What weird is weird?

pig ears

What is weird food anyway? I don’t really know. Perhaps we should ask Eddie.

Reading the comments and emails I got from the horse fat fries posts, I realized that my weird meter is probably calibrated quite differently from other people’s. Using horse fat as a frying medium sounds basically normal to me. I’d never, knowingly, had horse meat or other horse products, but that was more because I never had easy access to it than because I was weirded out by it.

I grew up in Thailand, and we ate all kinds of stuff that people here or in Europe might find weird. The stewed pig’s ear in the photo above is one example. Deliciously gelatinous and crunchy at once, they are eaten dipped in a sauce made with lime, fish sauce, garlic, and chilli. We also eat these little crabs, deep fried and dipped in a sweet and sour sauce, a macabre sort of chicken nuggets I guess.

little crabbies

Meg over at Megnut wrote yesterday about these scary Italian Pulpo. Frankly, I’d take that stuff over the euphemistically named Jello Salad I once had in the Midwest any day -you know, that quivering green jelly with bits of suspicious looking vegetable and fruits entombed inside.

So, what’s weird food for you?


P.S. What’s surely not weird is this nice idea the Cod just forwarded me. Katrina Dinner 2006, which -just like anything in New Orleans- promises to be "fun and delicious with only a smidgen of hokiness." Check them out.

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43 Responses to “What weird is weird?

  • gagatka said:
    August 24th, 2006 at 10:43am

    Pulpo is definitely weird. In fact I find most of frutti di mare inedible. But on the other hand, living in Poland i adore things some of my foreign friends find weird: sour milk (not buttermilk), sour cabbage or “kaszanka” made of bulglur and pork blood…

  • Linette said:
    August 24th, 2006 at 10:46am

    Hi Pim, long-time reader, first-time commenter here. Love your blog and enjoyed this post. I grew up in Indonesia but I’ve lived in Southern California for over 12 years now, and I’m still amazed at what the average American will/will not eat. They turn up their noses at things like tripe, calf brains, fish-head curry, and sea-urchin, then they go eat processed, packaged crap from the supermarket. Please! Who’s the crazy one here? I don’t personally care what people eat, but I wish more Americans would become more adventurous because then more of the “weird” foods I love would become more readily available. Thank goodness I live in Los Angeles, where there is a decent array of ethnic groceries/eating places.

  • Linette said:
    August 24th, 2006 at 10:55am

    P.S. What’s weird food for me? Cool Whip. I’ll never understand it.

  • John said:
    August 24th, 2006 at 12:26pm

    I don’t know what I think of as “weird” anymore. There aren’t many parts of an animal I haven’t eaten and I’ve eaten some fairly strange animals. I guess I still can’t really get my mind around insects though why I should find rice-field cockroaches weirder than rice-field crabs I don’t really know!
    Maybe the weirdest thing for me is very bitter flavours. Certainly the most surprising things I ate in Thailand were the ones with bitter or “medicinal” flavours (like sprigs of unripe peppercorns) because those flavours are rare in most cuisines.

  • Jennifer Klinec said:
    August 24th, 2006 at 1:46pm

    This is such an interesting topic – and I totally agree that what is wierd to one person is a complete delicacy to another.
    Some ‘wierd’ foods that I think are ‘wierd’ because they are unusual but are absolutely delicious are:
    – Monks Beard: a delicious edible wild plant known as barba dei frati in Italian where it is served steamed with olive oil, lemon juice and salt
    – Moreton Bay Bugs: A crustacean that is similar to a lobster and great on pizza
    – Lardo: Basically cured pigs fat – delicious when sliced super thin. It just melts on your tongue.
    – Musk Ox: A wild ox similar to bison which is being hunted in conrolled areas in Canada’s Northwest Territories and can occasionally be found on the menus of some of Toronto’s restaurants. Don’t miss if you have the opportunity to try it – especially ‘carpaccio’.
    Some ‘weird’ foods that are ‘wierd’ in the same kind of way that you mention that Jello Salad is wierd. i.e. fake, trashy, of suspicious origin. But kinda fun at the same time:
    – Spam: Does Spam need any introduction??
    – Taco Salad: I ate this as a kid and have to admit, there is something to it although I’m kind of shocked at the ingredients. Ground beef, Doritos and Italian Salad dressing…. gasp…
    -Marshmellow Fluff: Even looking at the retro label makes me feel a bit sick…
    -Kraft Macaroni and Cheese a.k.a ‘Kraft Dinner’ in Canada. A box of this used to cost around 18 cents and helped get some of my friends in university. There are whole cults based around the variations you can make with using Kraft macaroni and cheese as a base. Most of them involve tinned tuna, frozen peas and ketchup. Also comes in a ‘deluxe’ version which uses ‘velveeta’ cheese spread instead of the standard flourescent orange powder-based cheese mix

  • Alida said:
    August 24th, 2006 at 3:16pm

    I think it really depends on where you’re from. I grew up in a very large Old World Sicilian family. Octopus is a normal dish. My father loves brains and eggs.
    My husband grew up in Mexico and has traveled through Central and South America, the Ukraine and Japan. He’s enjoyed raw horse and boiled wasp (I think? Or bee?) larvae, among other things. To him, American foods, especially things like fruit floating in Jell-O, is strange beyond belief.
    The strangest thing I’ve ever seen? My younger brother’s idea of a treat: white bread, peanut butter, mayonnaise and iceberg lettuce. Ick. And he’s passed this down to HIS children, who make faces at my daughter’s love of sashimi.
    Go figure 🙂

  • Jennifer Klinec said:
    August 24th, 2006 at 3:24pm

    Oohh! And I almost forgot one of the ‘wierdest’ but still kind of delicious foods. It has to be Poutine – a kind of Quebecois fast food consisting of french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. It holds a special place in local culinary hearts, especially when its -35 C outside and you can phone up St. Hubert and get it delivered through the ice and snow straight to your door.

  • Yana said:
    August 24th, 2006 at 3:51pm

    Too weird is when the thought of it makes me want to throw up. Pig ears? no. Fried crabs? no. Horse fat? YES! Anything from a rodent? Yes. Cat/dog? YES! Rabbit? No (but that’s only because I never had a rabbit as a pet).

  • Owen said:
    August 24th, 2006 at 3:57pm

    I have a pretty high tolerance level. Tripe, innards, crabs, squid, insects, even grubs and worms – all pretty good…well not necessarily GOOD but…
    however, over at DeepEndDining they do sometimes get into things I’d probably have trouble with. The eating live baby octopus entry was an impressive one – particularly the part about fighting back.

  • Cookiecrumb said:
    August 24th, 2006 at 5:43pm

    Pim, this is such a fantastic conversation you’ve opened up. Yay.

  • Spike said:
    August 24th, 2006 at 7:21pm

    As an American living in Hong Kong and constantly traveling through Asia, there’s what I used to think of as weird and what’s still weird now.
    When I was a kid, sushi was weird. Now I eat it as often as I can. Snake was weird but I don’t even blink at it any more. Pigs blood – well, that one still doesn’t come easy for me.
    I’m not quite in Anthony Bourdain territory but I have had barbecued squirrel, all sorts of insects, raw horse, raw whale, etc.
    Even though I will try almost anything, I still don’t eat eggs!

  • Cin said:
    August 24th, 2006 at 7:25pm

    I’m just fascinated by what all you people have had the chance to try! I’m very open to tasting new foods and would love to eat some of the stuff I ‘ve seen and heard here (unless anyone is into arachnids etc of course!)

