Smelly, crunchy, tasty: Asia's weird delights
Having lived in Malaysia for almost three years and Southwest China for three years, plus stints of travelling all through Southeast Asia, I have come to enjoy a good number of different treats.
TO SMELL OR NOT TO SMELL
In Malaysia, the durian is the king of fruits and rightly so.
Here's a tip if you are in the region for a while and want to really know if you like it or not: If you don't like it the first time, calm down after trying it, put it down and don't try it for a couple of weeks.
Believe it or not, durian isn't ridiculously gross, it's just mildly unpleasant, to start with.
A couple of weeks later, pick it up again and try it again (obviously not the same piece).
You may notice that you dislike it less than you did before.
Repeat this process and try it a few weeks later. At this point, you will either love it for life (like I do) or absolutely hate it.
I tried this method with a few friends and it worked so well that about 75 per cent of them ended up being durian converts. Not bad.
Personally I love it. I loved it after the second time trying it and I can't get enough of it.
Unfortunately it is a fruit that contains a lot of heat, so an explosion of pimples always follows.
SPIDER SENSES ARE TINGLING
The tarantulas for sale in Cambodia aren't too bad, but they are not that tasty. I don't recommend them. Even after eating them a couple of times, the kind of bland, kind of weird taste just didn't appeal, I didn't find them worth eating again.
CAN OF CHIRPING CRICKETS
The crickets you can get in parts of Thailand though... yum yum! They are definitely worth it. They are mostly just deep fried protein snacks, but isn't that what KFC is? Well, it's same-same but different.
A WORMY KIND OF MEAL
In China you can eat many a weird thing. Southwest Chinese Dai food often has many strange dishes. One of the oddest is bamboo worms, which you can order in the large or small varieties.
The large ones are about the size of a decent sausage and the small ones are about the size of your little finger. I love them.
They are just the right texture and if in a decent Dai restaurant (you can always tell because they have an autocratic grandma shouting orders to the cooks), they are absolutely brilliant. What do they look like? Kind of like a large huhu grub. Mmmmm, tasty!
A LOT OF HOT POT
Of course in this part of China they have hot pot a lot. One of the best things to eat is a frog hotpot, where they use big frogs with quite a bit of meat on them.
As most people in this part of China like to nibble on bony bits of chicken, they don't fatten their chickens up so they are rather emaciated.
As such, the frog hotpot is great for me - heaps more meat on frogs than you get on chicken. The taste? A little like chicken, but the texture is more like fish. It's just damn tasty all round.
In addition, the Dai people make the best mashed potatoes you have ever eaten. Ever. They call it "grandma's potatoes" or something.
My Chinese wife often also makes a special dish - pig brain soup. This is actually very tasty but with a bit of a horrible texture which makes you want to not take another bite. But you do, because it's tasty!
It's kind of a dryish tacky texture that sticks in your mouth a bit and parts of the outside of the brain are a bit like fish scales. You spit those parts out.
The meal is another one of my favourites so whenever we see pig brain at the market, we snap it up.
I recommend always keeping an open mind with your food adventures, don't automatically screw your nose up when you see something you wouldn't normally eat.
Nibble a little bit before you decide. Screwing your nose up at something different that you haven't tried is childish and closed minded.