1 - Duck Foetus Egg - Cambodia
Your face is probably the same as ours was when we first heard about this one. It is more widely known as a "Balut" and has been around in Asian Culture for centuries. A "Balut" is a developing bird embryo (most commonly a duck) that is boiled and eaten straight from the shell. It originated in the Philippines, but can be found all over Asia.
The Balut is incubated, according to preference, for lengths of 14 to 21 days. The longer the Balut is incubated, the more recognisable its features will be.
We know that this sounds completely horrible, but let's just get something straight... It tasted great! When in Cambodia, we were being driven around by Bon, our Tuk Tuk driver, when he saw a street food stand on the side of the road selling Balut. He shouted back, "do you know what those white eggs are?", we replied "yes, their duck eggs, we have them back at home!" (He originally thought we said "dog eggs", and shouted back "noooo, dogs don't lay eggs!") Obviously recognising that we didn't quite realise what these eggs were, he pulled over in the Tuk Tuk. He said they were "duck foetus" eggs and that they were a local delicacy in that part of town. We were both a little bit wide-eyed and were nervous giggling with pure hesitation as to whether we should give it a try, I mean c'mon, it's a world away from our usual soldiers and dippy eggs!! Jac cracked one open first, only to review a large circular orange part on one side, with the curved back of the duck foetus on the other! We recorded it all and all you can hear is us both gasping and saying "ohhhhh my gosh", it was so funny. We didn't quite know what to think. Jac ate the orange part first (which would eventually form the yolk, my favourite bit of a boiled egg!) and said it tasted really nice. When the yolk was gone, you could see the whole foetus body in the egg. It was a bit of a mad expensive, Bon was laughing with us about e whole thing and just said to "close your eyes and do it quick!" We both ate it... And honestly, it's really not that bad! It actually tasted like a really nice boiled egg. It may look a bit disgusting, but it's a great source of protein at least and is definitely something to try when in Asia, at least once. Funnily enough, I actually bought these on a bus journey for us by accident a few weeks ago, I thought they were normal boiled eggs! We passed on eating them again, purely for the fact we would look a bit mental on a bus full of people eating Duck Foetus Eggs!
COST: 5000 KHR per egg (91p)
2 - Snake/ Mountain Cobra - Vietnam
Sampling local delicacies can be one of the most interesting parts of travelling. Particularly the animals that a lot of us tend to be afraid of, such as Snake! Snake is sold widely across Asia, it's usually fried on the bone and is an incredibly lean meat source, containing around half the calories as a beef steak at the same weight.
We couldn't wait to get to Hanoi because it had always been the place that we heard you could choose your own whole snake which you could then eat. Around 40 minutes from the Old Quarter is Le Mat, which is more well known as Snake Village. We sat down in the restaurant and was greeted by the lovely owner, Dragon (cool name, even if it's not his real one). There were 3 options of snake, we went for the middle option, which cost 1.2 million VND! It's crazy expensive we know, but for the experience and the 11 courses of snake cooked in different ways, we thought it would be worth it. The whole experience was a bit mad! Firstly, he led us to the back room where we watched the snake be killed and prepared for cooking. The owner put the snakes heart into a shot glass for Jac to drink (it was supposed to make him strong, but we have to admit it's not been successful, he's still got a skinny little pair of spaghetti arms - i can't wait for him to read this bit, he's going to kill me haha!) What was even more crazy is that he heart was still beating inside the glass! Next, he let us play with a friendly garden snake before we finally sat down for some food. The courses were amazing! In general, the snake tasted quite chewy, but there's no other way to really explain it other than to say it tasted really nice! The menu featured items such as snake porridge, crispy snake skin, grilled snake meat and more. To top it all off, we were given unlimited amounts of free rice/snake bile wine (lethal stuff) and beers. You can't go wrong with that!
COST: 1.2million VND for a medium sized snake (£39 for 2 people)
3 - Bugs and Creepy Crawlies (Cambodia)
So, your in a hostel that cost you $4 for the night, you go to the bathroom and see a big cockroach scurrying across the floor. Did you know... That cockroach tastes mighty fine when it's fried, flavoured and served up in a bag?! Insects have been eaten by humans since pre-historic times and it is still a widely-recognised practice all over the world. They are very common in Asian Culture, and are often enjoyed with a beer as a healthy snack. Insects are also generally high in nutritious value, with high contents of protein and fibre. So.. What insects are we talking about here? There are 1000's of edible critters across the world, however most commonly seen in Asia are grasshoppers, silk worms, larvae, cockroaches and bamboo worm. We bought a whole mixed bag of these in Cambodia from a lady selling them on the side of the road. She sold us a humongous bag for just $1 and they tasted so nice! We both thought they generally just taste like beef crisps! They are really crispy when you bite into them and have such a nice flavour. We started snacking on them all the time throughout our travels, we loved them!
