Young’s Strange Food Quest

Food is the most important thing in my life. Traveling is the second. And thus, food during my travels is basically the very reason of my existence. I always try to blend in by trying some local cuisine, a handful of which extremely bizarre. Here are some of them.

(Note: all local cuisine are purely local. They are processed as they have been for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. As a result, most of them I only get to eat for once in my life, despite locals sometimes eat them every week!)

Animals

Yak

I had two yak steaks in the Himalayas during my journey to Everest in 2012. They feel like chewy butter infused with a lot of butter. You can say at that altitude, the steaks are truly high. (I will show myself out)

Llama

I enjoyed a llama steak in the Peruvian city of Puno in 2013. It is one of the most important local cuisines, and tastes like lamb chops with thicker texture.

I had it again in a restaurant in Uyuni, Bolivia, in 2016.

Guinea Pig

In the same city of Puno, I also tried baked Guinea pigs. They are HUGE considering they are technically rodents, and the half I got was the size of a rabbit. Extremely bony, and almost 0 edible parts.

Whale

In an Icelandic restaurant in 2013, I tried a whale steak. The whale was washed ashore and declared dying. The humanitarian harvest of meat was conducted immediately after it was declared dead. It tastes like extremely chewy steak with ridiculously strong fishy smell. It was practically an overcooked beef steak with the scent of 300 salmon infused in it, despite it was medium raw!

I had whale again on board of my ship to Pyramiden in the absolute north of Spitzbergen. It was marinated this time, and barbequed to perfection, by which I mean barely edible, as other forms were NOT edible in my opinion. The chilli in the sauce slightly covered the fishy smell, and even though it was medium, I could barely cut through it with my plastic knife, let alone chewing on it.

Another time that I was served whales was during my Voyage South to Antarctica, when the Argentine local cooked up the asada version of the whale steak in an on-board parrilla grill, which was absolute insanity, given that we were thousands of miles away from the closest land, and this was the staple food on the ships in the Southern Ocean ever since the whaling days!

Horse

It is common tradition to eat horses in Nordic countries. I tried some ordered by my friend during our visit in Iceland in 2013. The meat tastes more like rabbit than lamb, but chewy parts are very, very hard to process.

Kangaroo

For my visit in Australia in 2009, I had some kangaroo jerky. Kangaroos are actually a problem since they overpopulate a huge area. It is almost the same as beef jerky, and I honestly won’t be able to tell the difference.

Sea Urchin

On my weekend in Tokyo, I tried the delicacy Uni-don. It is simply majestic. The creamy texture with the sea scent sent me straight to heaven and urchin hell.

Deer

I had some deer meat for a fondue when I stayed in Austria during my new year celebration in 2015/16. Smoother than lamb, better than beef.

Moose

Anna’s parents served me moose when I stayed with them for Christmas of 2015 in northern Sweden. It tastes like the thickest beef you can buy in the market, but has more of a taste of chicken.

Impala

In the town of Livingstone, Zambia, I was lucky enough to have an impala burger. The meat was absolutely delicious, and the burger was grilled to perfection, so suitable for the cold night. It feels mostly like a beef burger.

Crocodile

I had a crazy burger made from crocodile meat in Perth, Western Australia. The meat is a weird white or grey color and has a strange feel of ocean scent/ salty water taste. It was a bizarre experience.

Ostrich

I had an ostrich steak during my short stay in Johannesburg. It was AMAZING. The texture of the medium steak was smooth as beef. The juicy meat also has a taste of chicken. I cannot like it better and I could barely believe it is coming from a giant flightless bird!

Fruit Bat

In Seychelles, I had to try the only thing that is flying high in the sky. It felt more like a skinny chicken with functional wings than actually anything else. Too bony to even taste anything under the heavy Creole spices. [ADDENDUM: in 2020, this part, uh, aged like fine wine haha]

Snails

Mollusks are not considered meat during the typical Catholic fasting periods, so in France those meat-freaks conjured up hundreds of ways to eat the slow-moving rubber just to satiate their bloodlust. Needless to say I was a victim…

Reindeer

What is the typical meat for the Saami people in Lapland during the harsh winters? Yes, Santa Claus eats reindeer Rudolph during his breaks while checking the list twice. Smart up, kids! How else do you think he could feed all those elves?

