There’s so much to love about Asian cuisine. Korean BBQ, fried rice, sushi, teriyaki chicken and dumplings… I could eat Asian food every night of the week. But the inescapable fact is that there are also some bizarre foods in Asia that challenge even the most ardent of food lovers. Here are some weird Asian foods from across the continent.
Cambodians from Skuon began eating tarantulas during the years of food shortage under the Khmer Rogue. But even as starvation became less and less common, tarantulas remained a part of that region’s cuisine. Apparently, tarantulas are crispy on the outside with white meat in the head and body and taste vaguely like chicken or cod. As far as bizarre foods in Asia go, this is one I can barely even look at, dead or alive.
When I first read about drunken shrimp, I assumed the shrimp would be steamed in some delicious broth of wine and spices. But this Chinese dish isn’t on our list of weird Asian foods for nothing: the shrimp are indeed drunk, alive and swimming languidly through a pool of strong liquor. The eater is given the upper hand, as the alcohol slows down the movement of the shrimp. First, decapitate your victim, then pop the still wriggling body into your mouth.
Baluts are pretty much like hard-boiled eggs, except the eggs are actually half-fertilized. This means that in Baluts, where you would usually find yolk, you instead find the partially developed fetus of a duck or chicken. Filipinos believe them to be aphrodisiacs and often eat them as a snack to accompany their beer.
White ant eggs
As you walk through the streets of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, your senses will be greeted by a slew of some of the most bizarre foods in Asia. Insects are often piled high and fried, ready to be consumed as a quick snack. One of the weirdest is white ant eggs soup, a mixture of eggs, partial embryos and baby ants. People say the eggs pop in their mouths, releasing a sour flavor. Are you brave enough to try?
Japan produces a number of weird Asian foods, one of which is the local delicacy that consists entirely of tuna eyes. If you don’t mind looking your food in the eye, try this dish either raw or steamed. Some like to flavor it with a bit of garlic, others with soy sauce. Who knew that fish eyes could be so versatile?
Fish Sperm (Shirako)
Another strange Japanese dish makes our list of bizarre foods in Asia. This dish, called Shirako in Japanese, is simply the male genitalia of fish that still contains all the fluids. They’re served all over the place, from Japanese pubs to sushi bars, and are very popular with the locals.
Raw Horse Meat (Basashi)
Yet another of our weird Asian foods hails from Japan, and the name pretty much says it all. Horsemeat is sometimes served in sashimi slices alongside rice or vegetables, and some even eat it with ranch dressing!
Bee Larvae (Hachinoko)
Crunchy and full of protein, bee larvae are eaten often in Japan thanks to their texture and nutritional value. Perhaps this isn’t so surprising, since legend has it that the Japanese emperor Hirohito’s favorite food was fried wasps over rice with a dash of sugar and soy sauce.
Bird’s Nest Soup
Bird’s Nest Soup is one of the better-know bizarre foods in Asia. The soup is literally made out of the nest of the Swiftlet bird, a product that is becoming increasingly expensive and hard-to-find. What makes this dish one of our weird Asian foods is the fact that the Swiftlet makes its nest almost entirely out of its own saliva.
The century egg is our last bizarre food in Asia. Chinese chefs preserve the eggs of duck, quail or chicken in a clay mix for many months until the yolk turns black. This mixture is meant to add flavor to the egg white, which over time loses its color until it’s completely clear.
Every culture has its odd culinary dishes and delicacies, though these weird Asian foods are perhaps some of the most exotic in the world.
Have you ever tried one of these dishes? What are some of the most bizarre foods you’ve tried?