4 - Scorpion (Thailand)
Perhaps one of the most popular creepy crawlies tried by the millions of tourists that flock to Thailand each year. We tried these on Khao San Road (when drunk, of course) and well, they really didn't taste very nice. They taste a bit like... the thick burnt bit on the skin of the sausage that your friends absolutely cremated on the BBQ. Jac didn't think it tasted too bad, so it's all a matter of opinion. However, beware of the vendors selling them on popular drinking streets such as this one, we tried a single scorpion for 70 Baht ($2). They ramp the prices up for drunk westerners who will pay a pretty penny to record themselves eating a scorpion (smiling awkwardly as I've just basically described us in our first week! The video can be found on our YouTube channel haha) A few weeks later we realised how cheap they are in local towns! Save your money and buy them locally!
COST: 70 Baht (£1.61) or cheaper in local towns.
5 - Durian (Anywhere in Asia)
You cannot turn a corner in South East Asia without seeing this fruit. It is literally known as the "King of Fruits" and is the most popularly harvested fruit across South East Asia. It is typically spiky in its appearance and can grow to be absolutely ginormous! Honestly, you should see the size of some of these fruits that hang off of the trees. They are about as big as a small child and have to have plastic tied around them to hold them onto the tree whilst they grow. We are still bewildered as to how the branches can even hold them up! In Cambodia, one city called Kampot even had a roundabout dedicated to the long-loved fruit, featuring a giant golden durian in the middle of the roundabout, about 30ft high! Not only are these fruit known for growing to a ridiculous size, they are also known for the strong smell that comes with them. Tourists from all over the world come to try the "Vomit Fruit" as apparently, when it is cut it smells a little bit like sick. Some people have compared the smell to rotting onion, sulphur and sewage, when others have compared it to fruit and honey. Depending on the aromatic compounds that your body chooses to smell, the scent is different for everyone. Jac and I don't actually mind the smell, we can't quite put our finger on what it smells like, but we both think it's nothing like vomit or sewage, it's just a really stagnant sweet smell. Nonetheless, give it a try! You might like it!
COST: Totally varies! Never buy it in a supermarket because its an outrageous price! Apparently the price has gone through the roof since a large majority of the Chinese population decided they liked it and apparently bought half the stocks across Asia! The best place to buy it is from the local markets! We actually found it as cheap as £2 for a big piece but generally you'll be expecting to pay around £5-6!
6 - BBQ Rat - Laos
Known as a pest to many, rats are actually served as a delicacy in many parts of the world. In Cambodia, they are commonly fried up and eaten as a healthy meat option, due to their free range activity and largely organic diet. Common rats aren't caught due to being dirty and their risk of carrying of diseases such as scabies. Rats are caught from the wild, most typically after the harvest season, where rats flee to higher ground to search for food. Driving through Cambodia, you'll see rats that have been roasted on the bbq, flattened and put on a stick!
They tasted a bit like pork and are really cheap, heathy meat source - we ate them on a hangover which was dangerous but worked out okay - phew! So, the next time you are chowing down in your chicken stick, try swapping it for rat stick! This whole blog sounds mental we know... But when in Asia!...
COST: 8,000 VND (£1.46p)
7 - Chicken Feet - Malaysia
Another popular food item in BBQ's across Asia. Waste not, want not after all, it's part of the Asian culture to not to spare any part of the animal. We find this a great prospect however as everything is eaten, which significantly reduces wastage and helps save our little planet. We weren't particularly sure how you eat this delicacy.. As technically, it's bone and tendons. When we tried it, I bit one of the toes clean off and was a bit puzzled as to how I eat the mouth full of gristle that I had just obtained! A few days after this, I found out that you are only really meant to chew the outer layer, as though your chewing a pork rib! We are still yet to try it again with this method, but give it a go and chow down on some little chicken feet. Our second run in with chicken feet, we were at one of the famous cook you're own hot pot places in Vietnam, ordered what we thought was chicken, low and behold out comes a platter of no joke, 50+ raw chicken feet - which got sent straight back! haha
COST: 5000 KHR (90p)
8 - Tarantula - Thailand
Sadly, we haven't actually found this anywhere, although we have seen a live one in the Jungle that Jac made chase us, when being the idiot he is, stuck a stick down their hidey hole! Often found in Cambodia, these hairy eight-legged critters have been fried up and served as a delicacy since the years of the Khmer Rouge rule. They cost around 5000 KHR (90p) and are around the size of your palm! For those scared of spiders, here's your chance to show one who's boss (it doesn't matter that it's dead, it's the thought that counts). As with all things when you don't really know how to explain the taste, it tastes a bit like chicken!
