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BIG LIST: A little bite weird

Friday 13 May 2011, 12:47AM

Sweetbreads: Let’s start gently, shall we? If you’re a meat eater, generally you’ll eat the muscles and fat of the animal, or you might occasionally foray into the liver or kidneys. But let’s not be wasteful, eh? Glands are what you need. Thymus, parotid, sub-lingual glands or, best of all, the testicles of a bull or calf. These are also known as Rocky Mountain Oysters. Why? No idea.

Fermented bean curd: Bean curd is okay, if rather bland. Fermented bean curd, on the other hand, is ferociously tasty. And when it’s fried up the aroma is enough to drive off the flies. At certain times of the year in southern China, it’s impossible to walk more than a few yards without walking into a wall of stench. But the Chinese love it.

Beetles: There are many edible beetles, and Thais generally love ’em all. But the one that only the real hard cases chomp down with a beer is the meng choochee. To obtain, walk along a dirt road, lift up a pile of buffalo flop, and you’ll find holes beneath. Dig. When you’ve enough beetles, wok-fry them quickly with some salt. Otherwise known as dung beetles. And no, they don’t taste of dung.

Greenland shark: The Chinese love their shark-fin soup but one suspects that even they might balk at hakari, an Icelandic specialty. Take one Greenland Shark, bury it for six months or so to ensure it’s good and rotten, then dig it up again and chow down. This is sensible because fresh Greenalnd shark is poisonous.

Casu Marzu: Talking of rotten foods, the Sardinians take cheese to new heights (or depths, depending on your perception) by purposely taking perfectly good, if smelly, pecorino cheese and preparing it so that it will attract flies to lay eggs and produce maggots. For a while, after health-and-safety-conscious EU outlawed the cheese, it was available only on the black market. Now, happily the Sardinians ahave found a way round this. Enjoy.

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Surströmming: People from Isarn, Laos and Vietnam love their fermented fish. And so, too, do the Scandinavians. Surströmming is fermented Baltic herring. You can buy it in cans. The easiest way to find it is look for cans that are bulging from continuing fermentation. The Skandies tend to open the cans and eat the fish only in the open air. Wonder why?

Lobster or crab butter: Take your lobster or crab, crack open its head and eat the slimy green stuff inside. Really good, we’re told. In the same class is the goo in the heads of prawns. None of this, by the way, will make you any more intelligent.

Balut: We all know that eggs have protein in them. Balut, a delicacy in the Philippines, proves the point. Let your egg develop to the point where the fetus inside is half-grown. It takes a couple of weeks. Pop open the eg and crunch it down, feathers, beak, feet and all. There’s another version that’s buried for a few weeks first.

Scrapple: Sometimes described as “all the remaining parts of a pig apart from the oink”, scrapple’s a part of any self-respecting Pennsylvania breakfast. Take all the bits no one else wants – snout, lips, various internal organs, boil it all down to a gelatinous mass then pour into a mould to set. Then slice it and fry it.

Kopi Luwak: To finish off your meal, you’ll need a cup of kopi luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee. What makes this coffee really special is the natural process it goes through. The coffee cherries get eaten by the Asian Palm Civet. The beans come out the other end, after which they are collected, washed thoroughly, sun-dried and roasted. It sells for anything up to US$700 a pound (B46,000 a kilo). Another version, kopi muncak, passes through the innards of a barking deer. Sugar and cream with that?

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