“Food” preparation around the world: a video round-up

Every savvy traveler knows that meals that are considered taboo (pets), weird (ingredients that are still alive), or gross (insectia, specific animal innards) at home are likely what’s for dinner elsewhere in the world. Even if the food or dish isn’t unappetizing by our standards, its means of preparation is often spectacle-worthy.

Thus, the following collection of videos, all devoted to the creation of specific regional delicacies from around the globe. Check them out: next time you down a shot of mezcal or snack on some fried grasshoppers, you’ll understand that someone, somewhere, put a lot of hard work into their preparation. Bon appetit!

In Mongolia, where food and other resources are scarce, innovation is crucial:

Making noodles is an art form in many parts of the world, including Xian Province in northern China:

A boss iced tea vendor in Thailand:

Too tame? Witness a testicle (from unidentified animal species; most likely goat or sheep) cooking competition in Serbia:

The “Holy Grail for [beef] head tacos,” in Oaxaca…

Cooking up grasshopper in Zambia:

Preparing maguey (a species of agave, also known as “century plant”) for mezcal in Mexico:

Brace yourself for the most disturbing food prep yet, courtesy of the United States:

Eating in the Horn of Africa: camel, goat and. . .spaghetti?

When my wife and I went to the Horn of Africa last year for our Ethiopia road trip, we were eagerly looking forward to a culinary journey. We weren’t disappointed. Ethiopian food is one of our favorites and of course they make it better there than anywhere else!

While it came as no surprise that the food and coffee were wonderful, the cuisine in the Horn of Africa turned out to be more varied and nuanced that we expected. The two countries I’ve been to in the region, Ethiopia and Somaliland, have been connected to the global trade routes for millennia. Their national cuisines have absorbed influences from India, the Arab world, and most recently Italy.

Ethiopians love meat, especially beef and chicken. One popular dish is kitfo–raw, freshly slaughtered beef served up with various fiery sauces. I have to admit I was worried about eating this but I came through OK. Chicken is considered a luxury meat and is more expensive than beef. One Ethiopian friend was surprised to hear that in the West chicken is generally cheaper than beef.

Ethiopian booze is pretty good too. Tej is a delicious honey wine and tella is a barley beer. They also make several brands of lager and one of stout.

I’ve also spent time in the Somali region of Ethiopia and Somaliland. Living in arid lowlands rather than green and mountainous highlands, the Somalis have a very different cuisine than the Ethiopians. A surprising staple of Somali cooking is pasta. Actually on second thought it isn’t so surprising. The former Somalia was an Italian colony for a few decades. Italian food is popular in Eritrea and Ethiopia as well and makes for a refreshing change from local cuisine. Some Somalis are still pastoral nomads, moving through the arid countryside with their herds of camels and goats much like their ancestors did centuries ago. Pasta is a perfect food for nomads–compact, lightweight, nutritious, and easy to prepare.

The only downside to eating pasta in the Somali region is that Somalis, like most Africans, eat with their hand. I made quite a fool of myself trying to eat spaghetti with my hand!

%Gallery-136247%Goat is a popular meat in the Somali region and is served in a variety of ways. I love a good goat and have eaten it in a dozen countries. It’s tricky to cook, though, and can easily be overdone and end up stringy and flavorless. Good goat, however, is one of the best meats around. For some expert opinion, check out Laurel Miller’s fun post on the cultural aspects of eating goat.

While goat is the main meat for Somalis, what they really like is camel. These ships of the desert are expensive, so camel meat is usually reserved for special occasions like weddings. Wealthy, urban professionals eat it fairly regularly, though. At the Hadhwanaag Restaurant and Hotel in Hargeisa, capital of Somaliland, expert chefs slow-cook goat and camel in clay ovens that look much like tandoori ovens. The meat comes out deliciously tender and fragrant. Lunch at the Hadhwanaag was easily one of my top five meals in Africa.

Oh, and don’t forget Somali tea! A mixture of black tea, spices, and camel’s milk, it’s almost identical to Indian chai. The perfect pick-me-up after a long day seeing Somaliland’s painted caves or looking for your next edible ride at the camel market.

The Horn of Africa has an unfair reputation for warfare and famine. This is because it only gets on the news when something bad happens there. It makes a great adventure travel destination, though, and the determined traveler will find fascinating sights, friendly people, and great food. With any luck I’ll be back there in 2012!

Photo of the day – Little girl, big gun, little goat

It’s always interesting to see what’s in the Gadling Flickr pool when we look for a Photo of the Day to feature. We see a lot of regular travelers posting pictures each week, some professional photographers, some lucky shots (I’ll insert a gentle reminder in here to make sure your photos are available for download if you would like them featured, thanks!). Today’s was pretty easy to choose as it really jumps out at you. Who doesn’t like pictures of baby goats, especially with cute children? Wait a second, is she pointing a GUN at the goat?! Oh, well, it’s just a toy gun apparently. I guess that makes it okay, but still a bit different than your average sunset or street scene. An interesting slice of life from Nepal by Flickr user Dan Fellini, hope the goat obeyed the little girl’s orders!

Have any unusual pictures to share? You know the drill – add them to the

Gadling Flickr pool and look for it in a future Photo of the Day.

L.A. Hires Goats to Help with Development Project

If you pay a visit to downtown Los Angeles in the near future, you might expect to see the usual assortment of tall buildings and expensive retail shops. But what about farm animals? No, there isn’t going to be a new zoo located in city’s main commercial center. And there are no movies being filmed that are set in a post-apocalyptic world where wildlife runs free through urban areas . City officials have merely hired a herd of goats to clear shrubs on a plot of land where a new skyscraper is slated to be built.

Apparently goats are cheaper than people when it comes to clearing growth from an area. No wages, no gas-powered weed whackers, no overtime pay, no unions…what’s not to like? The goats have even become a bit of an attraction, with locals stopping by to look and snap photos. It should take about a week for the animals to eat their way through the lot’s undergrowth. I wonder if they’ll have to hire people to clean up all the goat poop before the construction crews move in. See a BBC report about the goats here.

Sudan man marries a goat

This is an important security announcement for all of you, who plan on a) visiting Sudan b) engaging in sexual relations with farm animals, or c) both. Stay away from goats in Sudan!

Let this story serve as a lesson to you. A man from Sudan has been forced to take a goat as his wife after he was caught having sex with the animal, BBC reports. The goat’s owner, Mr Alifi, said he surprised the man with his goat and took him to a council of elders and they ordered the man, Mr Tombe, to pay a dowry of 15,000 Sudanese dinars ($50) to Mr Alifi.

The intercourse happened the night before Valentine’s day (awww) and as far as anyone knows, they are still together. The newlyweds are registered at Pottery Barn (they should be, at least.)


(Click to read the bizarre stories!)