And by unusual, I mean unusual to me at the time they were first sampled. Today, I don’t find most of them unusual at all.
Well. Most of them.
10) Beef Tendon
This one was an usual one for me to wrap my head around at first. No meat. Just the tendon? I’ll have to admit, I wasn’t convinced the first time I tried it but, on subsequent outings, the dish has grown on me – at first as an accompaniment to beef, and now a favorite all on its own. Served with a side of white rice – delicious!
9) Snake Soup
I have always considered myself an adventurous eater, so when the opportunity presented itself to try some snake soup at the Hong Kong airport enroute to Tokyo, I thought “Why not?”. The verdict? I found it unremarkable. More notable, however, was the ensuing week of gastrointestinal distress that saw me shed 15 lbs, inadvertently allowing me to stumble upon what I would later coin The Snake Soup Diet!
Recommended? Hell, no!
I first tried alligator at a cajun restaurant in Montreal back in college days. I found it an uninspired dish that would be best described as as a cross between overcooked veal and frog.
7) Frog’s Legs
Less chewy than alligator, but more fishy-tasting.
Recommended? Also no.
The first time I tried fugu was on one of my first trips to Japan when I was served it, sashimi style, as a part of an omakase (chef’s choice menu) meal at a high-end restaurant in Tokyo. I was, admittedly leery. We all remember that episode of The Simpsons, right? The fish is deadly and can only be prepared and served by trained masters. A misstep could mean certain death for the diner. I have since learned that most fugu in Japan is now farmed and toxin-free – although some high-end restaurants still kick it old school. I suspect my experience was the latter. Although Akemi loves fugu, I found it neutral in flavor.
Recommended? Not really.
Sheep stomach stuffed with offal, oatmeal, onions and spices. What’s not to like? Well… I picked up a haggis out of curiosity back in Vancouver and looked up preparation methods. Most were incredibly unappealing, but I happened on one that involved roasting the haggis and serving it with a butter-whiskey sauce. When I mentioned this to actor Robert Carlyle, he briefly looked like he was going to throttle me – before politely and calmly informing me that boiling is the proper preparation.
4) Chicken Feet
It’s all skin and bone and, to be honest, cartilage. But the sauce really puts it over the top.
Recommended? Depending on the preparation, a cautious yes.
3) Lamb’s Brains
I came home from school one day to discover my visiting roasting up some lamb brains in the oven. Seasoned with oil, garlic, salt and black pepper, they smelled delicious. But had an off-putting coppery taste.
Recommend? Afraid not.
A.k.a. thymus gland. It has a bit of a brain-like appearance and, in that respect, is instantly off-putting – BUT is surprisingly delicious served bacon-wrapped, fried, or pan-roasted with garlic and thyme.
1) Century Eggs.
A terrific accompaniment to most any congee, but I find a little goes a long way. A deeper dive into their preparation methods has somewhat dampened my enthusiasm.
Recommended? Yes. Occasionally. In congee.
And one for good luck) Shirako
On my first trip to Tokyo, I enjoyed a soup at the Hyatt in Shinjuku that contained some unusual dumplings – slightly sweet and very creamy. When I asked the waitress about them, she informed me I was eating milt. I asked her for the English translation and she told me that milt was the English translation. It wasn’t until I got back to my hotel room that I was able to google it and learn milt is cod sperm. I’ve since been served it steamed (not recommended) and tempura’d (high recommended).