Weird stuff I’ve eaten

With the arrival of the Olympics, it seems like every journalist is busy scouring the hutongs of Beijing looking for stuff that will challenge their definition of food. I’m actually a bit miffed at that, because focusing on the stuff you find ‘disgusting’ actually takes away from the cuisine as a whole; it’s one thing to get all freaky about eating a duck tongue, say, but you’re focusing on it instead of all the rest of the dishes around it.

To give you an example, when I tried pidan doufu (tofu with fermented egg), it was more of a dare, and the strange thousand year egg was an experience in itself. But instead of freaking out about it, I gave it an honest try. And you know what? It became one of my favorite dishes in Shanghai. (I miss it a lot!) Same goes for chou doufu (stinky tofu) and yu tou (fish head).

Anyway, just for kicks, here’s a list of unusual things I’ve eaten over the last few years. Some of it isn’t very ethical… I don’t particularly feel proud of the whale sashimi, though I couldn’t pass it up. But I’d say that everything was worth trying at least once.

I’ve marked the place I’ve eaten these dishes for the first time… When nothing’s marked, it means China.

  • Live fish, as sashimi
  • Drunken shrimp (live shrimp drowning in rice alcohol)
  • 30 lbs lobster, still alive, as sashimi
  • Thousand year egg
  • Dog hot pot
  • BBQ dog meat, imported from North Korea
  • Alcohol with a viper in it
  • Alcohol made from deer horn
  • Fur seal penis alcohol
  • Sheep testicle [q]
  • Scorpion
  • Silkworm crysalis
  • Grasshopper [q]
  • Ant in chocolate [q]
  • Fresh cobra blood mixed with rice alcohol [v]
  • Durian
  • Durian flavored popsicle that tasted like a dead rat floating in an oil spill on the highway [q]
  • Sheep brain [q]
  • Pig head [q]
  • Fish head
  • Chicken head
  • Chicken feet
  • Duck feet
  • Pig feet
  • Stomach
  • Intestines [q]
  • Lungs
  • Spleen
  • Liver [q]
  • Heart [q]
  • Beef tongue [q]
  • Veal cheeks [q]
  • Jellyfish [q]
  • Eel
  • Stingray
  • Pigeon [q]
  • Shark
  • Whole baby chicks on a stick
  • Many species of snake [q]
  • Ostrich [q]
  • Kangaroo [edmonton]
  • Turtle
  • Alligator
  • Frog [q]
  • Snails [q]
  • Fresh oysters [q]
  • Parrot fish
  • Whale sashimi [j]
  • Horse sashimi [j]
  • Raw beef [f]
  • Raw deer
  • Haggis [s]
  • Sea urchin [q]
  • Sea cucumber
  • Chicken blood soup
  • Blood sausage [q]
  • Beef marrow [f]
  • Stinky tofu that smells like poo
[f] = France; [j] = Japan; [q] = Quebec; [s] = Scotland; [v] = Vietnam

About Daniel Roy

Daniel is a writer, backpack foodie, slow traveler, and endurance runner. He is the author of the upcoming book, "The Way of Slow Travel: A Hands-On Guide to the Best Travel of Your Life."


  1. We lived in Kumamoto City, in the province of the same name, which apparently is renowned for its horse sashimi (“basashi”). We were too poor to afford it or else I’d totally have given it a try.

    What was it like?

  2. Personally, I find it’s pretty good! Horse is lean and red meat, so having it as sashimi is actually a good way to appreciate its more subtle flavors. But I guess you have to be a pretty determined carnivore to enjoy it.

    (Although that’s probably not as bad as raw whale… Still feel a bit morally corrupt for that one.)

  3. Which reminds me… I need to ask you: Do you know where to eat a good Pekin duck in Edmonton?

  4. Haven’t found a good place for that in Edmonton. I think chances are slim… I’ll let you know if I find anything! Beijing duck is one of my favorite dishes, but I’m afraid I’ve never had good Beijing duck outside of China…

    (Ok, so I was spoiled with eating it in a Beijing alley near the birthplace of the dish, in a small but packed local restaurant. Hehe.)

    If you like spicy Sichuan, though, I can recommend a good place.

  5. I’m all ears for a good Sichuan place! 🙂

  6. “Fur seal penis alcohol”…
    I don’t know what else to say but: Wow.

    Does it actually taste like seal?

    I’ve had a chance to have seal pâté and dry seal sausage. The meat tastes has a very strong “sea” taste. Do you get that in the penis alcohol (geez… penis alcohol… I’m still shocked…)

  7. Hahaha!

    I haven’t tried seal, so I don’t know… I don’t think it does. It tastes like extremely vile, extremely strong Korean alcohol. Seriously, this is one of the foulest drinks I’ve ever tasted (much worse than the fresh cobra blood.) Although the worst was DEFINITELY the one with a snake in it. Uuugh.

    For the Sichuan place: it’s called Old Szechuan Restaurant, at 10703 103 Street. Pretty authentic, and it’s small and friendly. I strongly recommend the lazi ji (chicken in peppers) if you like spicy food, or the fish cooked in oil (again, very spicy.) You can’t go wrong, as there ain’t no “fake Chinese” items on the menu… It’s all the real stuff.

    The owners, incidentally, are not from Sichuan but from the northeast (Dong Bei) but it doesn’t matter… That’s the place I go when I miss the Sichuan food from Shanghai. 🙂

  8. Let’s go to the Sichuan place when I get back!!!

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