Ah – those fried Cambodian spiders again – coming in at number 1 on the Daily Telegraph’s weird food list! (See earlier fried tarantulas in Tunbridge Wells blog). What is it with these spiders!?! Anyway we’re glad, (proud even), to see that plenty of other mouth watering S. E. Asian nibbles appear on the list, so here’s a brief run down on what you can eat and where, on All Points East’s tours, so, if any of the items get your taste buds tingling…………
#5 – ah – civet poo coffee……now that is actually really good! The theory is the tree climbing, fruit eating critters only select the best coffee beans to eat even though they can’t actually digest them. So… take some civet excrement, (not widely available at all major UK supermarket chains), rummage around in it, (you can get friends and family to join in here), and collect your civet-selected beans for roasting. (Best to give them a quick rinse first.) It does make a really excellent cup of coffee and is available ready-packaged in any reputed Saigon market, if you happen to be in the area, on taking part in any of these tours here, or indeed for £15 per kilo plus p & p from All Points East. (It takes a lot of civet poo to make a kilo of coffee!)
#7 – fertilized eggs. Very popular in Thailand but we reckon there are better snacks around than this rather gross one so we’ll just move on quickly on to the next item. (Though if you really insist on broadening your culinary experience in the chicken foetus department your tour-leader can obtain you one on any of these tours here.)
#8 – chicken feet. Also a very popular snack in Thailand and Cambodia, though fortunately so are the other bits of a chicken. It’s actually a lot better than you might imagine. Cambodian chicken feet are usually boiled/steamed whilst Thai ones are deep fried and in terms of a tasty beer snack there’s no comparison! (Well there is a comparison – one’s chewy and glutinous and the other’s crispy and crunchy!) Either variety available at any reputed tour here!
#9 – birds nest soup. Not popular in S. E. Asia outside of upmarket Chinese restaurants but included since a lot of the nests are harvested in S. E. Asia and we get to include a pretty pic of Coconut Island – below – which is one of the many cave-ridden Thai islands housing very valuable birds nest concessions. (Note this is sustainable harvesting and in no way comparable to the abhorrent shark’s fin soup shark massacres!)
(Note also, the island’s off limits to visitors so noisy tourists won’t upset the nesting swallows, but this view was taken on our Reefs and Rainforests tour.)
#13 – durian. Big green spiky, highly pungent, (polite way of putting it), fruit that totally deserves the ‘love it or hate it’ cliche. Personally I find its perfume conjures up images of fruity blocked drains, the southern slopes of gutters outside of English city centre pubs after closing time or the place that rotten onions go to when even the rats and cockroaches won’t touch them. Plenty of Thai and Malaysian people, and even a few tourists, rave about them – but then plenty of Thai people rave about Hotel California so…..Also worth noting that they are banned from most hotels and public transport – not because they are a potential lethal weapon but because of said delicate fragrance! Anyway Thailand’s the place for them, with more varieties of durian than anywhere else in S. E. Asia, so if you have to then get them here, but please go and eat them at the bottom of the garden.
#15 – rats. Common in Vietnam and Cambodia although I’ve never seen them ‘roasted on sticks’ in Thailand as the Telegraph claims. Before you go eughhhhh these are not regular house rats or sewer rats but ricefield rats caught in the paddy-fields – though Vietnamese consumers are always careful to buy from a reputable dealer since the former are much more common and cheaper than the latter. Roasted or grilled they actually taste like – no, not chicken – but rabbit. Not bad at all and Can Tho, on our Saigon to Bangkok trip, is a good spot to sample them.
That’s about it for the Telegraph list – cow’s urine not being a popular thirst-quencher in Thailand and seal flipper pie being fortunately totally unavailable in S. E. Asia – but we do have a few more seriously odd food and drink items that they overlooked, for the next blog! How can you omit Lao sun-dried squirrel!?