are often served in a clear broth with vegetables and meatballs.
Place of Origin: Cambodia
The locals in Cambodia love fried tarantulas. They are considered a delicacy, and can cost up to $130 for just one serving. The spiders are first cooked in oil and then fried again in a mixture of spices and chilli powder. This dish is served with rice and vegetables, but it’s the crunchy legs that people look forward to most!
Place of Origin: Korea
Silkworms are the larval stage of the silk moth (Bombyx mori). They are bred to feed on mulberry leaves, and after they’ve eaten their fill, they pupate in their cocoons. The Korean dish silkworm pupae is made by steaming the pupae with garlic and soy sauce. The texture is crunchy, like popcorn, and the taste is comparable to a roasted chestnut.
Hopefully, this list of peculiar food list has provided you with some knowledge and a few laughs as well. But I think the lesson here isn’t just one of strange foods—it’s also one that applies to many other aspects of life. When you venture outside your comfort zone and actually try new things, who knows what you might discover along the way?
Tastes are subjective, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try new things! Open yourself up to new experiences and expand your palate!
Bea is a copywriter specializing in adept research and creating all kinds of content. She’s all about getting creative, developing relationships, and contributing to making businesses succeed through her writing.
When she’s not writing (professionally), you can see her binge-watching RuPaul’s Drag Race or writing film reviews on Letterboxd.