Get your palette up, yo! Nah, I’m playing. You’re allowed to like or dislike whatever you want. All I ask is that you try things before you denounce them and that’s exactly what these brave souls from Buzzfeed did when they were given the task of trying these “strange” Asian foods. I’ve had most of these dishes so I’m going to dive a bit deeper.
First off, I have to make the disclaimer that I don’t like or try “weird” Asian foods just because I’m Asian. I try these foods because I like to try new things even if (or especially if) I’m scared of them. People see me eat tripe (cow stomach lining) in my pho (Vietnamese beef broth noodle soup) and think I can stomach that because I’m Asian. Nah. First, I’m Korean, not Vietnamese, so me liking Pho has nothing to do with my ethnicity. Second, you’d learn tripe is actually really mild in flavor but the texture can definitely be weird if you just tried it. But really, that Hot Pocket is pretty odd in texture too. Cold and crispy on the edges and boiling hot and rubbery in the center? Yum? Now, with that out the way, let’s get into the dishes Buzzfeed tried.
1. Chicken feet
The way these guys had it was the Chinese prepared method which means it’s braised in soy sauce and stuff. I prefer the Korean preparation which is cooked with garlic and heavy spices which makes it extra spicy but the Chinese way isn’t bad either. Again, it’s a textural thing. All you’re really eating is the chicken skin off the bony feet. It’s kind of gelatinous and wet but the flavor is just kind of salty. The presentation is hideous so I can see why it’s scary for most. 9 out of 10 of my Asian friends wouldn’t fuck with this either.
I don’t think I’ve ever had natto. They describe it as a Japanese dish of fermented soy beans. I know in Korea fermented soy beans is dwen jang and I think that would be pretty close? Someone correct me if I’m wrong. Dwen jang can definitely smell like something you don’t want to smell x10 and the flavor is pretty intense as well so I wouldn’t call it beginners food. I’m not sure if it’s an acquired taste though. A lot of my friends have liked it the first time while others (including myself) took years to appreciate it. Honestly, I only recently started really appreciating dwen jang to the fullest. The Korean version is definitely not slimy like the natto in the video, though. In it’s raw, fermented form it’s actually bone dry. I’ll have to hunt down some natto and get back to y’all.
This jawn stinks. That’s all you ever hear about this fruit but there’s no arguing that it intensely has an offensive odor. The texture is funky too. It’s kind of like a wet, runny cheese which sounds so gross because it’s supposed to be a fruit. I’ve only had it a few times but every single time it tastes like rotten onions. Some people swear they love it and I believe they do. I just can’t get into it. You’re probably asking why I tried it a few times instead of once. Maybe I’m weird but I like to keep trying things and trying to figure out why others like it and I don’t. I’ll probably keep trying to figure that out because that answer is mad unclear at the moment.
This is probably the strangest food of the bunch. A premature duck embryo. And it looks just like it sounds. The trick is getting a young one and not one that’s too developed. If it’s too developed the duck is way too gamey and even feathery and I’m about to get sick writing this sentence. But really it’s not too bad. A good one will taste like a super egg. You just add some salt or a light sauce of garlic and peppers and vinegar or something to add to the strong egg flavor and it’s pretty damn good. You really just have to get past the terrifying aesthetic.
5. San Nakji
My favorite! The whole dish is pretty gimmicky actually. You’re really eating the moving octopus for the sake of eating something moving. The flavor of the animal is super mild, almost tastes like nothing. That’s why you have to back it up with something as strong as sesame oil. It really is fun to eat though and has a very delicate flavor to it that you will miss if you’re paying too much attention to the fact that it’s sticking to your teeth or trying to escape your mouth. It’s not even really “alive” it’s just the nerves and shit causing contractions. There’s no brain or heart attached anymore so it’s just the muscles having spasms. Damn, that doesn’t sound appetizing either, huh? But I swear, it’s all mind over matter.
^As is with all of this stuff. I’ll try anything 3-4 times just to make sure I don’t like it. But I can respect when someone doesn’t like something based on flavor profiles and I won’t be pretentious enough to say you have to like oysters, or foie gras, or escargot, or whatever, as long as you don’t like it for the flavor. Not because you don’t like that oysters are slimy, foie is liver, escargot is snails, and so on. Give shit a try, like it, don’t like it, whatever. Just experience the world. It’s a lot bigger than Big Macs.