Friday, September 10, 2010

Variety Friday: A question, a contest, and 2 weeks of "weird"


Next week, I'm kicking off "two weeks of weird", though it may be more accurate to call it "two weeks of the curious". Part of the problem with having lived in Japan so long is that I don't have the same perspective that I once did about "strange snacks". I still know what is disgusting looking to me (dried squid and octopus come to mind), but there are likely other less odd things which seem strange to people who have never spent time in Japan.

I have selected foods which I think might be odd snacks in presentation or composition (or both) to those who grew up in Western cultures, but I really can't write for or with the experiences of other people in mind. My notion of "weird" is highly subjective and some (or many) readers might be rolling their eyes and saying that my notion of strangeness is far too mundane and that they are yawning their way through the reviews. To that end, dear readers, I'm going to give you a chance to tell me what you think is a strange food and offer you a chance to win a silly little prize for your efforts.

The question I ask my readers, and please leave your answer as a comment on this particular post (one post per customer, please), is this:

What is the weirdest food you have ever eaten and/or seen?

Please feel free to offer more than a simple answer (though a simple one is fine) like saying why you think it is strange, what you thought of the food if you sampled it, and if you only saw it, would you eat it if you could. If you can find a picture of what you have eaten or seen, please link to it.

Anyone who leaves a comment answering this question is eligible to win an Oyasu Ramen pack with toy prize inside as reviewed yesterday. This prize was chosen mainly because it won't be damaged, melted, or destroyed during shipping in the lingering oppressive heat of this current Japanese summer as well as because it is cute and kind of neat. Sending any sort of candy at this time of year is pretty much asking for trouble, trust me. Any reader is eligible to win, though please note that I have had problems sending things to Africa and South America before. I can promise I'll send the package to any winner, but can't promise that it'll get there if you are in a place with an unreliable mail system.

The winner will be selected by a random number generator based on order of comments as listed on this post. Any comments answering this question which are left on posts other than this one will not be eligible for the prize, though any answers you give will be appreciated for their interest value.

I'm going to run the contest for two weeks, so you'll have to tolerate reminders that it exists for the duration of the run. The response to this contest will let me know if it is worthwhile to run more contests in the future, so, if you're shy, and would like to see more contests, please try and come out of the lurkdom and leave a comment. Thanks, and I look forward to your answers.

33 comments:

Melanie said...

Well, I think that the weirdest food I have eaten is... probably a tie between alligator and crocodile. Both were in deep-fried nugget form. I had the alligator in Texas, and the crocodile in Okinawa. They were very similar, and really nothing special. Mostly flavorless, a bit chewy, a bit fatty, and tasted vaguely musty. Oh, and, as far as I know, the meat came from the tail of the creature in question, in both instances.
Good heavens, I overuse commas.

Elfod Nemeth said...

Probably spaghetti with squid ink sauce - the sauce was black. Oddly I can't recall what it tasted like but I don't remember it being unpleasant.

inmediasres said...

The strangest thing I've eaten was in Thailand some years ago; and from what i understand, it is a common type of 'street food' there. It was fried grasshopper or cricket (I can't remember which it was). Although it was very crunchy and tasted like a cross between crispy pork skin and a kind of dried meat floss, the aftertaste is very oily. In all fairness, it is likely that the aftertaste was due to the oil the vendor used in the cooking. It is not an experience I would like to repeat.

Sophie said...

The strangest thing I've ever seen was a drink on a food travel programme. The presenter was in an Asian country (I can't remember which I'm afraid) and they made him a local speciality. It was a drink composed of fruit, fish roe, an egg and the liquid out of a bull's eye blended together (there were other ingredients too I believe, but these particuar ones stand out for obvious reasons). The finished drink just looked like a fruit smoothie, but he was reticent to try it after having just seen some of the other components. Somehow, if I had the chance, I don't think I'd try this

LeMoutonRouge said...

The weirdest thing I have ever eaten... Probably cow breast when I was in Bolivia. It is a standart part of their barbecues, yet I have never met anyone who actually likes it. As for me, well, I loved it, actually. People thought I was insane because I always asked for it!:D

Marvo said...

I've eaten a lot of foods in my lifetime and I'm sure I've eaten some strange things, but the only thing I can remember is a drink I've had recently that's partially made from the aloe vera plant and has actual chunks of aloe vera floating inside it. It's quite unpleasant.

Figurkowo.com said...

In Japan I drank hot picled plum soda, which was salty and sweet with strong picled aftertaste. It was sooo awful and different from my ordinary taste - I don't want to try it again - never!

Next strange (also in Japan) thing was sweets with sweet bean paste and green tea, but to the contrary - I fall in love in :).

Freegle Katy said...

I was in Japan last year and genuinely loved pretty much everything I tried, and was keen to sample new things. However, there was just one thing that was weird in a "why on earth..." way. I had a mixed yakitori platter in a restaurant, and one of the skewers had pieces of chicken cartilage on it. It had practically no flavour, and a very strange texture - kind of crunchy, but the pieces never broke down into a paste like most crunchy foods, it just went into smaller and smaller pieces in my mouth. It was so odd that I wondered if I was actually eating some kind of garnish that was not meant for consumption! I think it was the only food that I left on my plate that whole trip.

