“Bizarre Foods” on the Travel Channel: Asia potpourri

Location: Tokyo and Kobe Japan; Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand; and Penang, Malaysia. (This episode was a repeat of a previous season. I missed this one the first time, so I was happy to catch it.)

Episode Rating: 4 Sheep Testicles (out of 4) using Aaron’s system that certainly works well for this episode–if you trade sheep for pig.

Summary: After watching this episode, it might seem like there is nothing but bizarre food in Asia. I can attest that the eating is among the finest. I’ve been to all three countries and promise there’s food to suit most people’s palate. Being an adventurous eater helps. What Andrew Zimmern honed in on is foods that are thought to give power. Feeling a bit blah? There’s nothing like some frog meat.

In Japan, frog sashimi is a real health pick me up. Sashimi is usually raw seafood–unless it’s frog. Chase it down with some lizard sake and you’re good to go. The lizard was leaning out of the glass like a garnish one might see at a Halloween party. Even more macabre, but maybe that’s just me, is eating the frog’s beating heart. Zimmern proclaimed it “not bad…not a lot of flavor.” To eat a beating heart, I’d need a bit more than “not bad.” See the YouTube video for the full effect.

Suppon, a soft-shelled turtle has been eaten in Japan for 450 years. In Japan, turtle is mega power food. It gives men extra get up and go, if you know what I mean. For women, it’s supposed to do wonders for the skin. The soup version looked tasty, if one ignored the detail of Zimmern gnawing on the turtle leg. Watching the turtle bleed beforehand, though, was a big ick. Zimmern downed some turtle blood mixed with rice wine before he dug into the soup. I’d like my rice wine plain, thank you.

Another bizarre dish Zimmern tackled was fugu, poisonous blowfish. I’d pass on it. First of all, 100 people a year die from eating fugu when it’s not prepared correctly. Secondly, even when it’s prepared correctly, there’s enough poison in it to make your mouth numb. See Matthew’s post that gives more specifics.

The detail about Kobe beef was interesting–those are some happy cows, and I got a kick out of the yakitori contest when Zimmern and a Japanese pal had dueling moments of eating chicken part skewers. Evidently, not all chicken parts are tasty. “I’d rather be tied naked to an ant hill than eat the rest of this,” Zimmern declared.

Once Zimmern left Japan for Thailand, it was market browsing past ant larvae, grubs, beetles, grilled frog on a stick and a host of other taste treats. I have eaten bird’s nest soup, however, and thought it not bad–for swallow nests. Zimmern went shopping and pointed out that swallows’ nests cost up to $1,000 for a package of 12 of the finest.

Outside Chiang Mai, Zimmern ate street food which were hits and misses. One miss was some sort of red sausage that was a mix of pork and organ meats. A real gag with that one. He also downed spirulina, a drink made from live algae that’s supposedly one of the healthiest foods. It’s gotta be good for you. It’s green. Plus, he said it smelled like the bottom of an aquarium. You can get it in pill form if you want.

Although visiting a hill tribe in Thailand is a wonderful experience, the bat eating is something I’d do without. Those fruit bats, when stir fried, look like fruit bats stir fried–perfect for that Halloween party with the lizard sake chaser.

When Zimmern hit Penang, an island of Malaysia, I had flashbacks to some awesome meals. Sambal, the sauce made from shrimp paste is good–I wouldn’t eat buckets of it, but it’s good. Zimmern ate the fiery version and in between fanning his hands in front of his face, asked, “Is their steam coming out of my ears?” Penang is also a wonderful place to spend time. One thing I appreciated about this segment was the inclusion of Indian food. Indian food in Malaysia (and Singapore) is superb. I ate Indian food in Georgetown myself.

The food that Zimmern spit out was durian, the smelliest fruit on earth. It’s so smelly it’s not allowed on public transportation in Malaysia or Singapore.

Although this episode was a repeat, it was a good one for a trip around high points of places I’ve been. Next week, Zimmern’s back with a new episode. Stay tuned for India.

For Gadling recaps of this season: