Unusual aphrodisiacs from Asian countries

balut Wondering how to get you or your partner more in the mood for sex? Instead of opting for expensive pills or unnatural remedies, why not learn from the Asian culture and try one of these libido-boosting aphrodisiacs? From dangerously poisonous fish to fertilized duck embryo or snake’s blood, it is clear some people really will try anything to have good sex. While these odd ingestants may be useful for people in Asia, I’m thinking that others may want to stick to increasing their libido the old-fashioned way: getting drunk and watching porn.

Balut

Balut is a common finger food in Southeast Asia and is literally an almost-developed duck embryo that is boiled alive and eaten in the shell. If you want to try this delicacy for yourself, head over to the Philippines, where it is most common, or Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia. It’s a very popular food to enjoy at bars while drinking a beer, which makes me wonder if it’s the Balut making people horny or the alcohol.Bull Balls Soup

Bull Balls Soup, also known as Soup #5, originated in the Philippines and is a dish made from the bull’s penis or testicles. The genitalia is washed and then scorched in boiling water before being cut into small pieces. These bits are then simmered in a pot along with other meats, vegetables, and ginger. Not only is it said to be tasty, but also the bull’s genitals in the soup are believed to have a higher potency than even Viagra.

durian Durian

It’s hard to believe anything that smells this bad could be considered arousing, but this odorous fruit is said to have a strong aphrodisiac power. In fact, in Indonesia a common saying is “the durians fall and the sarongs come up.” The stench of the fruit is so overwhelming that many public venues like restaurants, hotels, and buses prohibit durian from being brought inside. I guess some people find unpleasant smells sexy.

Monkey Brains

While the eating of monkey brains is controversial – the practice has, unfortunately, led to the over-killing of the animal in Indonesia – it is actually enjoyed in many countries around the world due to the dish’s believed ability to cure erectile dysfunction. Disturbingly, many people enjoy eating the brains of the monkey while the animal is still alive, although laws are currently being implemented to make this illegal. Before you go digging into this delicacy, however, just know that in return for horny side-effects, you’re running the risk of acquiring Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an illness similar to Mad Cow.

snake wine Snake’s Blood/Wine

In Asia, snake products in general are believed to create an unusually high sex drive. One way to achieve an increased libido is by drinking a concoction made by infusing the essence and venom of a poisonous snake into grain alcohol or rice wine (shown right). While this may not sound appealing, your other option is to slice a poisonous snake open and drink the blood straight out of its body.

Tiger Penis Soup

As we’re basically talking about the power of the penis here, it’s not surprising that a number of Asian aphrodisiacs are literally penises. Although the tiger is near extinction, that doesn’t stop locals of China and Southeast Asia from consuming the appendage for its sex-enhancing properties. Making the soup is a time-consuming process, as the tiger penis must be dried out and then soaked in water for a week. From there, the penis is simmered with spices and other ingredients. Sound tasty? Because of the difficulty of procuring the penis of an endangered animal, a bowl of this stuff can cost a few hundred dollars.

caterpillar fungus Caterpillar Fungus

Caterpillar fungus, or “dong chong xia cao” (summer grass, winter worm) in Chinese, has been a popular element of Chinese medicine for hundreds of years as a way to treat cancer, exhaustion, and, of course, impotency. The product is created during the winter when the ghost moth caterpillar burrows into the ground and hibernates. During this time a fungi enters the caterpillar’s body and eats it from the inside. Eventually, the caterpillar fungus will erupt from the dead insect’s head. While this may sound like the plot of a horror movie, this natural sex-enhancer can cost over $100 per gram depending on where you purchase it.

Bird’s Nest Soup

While many people think of a bird’s nest as nature’s architecture, others enjoy it as a tasty and libido-boosting meal. The soup is not made with just any old bird’s nest, but one made of solidified saliva, as these have the best texture for creating the cuisine. To make the dish, the nest is dissolved in water and, depending on if it is a natural white or red nest, can cost over $100 for a bowl.

hagfish Hagfish

This slime-producing eel is the only animal on the planet that has a skull but no vertebral column or jaw, making it difficult to classify. Although many are unsure as to whether the Hagfish is behind or ahead of the evolution process, one thing is certain – people from Southeast Asia love them. So what is it about these odd-looking creatures that turn people on? Most likely, it is the resemblance to a penis in shape and its production of a large amount of slimy liquid when stroked.