Thanks for a great blog, I only wish I had discovered it before my trip! I found it when I returned and was looking up crazy Kit Kat flavours.

Kelly said...

My college dining courts serve shark sometimes and that's about as weird as it gets. It's kinda like eating a sponge... kinda solid for a fish but still having that fishy flakyness. Interesting.

Anyway I wanted to say that I've been lurking here for about a year and that I absolutely love your blog. :D

Bean said...

The strangest thing I've eaten is chocolate coated Spam. My sister had talked for years about how good that sounded so for New Years one year I pan fried small cubes of Spam, dipped them in dark and milk chocolate. It was actually good! Salty and sweet and the spam was kind of crispy. Later in the evening we got silly and made more spam, dipped it in chocolate and rolled it in crushed potato chips. My brother-in-law then dipped them in ranch dressing. I wasn't brave enough to try it in ranch.

~C said...

I lived in Minnesota for ten years, so I have a great appreciation for food on sticks; they've made it into an art form, and nothing beats the joy and convenience of walking around the state fair munching on a pickle/deep fried candy bar/etc on a stick.

But I gotta say, I don't think I would want to try starfish on a stick, as seen here (not my blog):

http://www.travelpod.com/travel-photo/vagabonderz/thebighoneymoon/1194336600/starfish-on-a-stick.jpg/tpod.html

Azzahar said...

The strangest thing I've seen live was black pasta colored with squid ink - personally I think it's disgusting. I also saw on TV one a deep-fired pan-coated cheesecake on a stick, which left me horrified for weeks. As about think I've eaten, those were many, but my friends say the weirdest were strawberries dipped in salty, spicy ketchup. Those were good, though.

Jan said...

Some of the weird foods I've eaten are fried crickets and worms in Thailand, raw horse meat (basashi) in Japan, sea cucumber and frogs' legs.

The weirdest food I've seen is balut. I don't know if I can eat it! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balut_%28egg%29

Erin said...

The weirdest thing I've probably eaten was yukhoe (raw ground beef mixed with raw eggs and veggies) at a Korean restaurant in Japan. It was my first night in Japan, and my first (and last) time ever eating raw beef. I was pretty disgusted, but I tried a little anyway. It was super slimy and unpleasant. Definitely won't eat that one again.

P.S. I love squid and octopus!!

Julia Eff said...

I don't think I've ever eaten anything too out of the ordinary, which is either a sign of my naivete or I'm just lame.

Most people look at me like I'm crazy for even eating vegetables.

trepto said...

I've eaten a few things I think are pretty weird, but I'm not sure what would come across as the weirdest to this crowd. ^_^

- A boyfriend's mother once served us pigs' feet in aspic slathered in red horseradish. It was decently tasty.

- Pancit and spaghetti sauce mixed together make a great sandwich.

- While in Scotland, I discovered a love for haggis. Not fan of black or white pudding, though I've tried both.

Minna said...

Coming out of lurkdom :) I think the weirdest thing I've ever eaten was escargot. I was about eleven at the time and I remember not actually realizing i was eating snail until after i already ate it and someone finally told me. It was super slimy and garlicky. It's strange to think something i find so gross might actually be someone's favorite food.

Ikkin-bot said...

While in Greece I had Pastirma (which we sought out specifically). This is an old way of preparing meat that makes it into a highly seasoned lunch meat and was commonly done during the Ottoman period in Greece and other areas under Ottoman control.

It is prepared by salting the meat, then washing it with water and letting it dry for 10-15 days. The blood and salt is then squeezed out and it is covered with a cumin paste (prepared with crushed cumin, fenugreek, garlic, and hot paprika) followed by thorough air-drying.

The result is delicious bright pink/fuchsia sliced lunch meat. It is really quite delicious (though really really strong). I'm sad I can't seem to find it in Canada.

http://www.samkmar.com/images/kayseri-pastirma.jpg

dilysia said...

The weirdest food I have eaten... well I thin it's nothing special when I'm looking to the other comments but for me it was the weirdest. When I was little my parents made something looking like hamburger meat, and I wished it it to be. But for real they made the brain of a cow. I can't remember the taste of it but for me it was really disgusting...

Morgan D. said...

I can't make an assessment of what is "weird" because i love so many things and, like you said, there is a lot of cultural relativity involved.

However, the strangest dining experience i had was in St. Vincent in the West Indies. Some family friends were having a barbecue of sorts which involves butchering an entire goat and using the parts for several different dishes. I was chowing down on a bowl of roasted breadfruit and callaloo soup when i came across something hard and smooth. I spit out a goat tooth! It didn't deter me in the least, though. Everything was so delicious.

Thistle said...

Chocolate-covered ants. I didn't do it willingly or knowingly. When I was a kid, we were rarely permitted sweets, so when my father offered me a chocolate I was more than happy to eat it... only after the fact did he tell me what it was. UGH!