  • MC said:
    August 25th, 2006 at 12:15am

    As many posters have mentioned, I think it depends on where you are from. Comfort food varies from cutlure to cuture. I am American, but I’ve lived in Japan for 9 years and have travelled extensively (mostly Asia and Europe), so I think my culinary horizons have been broadened.
    For example, I find that the Japanese pallatte is more used to the texture of certian foods that I can’t get over: ikura, squid and octopus, konyaku, mentaiko, uni, nato. While they always complain that American food is too sweet among other things. They often find Thai food too spicy as well, but, probably due to my love of Mexican food, love the spiciness of Thai food, Indian curries, etc…
    I’m also not so big on sweet meats either-liver, intestines, cartilidge, skin, heart, chicken ovaries, etc…. However, I have had basashii (raw horse meat) and it tastes like roast beef to me. Crocodile tastes like chicken to me. In Chiina I had turtle hot pot-tought meat and little of it. There was a lot in Chian that seemed very challenging to me.

  • Eddie Lin said:
    August 25th, 2006 at 12:38am

    Thank you, Pim, for including me in this discussion!
    Believe it or not, there are even delicacies that will make me pause. A prime example being cockscomb. That doesn’t mean I won’t gobble it up after pausing.

  • Thanh said:
    August 25th, 2006 at 2:00am

    Firstly, those pigs ears and espeically the fried crabs are delicious.
    I am Chinese born in Vietnam so I basically eat anything. I agree with Linette and am so surprised at the number of things Australians say “yuck” to. They used to throw away the innards of pigs and cows here in Australia about 15 years ago and the Asians were lapping it up like crazy and eating them or reselling them to other Asians. Now pig’s intestines and brains are quite expensive. Also like Linette said, don’t they know what terrible things are in the processed “chicken” nuggets and “meat” pies they eat. Have they not watched Jamie Oliver’s School Dinner program where he shows what goes into “turkey twizzlers”. Now that is disgusting.
    I eat any type of innards with my favourite being pigs brain and pig intestines (this is the best of all the innards, so versatile, fried, stewed, in soups, in hot pots). I also love pig’s foot, chicken feet and duck feet. I love cow tendons in my Vietnamese noodle soup. I love things like jellyfish, abalone, sea urchin, sea cucumber, all the Asian delicacies.
    There are only a few things that I do find a bit weird, mainly because I’m just not used to it. I was in China and when the restaurant staff recommended dog, I had to pass. Also in China, when I saw these cat like things in cages ready to be slaughtered, I couldn’t eat it. As for what you can get in Australia here, I eat duck eggs where the duck has started to develop but I close my eyes and gulp it down in one go.

  • Hande said:
    August 25th, 2006 at 2:13am

    Great theme. For me the food you wrote about is not weird, I loved the pigs ears and the little crabs when we were in Thailand and wish I could find them here in Germany (especially the crabs). The pulpo is so normal for me, and I had horse meat twice (and decided I don’t like the sweet taste). I regularly shock my friends telling them just how yummy in butter sauteed sheep testicles are.
    For me weird food is plastic-looking and -tasting orange colored cheese. Or roasted cockroaches, which I refused to taste in Cambodia, although I can relate to the people who do not think it weird but a good source of proteins.

  • Graham said:
    August 25th, 2006 at 2:14am

    Couldn’t agree more Pim. I can’t think of any weird food. Interesting food – yes. Deep fried spiders in Cambodia are interesting, but far from weird, quite normal in fact. If you’re Cambodian.
    I was walking though my new local market the other day, Victor Hugo in Toulouse, when I saw minced horse for sale. I’d never seen it before. My relatives tell me it is very good, although they didn’t know horse fat was good for deep frying – thanks, you made me look clever 🙂
    Alors, in my book, if it’s farmed, it’s not endangered and it’s edible it’s inherently interesting and not weird at all.

  • aja said:
    August 25th, 2006 at 4:07am

    Jeniffer K’s Moreton Bay Bugs look very similar to the Slipper lobsters that I used to catch when I was broke and living in Florida.
    Pim, you seem to have opened up the proverbial can of worms with this post (that seemed the appropriate expression). You got me thinking and I ended up writing what I thought of as weird.
    Good on ya’!