Dog Meat

Though many Westerners may object, in certain Asian countries it is said that eating dog meat creates a warm sensation throughout the body that is linked to passion, intensity, and carnal urges. What’s really unsettling isn’t so much the fact that it’s dog meat that’s being eaten, but that it is believed that the slower and more painful the death of the animal, the more flavorful the meat and the stronger the effects on sexual stamina. I guess for some this is worth it for a steamy night of passion.

[images via raeky, BorgQueen, Genghiskhanviet, Magnus Manske, Lmozero]

Snack Food Fails: Weird food names around the world

The first time I went to a grocery store in Ecuador, all the food was distressingly unfamiliar. Milk was sold in bags, eggs weren’t refrigerated, the cheese looked like butter, there were weird spiky fruits I’d never seen, and everything else was in a language I barely understood. As I walked around picking up imported, English-language brands that were familiar – Oreos, JIF peanut butter, and a $5 box of Kraft mac & cheese – I saw a salsa label that made me laugh out loud.

In huge letters across the box the label read ‘SNOB.’ How on earth did marketers allow that brand name make it onto the shelves? The fact that nobody took the time to look up the word’s meaning in other languages baffled me, especially after so many other famous marketing goofs have come to light. That is, until I took a look around the Internet and saw the same thing happening in all corners of the world.

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Click through the gallery above to see other snack food fails from around the world. And if you’ve seen others during your travels, share them below or send the pictures to zaymedia [at] gmail [dot] com for round two (don’t forget to mention where you spotted the package).

[Image courtesy OBiTran / flickr]

Bizarre foods: European “delicacies,” by country

European foodsWhat constitutes “food” is relative, depending upon what part of the world you call home. In Asia, pretty much anything on no (snakes), two, four, six, or eight legs is up for grabs. Europe, however, has its own culinary oddities, as detailed below. Got maggots?

Iceland
Hákarl: Fermented, dried Greenland or basking shark. This tasty treat is prepared by burying the beheaded and gutted shark in a shallow hole in the ground for six to 12 weeks. Unsurprisingly, the end result is considered noxious to pretty much everyone on the planet aside from Icelanders.

Norway
Smalahove: Boiled lamb’s head, traditionally served at Christmas. The brain is removed, and the head salted and dried before boiling. Because they’re the fattiest bits, the ear and eye are eaten first. More fun than a wishbone.

Sardinia (yes, it’s in Italy, but this one deserved its own listing)
Casu marzu: This sheep’s milk cheese has maggots added to it during ripening, because their digestive action creates an “advanced level” of fermentation (also known as “decomposition”). Some people prefer to eat the soupy results sans critters, while the stout of heart go for the whole package. Be forewarned: according to Wikipedia, irate maggots can propel themselves for distances up to six inches. Here’s fly in your eye.

Northern Sweden or Finland
Lappkok: This charmingly-named concoction consists of blodpalt–a dumpling made with reindeer blood and wheat or rye flour–served with reindeer bone marrow. Well, Santa’s herd had to retire sometime.

[Photo credit: Flickr user fjords]

European foodsSweden
Lutefisk: This dried whitefish treated with lye is beloved by Scandinavians and their American Midwestern ancestors (let’s just say it’s an acquired taste). It’s traditionally served with potatoes or other root vegetables, gravy or white sauce, and akvavit.

Scotland
Haggis: Who doesn’t love a cooked sheep’s stomach stuffed with its lungs, heart, and liver, combined with oatmeal?

Poland
Nozki: Literally “cold feet,” this dish of jellied pig’s trotters isn’t as repulsive as it sounds. The meat is simmered with herbs and spices until falling off the bone, and set in gelatin. Think of how much fun this would be as a Jello shooter.

Ukraine
Salo: The cured fatback of pork is actually quite delicious, and similar to Italian lardo when seasoned. It’s chopped and used as a condiment, or eaten straight-up on bread. Plan your angioplasty accordingly.
European foods
England/Ireland
Black (or blood) pudding: Technically a sausage, this mixture of animal blood (usually pork), spices, fat, and oatmeal or other grains is surprisingly good. It’s served uncooked, fried, grilled, or boiled. Sound bad? At least it’s not called Spotted Dick.

Italy
Stracotto d’asino: A northern Italian donkey stew, often served as a pasta sauce. Donkey and horse are eaten throughout Italy, but this particular dish is a specialty of Veneto, and Mantua, in Lombardy.