Asher said...

This certainly isn't strange to me, as we eat it at least once a year in my family--sometimes more--but everyone else I've ever spoken to who didn't grow up eating it is fairly appalled by the concept of lutefisk. As a kiddo, I wasn't on board, but as an adult, I think that, if you don't overcook it and make it rubbery, it's just fine. It's a fairly nice, mild flavor--but texturally peculiar.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutefisk

cordeliasbs said...

The weirdest thing I've eaten is fried crickets. Just crunchy with not a lot of taste. The weirdest (and probably most unhealthy) food I've seen was at the fair: deep fried bacon wrapped oreos. I feel my arteries clogging just typing it!

ashleylaurent said...

Looking at some of comments on this post, I would probably feel that many of the things that I normally eat are considered weird. Growing up in an Asian household produces far different tastes.....

A random list of things of weird foods I have eaten:
-Hundred year old eggs..(great with fresh tofu)
-Pickled Jellyfish (I could eat this every day)
-natto (yum yum!)
-Aloe vera products
-Wasabi and Salt ice creams
-Stewed cow's blood
-stir fried frogs
-sauteed snails
-tarantula on a stick (crispy and actually pretty good)
-various other types of fried and covered bugs
-crocodiles etc and other unusual game meats
-deep fried twinkie/mac and cheese/ snickers/heartattack on a stick

It is really interesting what different cultures consider weird foods and whatnot.

Helen said...

I don't really need to enter your contest, since I live here, but growing up with a Scottish mother and living around the world I have eaten some pretty peculiar things...
Haggis, blood sausage, escargot, boiled tongue, alligator and lutefisk. (That was at university...like eating stinky erasers-as another poster liked it, maybe made badly?) and prickly pear fruit.

Here in Japan I've eaten grilled tongue, horse sashimi, eel (unagi), sea urchin (do NOT like), lots of raw fish, nankotsu-both pork and chicken cartilage, and even chicken sashimi. That made me nervous, but it was prepared in a special restaurant.

Oh yes, my MIL tried to make me try whale once, but my husband stopped her.

Leslie said...

Man! I just typed a big ol comment on what I've eaten and when I had to leave the site to open a Google account it killed it. Oh well! So now I'll just make a short list: dried and choclate covered squid, seaweed salad, chitterlings, scrapple, fried rabbit, stewed goat, pickled eggs- beet and traditional pickle, scrapple, pickled and regular pigs feet.

Ikkin-bot said...

I have eaten many things regularly that many people would find strange, but I don't so I didn't list it. I'm from Wisconsin originally and regularly ea any variety of blood sausage I can get my hands on, liver, kidney, and heart (don't do brains or tongues).

invie said...

Not so wierd i guess, but cow brain soup. My mom prepared it when my sister had a bad headache and made me drink it too. (It is supposed to be a headache remedy) My sister had to eat the brain as well. The taste was pretty gross. A salty metallic iron taste like blood. It might have been the way she prepared it. Who knows. The thing is the experience so traumatized the two of us that more than a decade later when my mom tried to give us cow brain soup again (futilely obscured by some other flavors) we immediately recognized it after the first sip and refused to drink it. My mom tried to deny that it was cow brain soup but finally admitted it and laughed at our disgusted faces.

invie said...

Oh yeah, I'm Chinese so I'm used to and love cuttlefish, octopus and various 'strange' seafood. I also love tripe, chicken feet are good, etc. I have also eaten chocolate covered grasshoppers. Not bad. Mostly crunch and a taste of something fried in oil...Uh...i dunno I guess I have also consumed a lot of Japanese snack products too considering they sell them in Chinese grocery stores. In general a lot of the things ppl have listed here as weird, is normal to me because of how my parents raised me, but I am American.

MsMurder said...

When I lived in Louisiana I had the pleasure? of eating Nutria on a few occasions. Mostly roasted or in stew the Nutria rat is being pushed as a healthy source of protein to try and get people in the area to kill and eat them.

Is a rather odd meat, stringy and yet still oily, not nearly as tasty as the giant guinea pigs I have tried from South America

Jenn said...

I'm Asian and eat a lot of "weird" foods, but don't actually think they're all that weird. So I had to ask my (white) husband what is considered weird. Apparently balut, dried squid, canned wheat gluten and chicken cartilage is weird.

ScrapinSabrina said...

When I was a litte girl my step-mom cooked me eggs with pork brains. They tasted pretty good, I think she cooked the brains first then added them to the eggs. Kind of salty.

When I worked at a place that taught cooking classes, i dipped a strawberry into what I though was caramel fondu, nope beer cheese - not a good combo.

Perthlee said...

A few of you commented aout eating black squid ink spaghetti here.

Well, if you think that's weird, how about BLACK SQUID INK Japanese Curry Rice? I went into a Japanese curry rice house in Namba City (Osaka) just wanting to fill an empty stomach and find that the specialty of the shop was curry made with a black squid ink base.

Just how far can one push this black squid ink into making all sorts of edible food?!

I must say that this is got to be one of the most weird food I've ever come across to.