Tag Archives: weird food

out in the sticks nothing goes to waste

Just because I grew up in Bangkok doesn’t mean that I eat the deep-fried insects you sometimes see the street vendors selling. I don’t even eat unusual animal parts. But my mother grew up in rural Thailand, where they’ll eat pretty much anything. Even the occasional squirrel.

Silkworm cocoons. Photo credit: nolosabias on flickr

One of the things they do in my mom’s hometown is raise silkworms. They feed the caterpillars mulberry leaves until they cocoon, then collect the cocoons for their silk threads. But the little pupae inside don’t go to waste. The locals cook and eat them like a snack. I can’t imagine doing it now, but I tried them when I was a kid. We were visiting the village and the other kids were eating these little fried morsels, so I tried some. They didn’t look anything like caterpillars. They were more like small, brownish pods. I remember they tasted eggy, with a slighty plastic texture. Like the white part of an overcooked fried egg. I think I only tried them because they didn’t look that much like insects. They didn’t have crunchy bits, like legs or wings, and no weird bug juices oozed out.

Cooked silkworm pupae. Photo credit: Mai Le on flickr

The only other unusual food I remember trying there was snake soup. It looked like an ordinary broth with vegetables and chunks of whitish meat in it. It looked like fish but that meat was apparently snake. It had a similar texture to fish, and really no distinct taste. Why should eating snake be so scary? From a completely unscientific perspective, snakes and fish aren’t all that different are they? They’re both legless vertebrates with scaly skin.

Okay, you might have the impression now that I’m not that squeamish. But really, I AM. Another thing they like to do in the area my mom is from is make a sort of ant egg salad. I wouldn’t even WATCH someone eat that!

Ant egg dish. Photo credit: hiyori13 on flickr

How does my mom eat that stuff? It’s not gross if you grew up eating it.

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heston in wonderland

I named this blog ‘Not Eggs on Toast’ because I wanted to emphasise what I wouldn’t be blogging about: ordinary, humdrum food. And eggs on toast definitely qualify as unexciting fare.

Unless you happen to be Heston Blumenthal, who transformed just that into one of his signature dishes. Obviously, what they serve at his restaurant Fat Duck is a bit more than fried eggs and a slice of dry toast.

Photo credit: Sifu Renka on flickr

Fat Duck’s version consists of nitro-scrambled eggs and bacon ice cream atop pain perdu (French toast), served with tomato jam, candied prosciutto, and tea jelly on the side.

Notice how we’re back on the subject of bacon desserts again? Apparently, Heston was one of the very first to start playing with the idea, and began serving his eggs and bacon ice cream as early as 2004 (Russo).

Another one of Fat Duck’s most famous dishes is parsnip cereal, which comes in individual little Fat Duck cereal boxes (actually, all the courses come in miniature sizes). At a restaurant that serves green snail porridge and teeny slices of truffle toast, all that’s missing at this tea party is the Mad Hatter!

Jelly of Quail, Cream of Crayfish, with Chicken Liver Parfait, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast. Photo credit: loremipsum on flickr

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Filed under fine dining

bacon gone wild

Photo credit: Dave77459 on flickr

One of the things I knew I had to write about when I started this blog was “bacon mania”. In the past few years bacon has been an unusual ingredient popping up in all sorts of desserts (and drinks): ice cream, chocolate, cookies, donuts, cupcakes, crème brûlée- you name it, it’s been done. It sounds strange but so intriguing.

UNFORTUNATELY, between me researching this bacon obsession and actually writing this post, the weirdest thing happened: The TV show ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ featured a recipe for “bacon and eggs ice cream”. What?! Bacon ice cream has gone mainstream?! Seeing “Fast Ed” make it kind of ruined the allure for me. But I’m writing this damn post anyway!

Photo credit: kightp on flickr

First, let’s break down some conventional flavour combinations:

Salty + sweet flavours= GOOD.

Consider the appeal of salted nuts on ice cream, chocolate-covered pretzels, or mixing salty popcorn and M&Ms- it’s like a party  in your mouth. And seeing salt as an important element in sweets is another relatively recent dessert trend. But there are old classics, like salted caramel. And slightly less classic inventions, like chocolate-covered potato chips.

Sweet flavours + savoury/salty food= GOOD.

I think it’s universally acknowledged that sweet flavours CAN be a good match for savoury flavours and meats: honey-glazed ham, pork and apple, turkey and cranberry, Moroccan lamb stews with apricots, raisins, or prunes – the lists goes on.

But the absolute best sweet meat hands down (this is obviously an objective statement) is the maple sausage.

Photo credit: frozenfoodjournal on flickr

Whether made with pork, chicken or turkey, the addition of (real) maple syrup somehow makes these small breakfast sausages unbelievably juicy. I’ll admit I’ve only ever ones that come frozen in a box, and they are perhaps the richest sausages in the world. But in small doses they’re the perfect special occasion breakfast treat with pancakes or waffles.

