What’s the most bizarre thing you’ve ever eaten? Asia is home to some of the best cuisine in the world, from the elegantly prepared sushi and sashimi of Japan to spicy Thai curry, the variety available throughout the East is enough to satisfy the most demanding and discerning palates. As well as the style of dish we’re used to seeing in Asian restaurants in our homelands though, Asia also has a food subculture, which only the most adventurous of traveler dare to sample.
Take tarantulas for example. Have you ever considered snacking on a hairy spider? Our guess would be that it’s never crossed your mind…unless you’ve traveled to Cambodia before. From street stall to fine dining restaurants in Siem Reap, deep-fried tarantula (nicknamed ‘Cambodia’s caviar’) is considered something of a delicacy and are usually cooked coated in garlic, salt, lime juice and sometimes pepper sauce or sugar.
The obsession with devouring these large arachnids (called ah ping locally) began during the Khmer Rouge regime when food stocks were depleted – an obsession that has continued until the present day. Over recent years the snack’s popularity has soared to such a level that the spider numbers have become so few, causing a spider sanctuary to be opened in the market town of Skun to protect the species and ‘restock’ the local community.
Spider snacking is also popular in the rural areas of Thailand, but not as sought-after as Khai Mod Daeng – ant larvae. At their best during the summer months (April is the peak of the Thai summer) and most popular in the Northeast of the country, Khai Mod Daeng are usually prepared in soup or spicy salad form, but are also a suitable substitute for meat and can also be used in anything from omelets to curries. The providers of the snack, ant queens, are also occasionally used as a garnish to add some extra crunch to the meal.
People from Myanmar tend to prefer their snacks with wings and have a penchant for grilled bat and sparrow, sourcing their foods from above their heads rather than below their feet. There are 92 recorded species of bat in Myanmar, including the world’s smallest mammal, the ‘Bumblebee Bat’ Craseonycteris thonglongyai – a big name for a small mammal that rarely grows past 1.3 inches in length.
Being an island nation, Japan source most of their food from the surrounding sea, and it’s no surprise that their quirky foods are also aquatic. One such odd eat is the eyeball of tuna fish, which are highly nutritious despite the unpleasant nature of its appearance. Rumor has it that the eye has a rich flavor and is rather fatty…though we at Backyard Travel haven’t tried it ourselves…yet!
These bizarre treats are just the tip of the iceberg though, if you’re heading to Asia and are feeling adventurous, get in touch with us and our regional experts and tailor-made tours will make sure you satisfy any ‘alternative’ dining options you’d like to try!