Published on October 13, 2008
NEED TO DIET???
Pet‐loving vegetarians look away now. In several Andean countries – particularly Peru – the native guinea pig is kept in the home not as a pet, but as the plat du jour. You will often see the furry critters scurrying about the kitchen looking for scraps, only to be scooped up and deftly dispatched to the frying pan. The resulting dish tastes much like pork, unsurprisingly, and rather resembles a small pig squashed by a 10‐tonne lorry.
If your mouth doesn't water, your eyes certainly will. Deep‐fried bull, lamb, turkey and goat testicles are not only relished in parts of the US but even celebrated in testicle festivals with all‐you‐ can‐eat buffets. Likewise in Australia, ringers (sheep shearers) tuck into raw calves testicles nicknamed prairie oysters. Other places to chow down on animals’ genitalia, which are often touted as an aphrodisiac, include Mongolia (sheep penis), Tibet (yak penis), China (snake, dog and tiger’s genitalia) and Spain, where bulls’ testicles are a traditional delicacy.
A sure‐fire cure for arachnophobia or an express ticket to the hotel bathroom? Find out in north‐east Cambodia, where travelers are regularly offered platters of deep‐fried tarantula legs to chow down on. The town of Skuon is famous for this furry, eight‐ legged delicacy, which is crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside and seasoned with interesting spices. The townsfolk started eating tarantulas in the days of Khmer Rouge communist domination, when food was scarce.
Turn the tables on one of man's oldest predators and get your teeth into some tasty croc meat. Steaks and legs – sometimes still with scaly feet attached – are commonly eaten in Asia, Africa, Australia and increasingly in exotic restaurants the world over. The meat is remarkably low in cholesterol and has a relatively mild taste somewhere between chicken and fish.
It brings a whole new meaning to the term brain food. Wherever meat is scarce or expensive it makes sense to strip an animal of every edible organ: including the grey matter. That said, sheep heads are positively celebrated as haute cuisine in several cultures. You will find them smoked whole, complete with eyes and tongue, at a traditional Norwegian Christmas, cooked and skinned in the Mediterranean, barbequed in China and fried in Afghanistan.
They are crunchy on the outside, with a juicy centre and taste something like peanuts. In fact so tasty are they that even posh London shops such as Harrods and Fortnum & Mason have sold them coated in chocolate. What are we talking about? Hormigas culonas, literally translated as big‐bottomed ants, from north‐east Colombia. The winged invertebrates have all kinds of supposed medical benefits, from kick‐starting the libido to preventing cancer. Ants are also eaten in parts of Africa, Australia and Asia.
I'm a witchety grub, get me out of here! Caterpillars, worms and larvae are eaten the world over, not only in reality TV bush tucker trials. In Australia, the humble witchety grub is enjoying a renaissance, so much so that Prince Charles was given one to eat on a recent visit to Alice Springs (he refused). Likewise, you can pick up a can of silkworm grubs in Korea, eat bamboo worms in Thailand, hu‐hu larva in New Zealand, mopane caterpillars in Zimbabwe and Botswana, and let’s not forget the good ol’ Tequila worm in Central America.
In China there is a saying that people will eat anything with wings except a plane and anything with four legs except a table. So, in that spirit – scorpion kebab, anyone? These lethal little critters are usually deep‐fried in Chinese cooking to neutralize their poison; occasionally they are dipped in chocolate. In a traditional Beijing market, you will find them alongside starfish, silkworm, snake, seahorses, dog liver, lizard legs … even edible dung beetles.
Biblical pestilence or protein‐rich snack? They may look all shell and wiry legs but locusts and grasshoppers are a popular and surprisingly palatable treat in parts of the globe. So much so that Mexico has run campaigns encouraging its poor to eat them to improve their health and to benefit agriculture to boot. You can find even find jellies containing grasshopper in Central America and Asia.
Can humankind’s oldest foe really double as a gourmet foodstuff? Certainly, the rattlesnake is routinely hunted and eaten in the US Midwest. However, the true serpent connoisseur should head east where there is a roaring – or rather hissing – trade in reptile flesh. Vast quantities of Cantonese snake soup are slurped in Hong Kong’s autumn, thanks to its “warming” qualities. Across Asia, venomous vermin are steeped in liquor not only to warm the cockles of the heart but to increase the drink’s kick – not to mention its price tag.
A presentation for www.treehousedecor.com
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