Not surprisingly, this sweet meat combination comes from the maple farming regions of eastern Canada and America’s north-east (folks in those parts can be a little maple syrup nuts).

Photo credit: ~*Lauren*~ on flickr

I don’t think you’ll find maple sausages in Australian supermarkets or cafés though, so if you want to try them you might have to make them yourself. But even if you’ve never had a maple sausage you’ve probably had bacon with pancakes and maple syrup. You might never eat steak and cake in one bite, but these three things are a match made in heaven. Bacon and maple syrup, like maple sausages, are a perfect pairing because together they feature the trinity of indulgence: salty, fatty, and sweet. That’s why many bacon desserts also include maple syrup. It’s like turning a big yummy breakfast into a small yummy dessert.

The famous Bacon Maple Bar (donut). Photo credit: mccun934 on flickr

The reason bacon is the chosen one is because unlike other meats it can get really crispy and caramelised. It has to be properly browned so that the texture is more candied than meaty. Soft bacon in sweets would NOT have the same appeal.

Maple bacon ice cream on french toast. Photo credit: Amanky on flickr

If these bacony sweets are calling out to you, dessert guru David Lebovitz has a recipe for Candied Bacon Ice Cream on his website. Or if (like me) you don’t have an ice cream maker, this article includes some really tempting recipes, like the Chocolate Chip-Bacon-Pecan Cookies. I was seriously THIS close to getting up and making them while writing this post. Although I’m missing the pecans, and more importantly, the bacon…

[Anyone with a kosher or vegetarian diet, please excuse this bacon celebration.]

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Filed under food trends

some mayo with your jello?

Recently I had a major craving for a peanut butter and jelly (jelly here=jam) sandwich, so I just HAD to buy peanut butter (always a dangerous move). And thinking about peanut butter combinations, I remembered the weirdest I’ve ever tasted: peanut butter and ketchup on crackers. It was a snack served to me by my grandmother, and I’ve never seen or heard of it anywhere else. I don’t know why- it was surprisingly edible. Maybe even yummy (it’s been a long time, I don’t remember). And it dawned on me: a lot of retro food is weird food.

My grandmother grew up and became a housewife in an era so different from mine. One that included jello* salad. I have to admit I’ve never encountered one, but I’ve heard stories… As a kid my father dreaded Christmas dinner because jello salad was always served. Really, is it a salad? Is it a dessert?

A lot of jello salads are made with fruit and nuts, especially nowadays. Cranberry jello salad can be made to accompany meat roasts. Those sound nice, but they are NOT the jello salads I’m talking about. I’m talking about the “congealed salads” that became all the rage in 1930s America (JELL-O History). At first when you think ‘savoury jellies’, you might think ‘aspics’. But the congealed salads Americans started making used flourescent LIME flavoured Jell-O as their base, before mixing in ingredients like grated onion and mayonnaise. It was only some 20 YEARS later that Jello-O introduced savory jelly flavours, like celery and tomato (Jello Recipes).

From Better Homes and Gardens magazine (US edition), 1954. Photo credit: larry&flo on flickr

My poor father… Born in 1950s America, the height of suburbia, when home and lifestyle magazines were filled with jello recipes, because jello mountains were the height of sophistication. And sophisticated dishes always had to be garnished with lettuce- obviously.

Photo credit: amy_b on flickr

And whatever the dish, if it came out of a mold, it was sure to impress. Like this appetizing meat cake with green frosting:

Photo credit: x-ray delta one on flickr

I bet you’re hungry now! It’s scary to think that the jello/mold craze lasted until the 70s…

P.S. If you enjoyed the photos in this post, you might want to browse this delightful flickr photo pool: Gee, That Food Looks Terrible! [Vintage]. It’s where all your nasty retro food porn dreams come true.

* “Jello”, an American term for jelly or gelatin, came from the popular gelatin brand Jell-O.

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Filed under retro food

starting is the hardest part…?

With much trepidation I’m officially starting this blog. I’ve been putting this off because I’m just not a blogger. The mini blogs I’ve made in the past were purely academic. This blog on the other hand is a little bit of business/pleasure. But I do think I should mention off the bat that creating this blog is part of a university course. So posts may sometimes veer off on tangents- blogging related, but perhaps not food blogging related.

Back to the pleasure aspect. This is a food blog!. But I’ve decided not to become one mediocre food blog lost among millions (millions?) because:

1)      Who’s going to pay for me to dine out all the time?

2)      I sadly don’t have the time or skills to cook amazing things at home every week either.

So I’ve decided to blog about weird food. Well, I don’t know if “weird” is the right word.

Unusual food?

Strange food?

Unique food?

Unexpected food?

Anything out of the ordinary, but not necessarily things they would make you eat on ‘Fear Factor’. Because I hated that show. The show I’m thinking of is ‘Heston’s Feasts’ (because it was just on SBS last month). He’s like a mad scientist in the kitchen. His inventions are sometimes revolting and sometimes Willy Wonka-esque. But that’s my inspiration and I’m running with it.

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