France
Tête de veau: You have to love that the venerable French culinary bible, Larousse Gastronomique, describes this dish of boiled calf’s head as, “a gelatinous variety of white offal.” Mmm. While there are many different preparations for the classical dish, it was traditionally served with cocks’ combs and kidneys, calves sweetbreads, and mushrooms.

Eastern Europe
P’tcha: A calves’ foot jelly enjoyed by Ashkenazi Jews throughout this part of Europe. It’s uh, high in protein.

Germany
Zungenwurst: This sausage is made of pork blood and rind; pickled ox tongue, and a grain filler, such as barley. It’s available dried, or can be browned in butter or bacon fat before eating. And bacon makes everything better.European foods

Netherlands
Paardenrookvlees: Culinarily-speaking, the Dutch usually cop grief for their proclivity for pickled herring and eating mayonnaise on their french fries. That’s because most Americans don’t know this smoked horse meat is a popular sandwich filling. Trust me: Seabiscuit tastes pretty good.

Greece
Kokoretsi: Lamb or goat intestines wrapped around seasoned offal (lungs, hearts, sweetbreads, kidneys), threaded onto a skewer, and cooked on a spit. You know what’s good with grilled meat? Meat.

[Photo credits: black pudding, Flickr user quimby;lutefisk, Flickr user adam_d_; kokoretsi, Flickr user Georgio Karamanis]


Amazing Race 14, recap 11: Beijing, China’s food is awesome— and awful

After last week’s cliffhanger of Amazing Race 14 when Jaime and Cara arrived first at the Pit Stop to only find Phil pulling another yellow envelope behind his back, I thought that Jaime might throw a hissy fit, but no, she handled Phil’s news like a trouper. Instead of winning a nifty trip to some exotic location, off this former cheerleader duo went in the dark of Beijing to Bai Hai Dong Men and the next clue. That doesn’t mean they were in a cheering mood for more fun and frolic with Chinese people, but they didn’t whine.

No one else did either. Perhaps they were too pooped after their swim to get mad about being duped. No rest for the weary. Instead of getting shut eye, there the four remaining teams were darting in and out of shops at Bai Hai street looking for a Travelocity gnome. This task gave glimpses into the mish mash of offerings in various shops. This one clothes. That one dried beans and peanuts. Another one, glassware. You get the picture. Shopping in Beijing is not the version where you load up a cart with everything from a vacuum cleaner to bananas to a lawn chair by the time you hit the checkout counter at a mega store.

Once teams found the Travelocity gnome, off they went with their red-hatted lawn ornament via taxi to find Gu Gong Xi Bei Jiao where they hopped on electric bicycles to glide along the streets of Beijing past Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City.

With the early morning sunrise glinting off the buildings and the gnomes sitting in their bicycle basket perches, could the lighting have been more perfect? I think not. Even the teams, who had to have been tootling along only thanks to an adrenaline rush, were able to enjoy the architecture, the soldiers marching during the morning flag raising in the square, and the historic significance of their location. It couldn’t have been a better piece of TV work if it had been orchestrated. What timing.

At their next clue stop, the Dongdan subway station, there was a choice to head to an opera house to dress like an opera singing couple, complete with make-up they put on each other, or head to a restaurant to take food orders of a group of people sitting at a table, repeating the order to the cook, and then delivering the food to the dinners. The trick was using Mandarin, a snap, more or less, for Victor & Tammy. They did make one mistake and had to try again. The food: vegetarian noodles, fried chicken, new taste beef, golden pork spare ribs and good luck fish, reminded me of all the fantastic meals I’ve ever had in Asia. Hint: If you can’t read a menu, look at what other people in the restaurant are eating. Find what looks good and point. This method works like a charm.

Luke & Margie and Jen & Kisha showed up at the Hu Guang Hui Guan Opera House to put on the Chinese princess and gentleman attire. By this time, Margie & Luke had begun to vex each other, but Jen & Kisha were doing well, although Jen couldn’t quite believe they were still in China after their swimming terror.

Just like in the past episodes, during this episode Jaime and Cara were never able to get a break when it comes to cab drivers. Patience, dear Jaime is a virtue. Still, you have to hand it to these two. They keep soldiering on and giving lovely smiles to folks who help them when they feel understood. Jaime and Cara’s moods are like watching a see saw.

