The horse meat scandal has angered and appalled in equal measure. Just be grateful it wasn’t something more sinister that was being surreptitiously shoved into your shepherd’s pie. As these curious culinary creations prove, international cuisine can be pretty darn gruesome at times.
Think twice before you order a boiled egg for breakfast in Cambodia. Baalut are fertilised duck eggs that have been incubated until the embryo is part-formed. It is then boiled alive; feathers, beak and all. That crunch? That’s the sound of human jaws chomping through tiny duck bones. Sure to ruffle a few feathers.
Dog meat (Korea)
Before the world went crazy for Gangnam Style, Korean culture was perhaps most infamous for its love of dog meat. In truth, dog meat is far less ubiquitous than most people think. It’s certainly not as widespread as beef and chicken. Yet there are indeed certain breeds of dog that are raised in Korea specifically for cuisine. Dog meat is usually served roasted or prepared in soups.
Baby mice wine (China)
Traditional medicines of the Far East are revered across the world. Presumably not for this Chinese and Korean health tonic. This thirst-ruining concoction is made by stuffing a baby mouse (while it’s still alive) into a bottle of rice wine and leaving it to ferment. We’re unsure of the specific ailment this is designed to remedy. Presumably not appetite problems.
What are your favourite pub snacks? Peanuts? A reliable packet of ready salted? In Korea they reach for jokbal: pig’s feet served with fermented shrimp sauce. The gelatins in the meat are said to be good for the skin, while the amino acid methionine is known to detoxify the alcohol and help to prevent hangovers.
Duck’s heads (China)
Shanghai’s answer to jokbal (above) is to dish up duck’s heads for locals to nibble on while they imbibe their choice of liquor. And yes, the brains are included. Bizarrely, they’re reported to boost the mental faculties of all who eat them.
Even if you are brave enough to tackle the pub snacks, when alcohol’s concerned a hangover is all but a grim inevitability. Korean cuisine fights back with haejangguk (roughly translated as ‘soup to chase a hangover’). This alleged cure is a spicy soup made with pork spine and coagulated ox blood with vegetables in a beef broth. You would be forgiven for taking your chances with the hangover.
Gomguk is a soup made from various ox bones (leg, tail, rib and skull). The bones and cartilage are boiled in water to extract fat, marrow and gelatin to create a rich, gloopy soup (intestines are sometimes used too). It is then seasoned with salt and served.
Fugu is considered a delicacy in Japan. Surprising considering this fish contains a toxin that is 1,000 times stronger than cyanide. The toxin paralyses the muscles and nervous system while its victims remain conscious. One fish has enough of the stuff to kill 30 people. Only specially trained and licensed chefs are permitted to prepare fugu. Seems fair given that once you’ve ordered your life is in their hands.
Canadian seal penis (China)
How can we put this delicately? Guo-li-zhuang is a speciality restaurant in China whose menu is made up of a menagerie of ‘members’ from the animal kingdom. If you’re feeling flush go for the Canadian seal penis. It costs the equivalent of around £220 and pre-ordering is essential.
Wild honeybees (China)
If you really want to stun the taste buds, head for Shanghai. Wild honeybees are regularly deep fried with salt and pepper and dished up as a snack. You can also order wasp larvae served with rice. It looks uncannily like a plate of maggots.
Monkey brains (China)
Yes, you read that correctly. Monkeys are a key part of the diet of the native Indians of the Amazonas. And the brains do not go to waste. Even more gruesome is the fact that they are generally eaten right out of the skull. Gives you the chills, doesn’t it?
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