  • FerranFan said:
    August 25th, 2006 at 4:47am

    Hi! Awesome pics! Dear Pim: When I was a little boy I promised myself one day I’d have a blog on Ferran Adrià, and that I’d feature you someday in it! Well, now my dream has come true, in my 29th birthday. Cheers!!

  • Collin said:
    August 25th, 2006 at 5:14am

    What’s wierd to me?
    The McRib & most other fastfood. That stuff is truly disgusting. Back to the McRib….What is it?! The fact that they mold the meat-like product to resemble a cut of ribs with bones wierds me out. Nasty.
    I will eat a lot of ‘wierd’ stuff & try most anything. I do have to admit the whole horse fat thing wierds me out too.
    The crabs you have pictured, though, look simply delish!

  • Annapurna said:
    August 25th, 2006 at 6:06am

    Hi Pim,
    I am a long-time reader, but this is the first time I have been overwhelmingly compelled to write you. Living in Paris, I travel as much as I can and when I do, food is a priority (as, admittedly, it is the rest of the time!) I love trying so-called “weird” foods. After all, I grew up eating snails…
    In any case “weird” is so arbitrary. My colleagues think I’m weird because my favorite breakfast is Pad Thai. But even I have my limits: live monkey brains would have to be it. But otherwise the vast world of gastronomie is my (live) oyster.
    Keep up your fabulous work–tu nous fais rêver…!
    PS Horse is very tasty. Next time you should try horse burgers with your horse fat fries.

  • Jal J said:
    August 25th, 2006 at 11:14am

    Hi, Pim:
    Not the weirdest, but probably the oddest dish I ever ate was duck tongues sauteed in some type of oyster sauce at a Chinese restaurant. Definitely not on the “American” menu!

  • Owen said:
    August 25th, 2006 at 12:00pm

    One more comment – although I don’t think they are all that weird and in fact have eaten them several times inthe past, I will no longer eat animal brains (or nervous systems) if I can help it. My medical education has been upgraded to where I understand the dangers of prions very very well and frankly, the risk is just too high. And no – cooking does NOT guarantee destruction of a prion.
    For those who don’t know what I’m talking about – mad cow disease and other even more horrendous neurological disorders. Although the only known brain types to pass on neurological disorders are monkey – to humans, cow – to humans and other cows, and sheep – to cows and other sheep, that doesn’t mean there aren’t others or that more won’t develop – and the mechanism is to eat the brain of another animal. I think avoiding that is a good idea. Although for the record I have in the past eaten both sheep and cow brain, I never will again. Just FYI…

  • James Van Dyk said:
    August 25th, 2006 at 12:09pm

    I think the American palate is weird or perhaps young in evolution. Now, Horse….Well as a steak in France Ok, but the horse sashimi I ate in Osaka that was raised in the same manner as Kobe beef ,fantastic! Nea Nea Winny Winny

  • Mary Sue said:
    August 25th, 2006 at 1:29pm

    I get called wierd for eating brown rice for breakfast. Considering I’m a typical American who’s never lived outside the US, it is kind of wierd, but I’d rather have rice than Rice Krispies (Rice Krispies taste like plastic. Yuck). I remember fondly the grilled rattlesnake we used to get whenever someone would kill a snake at our Ranch.
    Wierd food, in my estimation, is any of the myriad of foods left to ‘ferment’ (i.e., lutefisk). That’s just a waste of a perfectly good whitefish.

  • bee said:
    August 26th, 2006 at 9:14pm

    Hi Pim,
    Interesting topic. I seem to turn heads everytime I tell people my brother ate fried grasshoppers when we were growing up in Thailand. I didn’t think it was that wierd. But then again I still get a reaction out of some friends when I order sashimi or (cooked) liver!

  • carla said:
    August 27th, 2006 at 8:03am

    Having been raised in Macau, I would say “Baby mice wine” would top my list of weirdness. The baby mice, is usually about 2 -3 days old (before they open their eyes), where they will be drowned in the rice wine. It is “believed” to have healing powers…mmm, how healing could that really be?

