Bizarre Foods ~ Asia

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Andrew Zimmern is traveling through Asia for the most bizarre dishes of the Far East.  During his trip, he will visit Japan, Thailand and Malaysia.  Some of the most bizarre foods he samples along the way include: frog sashimi (plus the frog's beating heart), lizard sake, fugu, turtle, Kobe beef, bird's nest soup, frog ovary soup, spirulina, bat, Belacan, durian.

In Tokyo, Andrew heads for Memory Alley to try getemono or grotesque foods, and the best place to start is a getemono bar called the Asadachi Restaurant.  He's served pig's testicles and frog sashimi, which is "good for the health and complexion".  He also tries lizard sake with the lizard in the glass.  He is then on to the fifty-one year old Yaki Hama, which serves fugu, the famous and dangerous poisonous blowfish dish, and has a tombstone to prove it.  Restaurants need a license to sell it because it is such a dangerous dish; if the venom sack is punctured in preparation, it can be deadly.  As Andrew learns, just a bit of venom is in the meat, just enough to numb the mouth, like Novocaine.

Andrew is then on to a suppon maki restaurant, which prepares turtle to be used in a number of dishes with special drinks made from the turtles blood and organs in rice wine.  He invites some friends to join him for his multi-course meal.  The meal is served with plenty of vegetables and bean curd that has collagen that is "good for women's skin and male virility".

Andrew's off to Kobe, where he discovers that happy cows make better beef.  In Kobe, Japan, special farms are licensed to raise kajima cows to be specially raised to produce Kobe beef.  The cows are allowed to roam free and are encouraged to eat more and drink warm beer.  Kobe beef is one of the most expensive types of beef, even beyond prime Grade-A beef.

Then Andrew flies to Bangkok, Thailand.  At the Klong Toei Market, Andrew reveals that merchants can buy raw meat, frog parts, and hairy fruit.  The market also has grubs, grasshoppers, beetles, water bugs, giant ant larvae, tadpoles and fish so fresh they sometimes escape.  Fresh fish is a major staple and is sold in local wet markets along with food-on-the-go such as frog-on-a-stick.  Andrew also visits the floating markets which cook meals on the boats and sell salads, steamed peanut dumplings, dried shrimp and nuclear peppers.

Andrew heads to Chiang Mai, which uses a lot of curry and green chili in their meals.  He visits the Kad Tung Kwain, an open market that sells wild game, wild boar, rodents, insects and a sausage made from pork and organ parts.  He tries the roasted game bird and pork jerky.  Then he travels by elephant to visit the Boonsom Market, a spirulina farm.  Spirulina is a algae that is rich in vitamins, and makes a nutritious food source.  It can be taken as a pill or used as a powder sprinkled over food or diluted into a drink.  Andrew continues on to visit a hill tribe to dine on fruit bats caught in a cave and stir-fried in an open pan, then served with homemade brew in handmade bamboo cups.

The final leg of Andrew's Asian culinary tour takes him to Penang, a Malaysian paradise colonized by the English in 1800.  Seafood is the favored dish here and casual eating is common.  At a Kelwai roadside stall, Andrew samples sambal chili with a fermented shrimp paste, the basis of many dishes, and a dish called ikan bilis, a blanchan-based dish.  He observes a shrimp paste processor as the shrimp paste is first fermented in the sun, compressed and then cut into blocks for distribution.

Andrew is then on to the Kaleel Restoran, known for Indian food and Muslim tradition.  Their most unusual dish is a drink called pulled tea, swung through the air to create its taste.  Andrew visits some street haulers serving as many as a hundred and twenty-fish dishes including Peking duck, chicken sake and food on a stick fondue.  He tries a plate of various tastes including blood cake.

Andrew visits a farm that sells durian, a spiky, smelly fruit that even Andrew can't stomach.  Widely known and revered in southeast Asia as the "king of fruits", durian is not harvested, it's collected in nets as it falls off the tree.  It's so smelly, it's not allowed in hotels or on public transportation.  Andrew compares its taste to soft sour onions.  He's amuzed by the fact that of all the dishes he tried and sampled during this trip, it's a fruit that got to him.


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