I was never the sort of kid to put cockroaches, snails, soil or even ants in my mouth in a fit of curiosity. My parents did not have to be on constant vigil to stop me from eating chalk, or licking at toothpaste, and yet people say I have a weird taste in food items. Let me put it this way: I am an adventurous foodie, and will not shy away from eating most stuff unless it’s raw or, well, just plain icky. And to this end, I went to Thailand and Cambodia, seemingly on a fun and heritage trip, but actually on a mad food adventure. We had already decided to consume at least one adventurous meal a day, but as it turned out we tried out some of the weirdest items on the menu throughout the trip and lived to tell the tale.
Go on, read ahead and decide, if you would like to taste any of these on your trip to Thailand and Cambodia as soon as travel restores:
Blood Sausage: The mere mention of blood sausage would have sent me into a tizzy before I visited Cambodia, but now I am pretty okay with it all. I had a blood sausage broth one night in Bangkok, and although I couldn’t bring myself to bite into the curdled blood, mixed with spices and cut into pieces, the broth was pretty tasty. Maybe a 3 or a 4 on a scale of 1-10.
Alligator: Tasted like lamb, and unless someone told me I would not have been able to identify the meat as that of a swamp dweller. It tasted clean and fresh, and since it was barbecued it was pretty juicy as well. This is something I would love to try again. A 5 on the scale.
Snails: A plateful of steaming hot snails can really hit the spot on a rainy evening in Siem Reap. Tossed with a few vegetables and some spices, this dish was a big hit among locals as far as we could see, and so we decided to order one. It was pretty good; you have to dislodge the snail from the shell with a toothpick and then suck on it to get to all the juices inside. Ummmm, yummy! Wasn’t much weird, though, a 6 on the scale.
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Crickets: If you have ever had prawns, then you can close your eyes and pop in a few crickets, and you won’t be able to tell the difference. Crickets are available all over Phuket in Thailand and Siem Reap in Cambodia, and I have seen locals and tourists alike walking around with a bag full of them. Needless to say, it’s a popular snack. Let’s say, a 5 or 6 on the scale.
Chicken Feet: We wanted to try something different (read weird) in Phuket, but we neither had the time to sit in the restaurant nor the inclination to spend time searching for someplace in town far away. We found a ramshackle stall near the beach, and the only thing the guy there sold was deep fried chicken feet doused with sweet chilli gravy of some sort. We bought one, and glad we bought just one. Chicken feet smell as if a dead chicken is still attached to them, there are some tendons to be chewed off, and there isn’t any chance that it will fill your belly. An 8 on the scale.
Frog: Now here’s something I didn’t think I would say; it tastes like chicken! It’s true; frog does taste like chicken, although it has a strong fishy taste. We had ordered grilled frog, and they came skinned and browned on both sides, and looking a lot like bodybuilders. Contrary to popular belief, you can have the entire frog and not just the legs. If you can get past the thought of having put a frog in your mouth, then you might even enjoy it. An 8 on the scale.
Pig Ears: Yummmmm, the crunchy goodness of a cartilage can only be appreciated by true lovers of non-vegetarian delicacies. In Thailand I realized that almost all of the pig can be used to give sustenance to humans, and the Thai people are sure to not leave even one part behind. The shallow fried pig ears were crisp like potato chips, and were slathered with a typical sweet and savoury Thai sauce.
Snake: We had a deep fried grass snake in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It was skinned and gutted, and wrapped around a water soaked bamboo skewer, and then deep fried. To be honest, snake didn’t taste much like anything. It was dry, bony, brittle and absolutely non-tasty. But maybe that was just the type of the snake. Maybe a bigger snake would be more flavourful, juicier even. A 9 on the scale.
Tarantula: Definitely a 10 on the scale! The legs were crunchy like deep fried shrimps, but the stomach part was just too gooey and tasteless to warrant a retry. In fact, I couldn’t even finish it. There was just something about its many dead eyes staring at me, while I snacked on its hind legs.
Tasting different foods when on a trip to a new place is a part of travelling, of getting to know a destination, and feeling one with the place; so don’t hesitate from trying a few things if the opportunity arises.