Plants

Coca Leaves

I was served coca tea and chewed raw coca leaves during my highland journeys in Peru, and it was quite, uh, invigorating. In case you don’t know, cocaine comes from coca leaves. Also had it in the Bolivian highlands.

Barely Food

Kæstur hákarl

This is some next level food. A Greenland shark (poisonous when fresh), gone through fermentation by being buried underground for months, and hung in a cold room for 5 more months, and then cut up and served to you. I had this thing in 2013 in Iceland, and I will never be able to forget this. It is typically served during þorrablót as a part of þorramatur. One small piece of it takes the essence of 300 bottles of bleach and millions of fish. I felt like I was chewing on jello-like frozen ammonia. My stomach burnt well into the next day. Words are mere shadows of this 7th-dimensional atrocity.
refer to trip journal Iceland 2013.

Sustromming

Oh no. Why. Why. Why.
Raw Baltic herring is directly canned into this “food” in this Swedish delicacy, without any cleaning, any gutting, or any preservation methods. Basically, just a can of fish rotting in an enclosed space, what can possibly go wrong? When I visited the aptly-named Disgusting Food Museum with my Swedish bestie, Anna, I got to try that Satan-spawn thing that came straight from the gutters of hell. You have to open it with gloves and gas-masks, because the anaerobic fermentation increased the pressure inside the can drastically, which means this thing explodes upon the attempt to crack it open, with the foulest smell you can possibly imagine. And then: you eat it on bread, raw, without any help. This food has downed planes before, so be prepared before you click on this link of my journal to Sweden to view it.

Siete Raices

For something named Seven Times without Stop, it was actually not that bad. Instead of coming from an actual sensual discomfort, it is the image that it conjures up that makes me want to nope out of the room. This wine contains a lot of medicinal tree bark and the penile bone of a coati, something like a South American racoon. It is very, very thin and barely noticeable. The locals here at the Amazons of Peru believe it can be an aphrodisiac, which will make you “do it seven times without stopping”. Yeah, think about that poor girl…

Pig brain

Found in the local markets of Chengdu, China, this local delicacy is definitely not what I expected for Sichuanese food. If the brain does not freak you out, google “prion diseases” and savor the aftershock.

Piura

The most disgusting rock you may ever seen, is actually an even more disgusting food. This strange animal filters sea water to grow its coal-black, tangly and putrid outer shell, yet the Chileans along the northern coasts open them up like oysters and down them in whole. Let me remind you that the center is a blood-red color and has the world’s highest concentration of vanadium in the universe, hundreds of times higher than a nuclear bomb detonation site. And scientists have no idea why it needs so much vanadium!

Haggis

For me, another Chinese delicacy re-bottled in a European style. For many others: the reason why the second coming of Jesus would never happen. Scottish sheep stomach filled to the brink with its own heart, intestine, liver and barley, how bad can it possibly be?

Pig Nose

Another abomination from the depths of hell named China, namely, Chengdu. Who eats snouts of pigs which they use to dig up sweage you feed them with? Huh? HUH?

Fondue

Honestly, this is not that unedible compared to many other foods on this list. But the very concept of this Swiss tradition baffles me to no end. Different kinds of cheese, some smelling putrid like my roommate’s socks that could practically stand up, are blended with white wine in order to create a pot of gooey, white, sour-smelling substance. For some strange reasons, garlic slices were thrown in as well. You dip bread, mushrooms, or PINEAPPLE, into the semi-liquid abomination, and stir it constantly. This is not only a strange food, but also a work-out: you need to keep putting things inside and stir the pot, otherwise the “grandma” would show up. Ah yes, that is the name of the burnt crust at the bottom. Do not ask me why, as sometimes we are not ready for this kind of Lovecraftian horror hidden in the Swiss culture. Find this iteration of waterboarding in my Switzerland journal of 2020.

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