Weird food: Would you try crickets, scorpions, guinea pig…or dog?
I think of myself as adventurous when it comes to food. I’ll eat pretty much anything.
But when you start getting into Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern territory, my stomach starts churning.
I’ve gobbled down the delicious fattiness of pig cheeks, for instance. And when you really think about it, shrimp could be considered the insects of the sea.
Here are some of the foods I encountered on my travels — some of which I braved and others I chickened out on actually trying.
Known as cuy in Peru, these are a delicacy in the Andes. We visited villages where locals had tiny pens to keep in a few guinea pigs, awaiting a special occasion.
I figured I had to try cuy at least once. It was on the menu at a restaurant in Puno, a town on the shore of Lake Titicaca (go ahead and giggle).
When Cameron, one of my fellow travelers, ordered it, I sighed in relief.
“I’ll just try a bite of yours,” I said, and ordered the alapaca medallions for myself.
We were all horrified when the cuy came out. It sat upon its plate, flayed open, ribs visible, head still on, teeth bared, looking more like roadkill than dinner.
Once Cameron had dug in, I reached across the table and grabbed some with my fork. It stretched like a rubber band before it broke off with a snap. And a rubber band was exactly how it tasted.
“Why do they serve cuy like that?” I asked the waiter.
“That is how it is served everywhere,” he informed us. “The head is on to show that you are not eating cat. A lot of restaurants try to serve you cat, but not us.”
“That’s good,” I said, happy to return to my alpaca. Which was delicious, by the way.
Crickets and scorpions
I stayed with friends in Bangkok, Thailand, and at the end of their street was a small cart that sold crickets as well as pitch-black scorpions.
I was glad to see that the stingers had been removed from the scorpions. But as someone who has an irrational phobia of these creatures (all that power to kill in one small, creepy crawly package just gives me the shivers), you couldn’t even get me to consider trying one.
Every time we passed by, I said I’d try a cricket, though. And every time I wimped out. I just couldn’t see the appeal of noshing on a dried insect, and the inevitable crunch just wigged me out. Part of the fact was that my stomach was still adjusting to the intensely spicy Thai food, and I was afraid that forcing a cricket down wouldn’t help matters.
That being said, there were carts all over the country, and they were always busy. Hordes of passersby would buy a bag full of crickets or a skewer and would gobble them down like popcorn.
Before we traveled to Vietnam, I had read in the guidebooks that there’s a region up north that specializes in thit cho, or dog. Duke and I learned the phrase and made sure to avoid it.
We stayed in Hanoi and took a day trip to the Perfume Pagoda. On the way there, I had noticed a lot of the restaurants had signs out front proudly touting the specialty of the house: thit cho.
On the return trip, we stopped for dinner. They sat us in a room to the side of the restaurant, and served us family style, passing around big platters of entrées and sides. One of the dishes was indiscernible — the meat was like gamey, gristly beef.
“OK,” I announced to the table. “Here’s a dish of mystery meat. Everyone try it.”
It made the rounds, and after everyone had taken a bite or two, I dropped the bomb.
“This region specializes in serving dog. Did anyone else notice the two statues of German shepherds on the way in? I think we all just ate dog.”
Almost everyone grimaced, or protested the possibility, or mumbled a curse in my direction.
But the girl from Sweden piped up with, “That was good! Can you pass it back this way?”
As we left the restaurant, I asked our tour guide if we had eaten dog.
“No, no,” he said. “Pig.”
Well, I can assure you that was certainly not pork.
So we’re not certain we’ve eaten dog — we just have the sneaking suspicion we did.
What's the weirdest food you've seen on your travels? And did you try it? –Wally