Once Jaime and Cara finally found the correct opera house, long after Victor and Tammy had served food at Hu Guang Hui Guan restaurant, and Luke & Margie quit bickering, the make-up task was a snap for these women and off they ran only to get lost and confused again for three more hours.

In the meantime, Kisha & Jen, who I like, were U-Turned by Victor and Tammy at Hu Guang Hui Guan. Instead of getting mad, there they were in their opera attire trying their darnedest to say the names of Mandarin dishes correctly. If there was any lesson to learn from watching them, it’s to write things down as they sound, and listen carefully. Also, if you can’t understand what one person is saying in a language you don’t know well, ask someone else. All native speakers don’t sound the same. Some people are just easier to understand.

After serving food or dressing up in Chinese opera regalia, it was off to a Dong Hua Men Yi Shi Street Market stall that sold snack food that would be great fare at a Halloween party. It is possible to eat deep-fried starfish, grasshoppers, larvae, and scorpions served on a stick. Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods would have gotten a kick out of this part. The best thing to do in such situations is to eat fast. Jen ate little bites followed by a lot of water which led to another issue, a costly one. Victor, Cara and Margie, on the other hand, went to town scarfing the oddities down, as if they couldn’t eat enough of the crunchy critters.

It wasn’t much of a surprise to see Tammy & Victor dash to the Pit Stop at Niao Chao, the Bird’s Nest stadium of the Olympics. The tasks weren’t particularly difficult for them during this episode and they could clearly say the names of places. These two have grown on me and it’s fun to see them having a good time. They’re the type that traveling brings out the best in.

Unfortunately, Jen had to go to the bathroom before they made it to the Pit Stop so Cara and Jaime beat them. Too bad, too bad, too bad. With those flowing gowns, why not just pee and keep running? Gross, but hey, it’s a million dollars. People were running in their underwear in Siberia. Surely peeing in an opera gown isn’t the worst thing that could happen. On the otherhand, what a great way to illustrate that Beijing does have swank public toilets. Keep that in mind if you have to pee there. Head to the Bird’s Nest for some bladder relief.

So, who do I hope will win? I’m not that partial to anyone. As much as Jaime’s attitude gets on my nerves, I’m impressed Cara’s and her tenacity. They just keep on going like that battery run bunny from the commercial. If they win, I won’t be that upset. Although, they really ought to apologize to Mark & Mike for making fun of short people.

If Luke and Margie win what a great boost for women over forty and people who are deaf. They can kick butt.

Beef brain tacos and Haggis – eating the foods that scare you

The past week has been an interesting one for me, food-wise. Last Monday I had a chance to sample a Mexican “beef brain” taco (de cabeza) and this weekend I found myself unexpectedly eating a plate of Haggis. You know – the Scottish dish made with a stomach-churning mixture of sheep’s lungs, heart and liver mixed with spices and boiled in the casing of a sheep stomach? Yeah, that Haggis.

While I would never go so far as to describe myself as the next Andrew Zimmern or Anthony Bourdain, I have become significantly more adventurous in my eating habits in the past five years. It’s perhaps an inevitable consequence for any frequent traveler. The more time you spend abroad, the easier it becomes to adjust to the rhythm of life and customs of places unlike your home. But even for many self-proclaimed “adventurous” travelers like myself, certain foods are the equivalent of a culinary no-fly zone. Phrases like “It’s unsafe” or “I might gag if I eat that” are often provided as rationalizations.

While I can empathize with these excuses, I think all of us (barring dietary restrictions) should try every food at least once. A lot of what we fear about certain foods is mental – a perception we’ve gained from anecdotes and popular culture that’s often not grounded in reality. More often than not you’ll find yourself enjoying the supposedly forbidden food, wondering what had you all worked up in the first place. And if you don’t like it? So what…the worst that happens is you spit it out and have a fun story to tell your friends.

Take Haggis – a food that has become the punchline to a bad joke. When I tried it recently, I found the taste and texture to be fantastic. It was like eating a spicy version of ground beef – I had myself wondering what all the fuss was about. And those beef brain tacos? I wasn’t a big fan – the meat was relatively tasteless and I found them to be too chewy. But you know what? I’m happy I tried both of them. Even if I don’t plan to snack on Haggis and beef brains every day, I’ve gained a newfound appreciation of each of these unique cultures – and that to me makes it worthwhile.