Sushi and American style Asian cuisine remain a popular choice for diners in the United States. Who can resist a delicious marina plate, shrimp tempura, or General Tso’s chicken? But these familiar dishes are hardly the go-to meals for the population actually living in the continent of Asia.
The exotic foods in the east are still relatively unknown to western foodies. Try a few of the exotic foods below, and you’ll be well on your way to gaining an appreciation for true eastern cuisine.
A-ping (Fried Tarantula)
No softballs to start our list off, as Cambodians began eating these eight-legged delicacies during a food shortage in Skuon. There is no longer a shortage but the tarantula has remained a main staple in the region’s cuisine. Tourists come from all over to get their hands on the little critters and describe the texture of a-ping as crunchy with a gooey center. If you can get past the frightening appearance tarantula is said to be quite a tasty appetizer.
Sannakji (Live Octopus)
While we’d like to include a picture of this Korean dish, we can’t get the food to stay still. That’s because sannakji is live octopus chopped up into pieces and immediately served up with a light sesame seasoning. The taste is quite pleasing to most western palates if you can get past your meal fighting you all the way down.
Basashi (Raw Horse Meat)
Dressage and polo enthusiasts need not read on as the english description says it all. This Japanese dish proves that more than just tuna can be served up sashimi-style with a side of rice or vegetables. If you need to Americanize the dish, some enjoy basashi with a side of ranch dressing.
Bird’s Nest Soup
This expensive Chinese soup is fairly well known, and one you’ll have to try if taking a trip to the exotic country. Be prepared to spend a little money or split the cost among friends as Bird’s Nest Soup will set you back as much as $100 a bowl.
Why so much? The soup is made from the nest of a cave-dwelling swiftlet bird that is becoming increasingly more difficult and expensive to find. The main ingredient in the nest is none other than the saliva of the swiftlet that is paired with chicken broth and served up hot.
Shirako (Fish Sperm)
Yes, you read that right, and we are not kidding when we say this is an actual Japanese dish you have to try. Shirako is essentially the male genitalia of fish that still includes all the fluids one might find in such places. Routinely found in sushi bars and pubs, shirako is said to be best enjoyed with a strong alcoholic beverage nearby. It will certainly step up your drinking games at your next party
White Ant Eggs
Are you looking for a snack to take you back to your childhood? Look no further than white ant eggs from Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Prepared in a soup and combined with partial embryos and baby ants, white ant eggs are said to “pop” in your mouth releasing a sour flavor. If you are brave and have enjoyed Pop Rocks or Sour Gushers in your youth, you may have found the soup to satisfy your taste buds.
Baluts (Bird Embryo)
Balut will initially look like a hard-boiled egg, but the Filipino delicacy has a surprise waiting inside. The egg is half-fertilized and there is an embryo inside that will startle you if not expecting it. Commonly made from duck or chicken eggs, baluts are found almost everywhere in the Philippines and are generally enjoyed with a beer. If you can get over the guilt of eating a little guy that was never given a chance, you’ll likely enjoy the taste of balut.
The author, Brian Levesque, is an exotic dining enthusiast who seeks to broaden his readers’ culinary horizons and encourage western palates to enjoy such unusual dishes as can be found in Asian cuisine, or such restaurants as Bento Café.