  • vinny said:
    August 27th, 2006 at 6:28pm

    well, since we are on the topic of weird food, somehow Asian cuisines seem to have more exotic food that are different from your everyday palate. I am sure cable has shown a whole variety of macabre fare, from beating cobra’s heart to the Balota ( fertilised duck embryo)
    Here is what i have to share from where I am from, Singapore. A fellow flogger recently tried a dish which i have never tried personally, Preserved crabs done in a teochew manner.( teochew is a chinese dialect group).
    I quote from Ivan’s blog, “This is a rare Teochew delicacy that is labour intensive. Basically, you take live female crabs and drown them in premium grade soya sauce, herbs, sesame oil and other good stuff. Let the flavours mellow for about 3 days and what you get is a sticky sweet dish, covered with red roe that has slightly liquified (think runny eggs) and crushed peanuts that is absolutely out of this world.”
    Read more at http://food.recentrunes.com/?p=1331.

  • thebee said:
    August 28th, 2006 at 4:12am

    Hmmmm that looks yummy to me. We have a version of that in the PI – sisig (sizzling pork cheek/ears) and kilawin (pork cheek/ears ceviche).

  • Ms. Jen said:
    August 28th, 2006 at 12:24pm

    Other than a moderately restrictive palette of food allergies and coeliacs disease (must eat gluten-free), I love food and from a young age ate things that were not in the American diet. My mom is/was a ESL teacher for adults and my earliest memories were of eating sushi, kimchi, catfish larp, stuffed grape leaves, etc.
    Having food restrictions from a young age was beneficial, as most American processed foods are poison to me. I do draw the line at okra, brains, blood, and dried/smoked horse meat.
    Why? Texture. Okra = furry one the outside, slimy on the inside. Brains and blood for much the same reasons that Owen cites above (prions, etc). And horse… well… I had it dried/smoked as a sandwich meat in Holland, it was dark, sweet and cloying. Pass the small crabs, the som thom and sticky rice, but leave the horse and okra for the rest of the table to eat.

  • Kay said:
    August 29th, 2006 at 4:13am

    Hmm.. i’m studying in Australia now but i’ve always lived in Singapore and i think i’ve been exposed to quite some interesting food… just out of curiousity.. do you know what pork floss is?
    there’s also chicken floss and fish floss… i think it has got to be one the things i miss the most from home…

  • Esther said:
    August 31st, 2006 at 9:42am

    Last year I had done a series on Weird Foods spread across the six continents. The link is given below:
    After completeion of that I found out the weirdest – Ice cream made of Viper’s Flesh. Weird is avery relative term and what might appear weird to me in a food might be a delicacy to the other.

  • eastingfeasting said:
    September 2nd, 2006 at 9:06pm

    hahahha this is hilarious, there’s nothing weird with fast food, you are what you eat right? the brad pitts and lindsay lohans don’t eat the stuff you folks described,
    it sounds like you all had an episode of Fear Factor.
    human’s diet have come a long way from the mcnuggets,
    therefore i considered the mcnugget the highest form of evolution in the food chain.
    i also knew a few chinese that think the basil leaf taste like toothpaste, and they have lived long enough to understand food, except for edible plants.

  • Nir said:
    September 2nd, 2006 at 11:09pm

    well, I remmember having grilled hamster (Cuy) in Peru. It is served whole, laying with its legs spread on a stick. That was pretty wierd. Also, those little dried grasshoppers they sell in the market in Mexico. And comes to think of it, when I went to Bankok I checked out the Chineese market, and EVERYTHING there seemed wierd. I couldn’t recognize half of the stuff, It looked like a scene form a science fiction movie.