We promise you that as soon as we find one for sale, Jac will have a picture up with one of those beauties in his mouth!
COST: 5000 KHR (90p)
9 - Sago Grub (Butod) - Borneo
This one is definitely not for the faint hearted! We stumbled across this delicacy in a local night market (Pasar Malan) in the totally 'un-touristy' town of Bintulu/ Sabah (Which is actually a fantastic place to visit).
Known to locals as Butod, this is one of the local delicacies and is also pretty healthy with a good level of protein per serving.
However, we'll be honest. Butod, is totally rank! We tried it a couple of different ways! Raw was the worst as you would imagine! Chewy and squidgy and totally weird tasting. We'd try to explain the taste but its pointless (anyone who says it tastes like chicken or beef, is completely wrong!)
We then tried this boiled, which actually didn't taste all that bad! Now, I can 100% assure you, when these have been boiled they taste like...wait for it...cold, two day old, mashed potato!
I said this to Katie, who looked at me like I was crazy, then after screaming, eating it, she agreed. So there you have it, boiled Butod tastes just like two day old mashed potato.
COST: 10 Ringgit (£2) for around 20
10 - Weasel Poo Coffee (Not to be confused with the incredible tasting Vietnamese egg coffee)
So, back in the day, a few Vietnamese coffee farmers were a bit puzzled as to where their crop was disappearing to when it came to harvest season. Eventually, they found out that weasels were getting high on life, eating the coffee beans from the plants! Not wanting to waste the harvest, the farmers trapped the weasels and waited for them to basically poo out the stolen coffee beans. The farmers had a little taste of the coffee beans after the weasels 'gave them back' and found that it tastes better than what they had been producing originally. Hence, weasel poo coffee! This tradition has been kept for a number of years and tours to weasel coffee farms are a popular activity across Vietnam. We didn't actually go to a weasel coffee farm, but we tried the coffee and it wasn't really for us. It's has a very rich smokey taste, some love it, some hate it! The sad thing is, the once mischievous weasels, who roamed free and snacked on coffee beans have now set in stone a dull future for their furry friends, who will continue to be caged and forced to eat coffee beans for the sake of the weasel poo coffee.
This actually just tastes like bang average coffee but worth trying for the sake of saying you've had it. Travelling around Asia this isn't the only type of poo coffee we've come across! You also have Civet Cat Poo coffee! Personally, we're happy to just stick with French Coffee!
COST: 50,000 Dong for a cup
11 - Rice Wine - Vietnam
We've saved this one till last, because its what we've had most of! Rice Wine is really common across South East Asia. Every country we've been to has had its own version of Rice Wine and they've all been just as potent as each other! Distilled from rice with addition of Ethanol, rice wine is made by fermenting rice starch that has been converted to sugar. Typically, rice wine has a content of around 18-25% ABV, although we swear this is higher as we both end up absolutely bladdered every time we have it! You'll most likely be offered rice wine by every hostel owner across Vietnam, it's a very social drink as you all shout "cheers" in the local language and tap glasses every time you down the shot! In my opinion, it tastes like pure bleach, not that I've tasted that before. But in Jac's and Nils' opinion, it tastes amazing and leaves a nice warm feeling your throat. Top tip - be sure to look out for strawberry rice wine, we were given this by one of our hostel owners once and I'll be honest... It wasn't that bad! It was definitely my favourite version of the potion yet. Top tip number two - the more you have.... The more drunk you get... The less you notice the taste! So just keep getting your glass filled and it becomes easier by the shot!
COST - This is the best bit. In Vietnam you get a plastic water bottle filled with 1.5 litres for as little as £2. Or even better, just join one of the many random Vietnamese friendly locals that'll offer to do a shot with you and enjoy their company at the same time! In Laos you can buy actual bottles of the stuff in shops, like home brew Vodka and Whisky for literally £1 for a 70cl glass bottle (with even a label!)