  • Mary Ladd said:
    September 6th, 2006 at 4:17pm

    I find fat free and reduced fat food to be weird. Also no/low carb and processed crap. When I worked as a food judge, it was awful to have to sample the latest and worst in those categories.
    Otherwise, I am open to almost all foods and like to think I would try anything once. While it depends on where and how one was raised, I also think it can be due to attitude: I didn’t grow up eating whole roasted pig http://www.sfist.com/archives/2006/08/28/hot_stuff_incantos_whole_roasted_suckling_pig_with_its_nasty_bits_.php#more
    or offal http://jalapeno.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/06/nasty_bits_offa.html
    , but we did have lots of meat and spicy food, and an interest in a wide range of food.
    However, I might have a tough time eating monkey, hamster, cat or dog meat but that’s only if I knew what it was. I have absolutely no problem eating quail, rabbit, fish, innards, etc.

  • Claude said:
    September 6th, 2006 at 8:08pm

    my most weird food is civelles, a specialty from Nantes on the Loire in France. These are baby eels which swim en masse up stream and are caught by the bucket load and served as an entree with vinaigrette… Yuk! But horse meat is great! Full of iron and very good for you. They have specialty butchers in France ‘boucherie chevaline’ which only sell horse meat products. I also was not very impressed by the live cochraches for sale at the food markets in China, don’t think that I fancy getting those stuck in my teeth…

  • Claude said:
    September 7th, 2006 at 1:21am

    Sorry Pim, hadn’t read your blog for a while and had not seen the article about bying and frying the chips in horse fat. I always remember the boucherie chevalines as interesting places with the timber chopping block well worn. Always painted red too. It has been a long time since I left France to come and live in Australia with my family – 40 years in fact – but somethings are etched in one childhood’s memories and this is one of them, going to buy meat there instead of the ordinary butcher (which in France in anything but ordinary!). And andouilles and andouillettes… and saucison sec (donkey sausage) which my Dad used to love!

  • rebecca said:
    September 10th, 2006 at 6:22pm

    Hey Pim,
    I’m pretty open to trying new foods, but the one that does it for me is fish semen! How weird is it to eat animal semen!? I read about it this new book that just came out. Its called, The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine. (Its actually a really cool book. The guy Steven Rinella takes a year and cooks basically all of the recipes in Auguste Escoffier’s book “Le Guide Culinaire.” You should check it out.) One thing that other people think is weird is raccoon. Has anyone else tried it? I thought it was quite tasty… Happy writing!

  • slurp! said:
    September 12th, 2006 at 5:47pm

    those piggy ears & fried small crabs are one of my fav snacks!!! being in asia, i don’t find them weird at all.
    so what’s weird? insect meal? generally i’m quite alright with deep fried insects snack but not boiled like those giant water beetle, whereby one suppose to suck out the “creamy stuffs” in its abdomen… eeeeeeeeeek! freaks me out 😉

  • veron said:
    September 13th, 2006 at 12:35pm

    Hi Pim,
    Found your interesting blog. I come from the Philippines and pig’s ears is commonly eaten fried with onions and served on a sizzling plate…very yummy. I’ve eaten horsemeat too. The only thing I wouldn’t touch is brain or dog meat.

  • Jenny said:
    October 1st, 2006 at 8:03pm

    Hi, everyone.
    Three foreign-owned horse slaughter plants here in the USA are killing American horses. They kill the horses, harvest the meat, and then ship it overseas. Me and some friends are asking people to send an email to their senators asking them to push this bill through and vote to end horse slaughtering.
    Go to http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home/ and type in your zip code. Send an email to both of your US senators and tell them to stop horse slaughtering. The vote is coming before the Senate in early October so please do it NOW! 🙂 Thanks!!!
    And here is a blog that we set up so you can read more information about it:

  • Jane said:
    October 4th, 2006 at 8:36pm

    People shouldn’t eat kittens either!
    Sign the petition with the virtual Hello Kitty pen! Teehee.

  • Wholesale Suppliers said:
    December 8th, 2010 at 10:31am

    I was very shocked when I first come to know that the humans eats bugs in some country it was quite unbelievable for me, that their are farms of grasshoppers and this is such a large industry but when I try them for first time I understood everything after knowing how crunchy and juicy they really are….

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