EXOTIC FOOD ON THE TABLE
Exotic…hhmmm….it’s something intriguingly unusual…but for me, it’s something exciting, strange and wonderful all at the same time. And how about if that ‘something exotic’ is a food? Would you be brave enough to try it? Well, let’s see if you can ingest some of the food I listed below.
Imagine two cherub faced children, seated at the dining table, eating chicken legs or so they thought. Their uncle asked, “How was the food? Did you like it?” The two angels can’t even speak and could only nod because their mouths are stuffed with food. Do you remember the film Ratatouille? The main character is a rat named Remy and he is one great cook. But in this case, he was not the one who cooked food for those two kids. He was the one cooked and being eaten by me and my sister. I nearly puked when my uncle told us this story. I was only 4 or 5 years old then and my sister was a year younger than me. He said they are field rats he caught in the farm. They are clean because they only eat rice from rice fields. They are considered as pests by farmers. Maybe because they don’t know what to do with those they caught, so they decided to bring it home, cook and eat it. Whatever kind of rat it is, it’s still a RAT! They are black and hairy, just like the ones we see at home or in the streets. And I can’t imagine myself eating it. But I did, when I was a kid without knowing it. My mom did not find out about it, until now I think. I might as well relate the story to her one of these days. Hehe… I can’t remember the taste, so don’t ask me about it. But my uncle said it tastes like chicken.
Sometimes, I crave for balut. A balut is a fertilized duck with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell. It taste better when eaten with salt or vinegar. Balut eggs are believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack. Baluts are mostly sold by street vendors and can find almost in every street of Manila. I can eat the embryo inside if it’s not that big and sip the soup inside as well. Sometimes, there are those baluts where the embryo is no longer an embryo but an ugly duckling. I tried to eat it one time and I can feel the beak and the feet while I chew the thing. Not to mention the feathers. Yuck! If I can’t bear it sometimes, I just buy Balut Penoy (an infertile incubated duck egg or with dead embryo) just to satisfy my craving.
Here is another favorite of mine. The French call “kuhol” as “escargot”. Kuhol or escargot is an edible snail. You have to like sip the opening of the snail to get the meat from inside. I don’t know how to explain how I eat it actually. I feel like my mouth is a vacuum that’s it. Haha…. Anyway, I don’t feel full at all after eating it. I just feel bloated maybe because of the air I have accumulated inside. But it doesn’t matter. It taste good and it’s worth it.
Another mouth watering Filipino dish is Dinuguan. Dinuguan is a Filipino savory stew of blood and meat (typically stomach, intestines, ears, heart and snout) simmered in a rich, spicy dark gravy of pig blood, garlic, chili , and vinegar. Yummy! Oh yeah! I feel like a vampire while eating it. It is also one of the food I often crave for.
Another animal that tastes like chicken is Kerokeropi. Is he a frog? Hehe…I am not sure but he looks like one. I hate frogs actually. All animals that are slimy. But I had a lot of encounter with frogs during our laboratory class in Physiology. The teacher would always ask to get one frog from the cage (where they store like a hundred frogs in the laboratory) to use for the experiment. And I would always scream whenever they’re jumping on my arm while I put my arm inside to get one. I have also experienced being bitten by them, if you can consider it as that. Imagine somebody toothless or someone without dentures biting you, that’s how it feels like. Eeww! And the way they are being cleaned, You cut the head while they eyes bulge out and before you cut it out completely, you pull the skin from the head down like stripping someone of his/her clothes. Be sure to dip your fingers on ashes so as to minimize slime. Then you take out the yellowish, murky sauce inside. Must be their intestines and internal organs, plus a silver thread that must be their spinal cord. Then you cut out their hands/feet. So gross! Enough of that. Hehe….However, while I hate them so much, they are tasty to eat. In fact, last two weeks, I cooked frogs for dinner. And it tasted good. By the way, these are just not any frogs. They are farm frogs, not too small and not too big either.
A farmer’s favorite and mine too, including my family, crickets, Mole Crickets to be particular, are rich in nutrients and it is juicy and flavorful. They are called “Kamaro” in our place. You won’t even notice it is a cricket once you are munching on it already. To capture these insects farmers would put a marker on an area where there is a good concentration of crickets. The farmers will then pour water in the area or holes, this will force the crickets to get out of their lair and eventually will be captured one by one. The cricket’s legs and wings must be removed, after which the body is boiled in vinegar and garlic. It is then sauteed in oil, chopped oinion and tomatoes until they are chocolate brown in color. Kamaro is crunchy and tasty. Without the wings and legs, there is no scratchy texture. My grandmother usually buys crickets to bring with her when going back to the US. They are my aunt’s and uncle’s favorite too. A few years back, they are sold by kilo. But lately, I found out they are already sold by piece. My goodness, imagine counting hundreds of them. Grandma usually cooks them in adobo, puts them in a ziploc and preserve it on the freezer until she gets back in the US. Don’t they have crickets in the US? I wonder if they are American size, too. Hmmm…
Another one which I just tried two weeks ago was the beetle. The beetle and its larvae are also considered delicacies here in the Philippines. The beetle larvae can be roasted, cooked in adobo or sauteed with salt and seasonings. These are rich and protein and their juice and tenderness truly leaves a good taste to the local folks here. The beetles which is also called “salangubang” is crisp and juicy can be accompanied with hard liquor which is what we did. My grandmother, who just recently turned 85, drank 3 bottles of San Mig Light Beer. She beat me with that. One time she was also able to drink a whole bottle of Johnny Walker Black in one sitting. I surrender, I don’t want to go through what she did the day after where she was regurgitating the whole day. I was even wondering if she did throw up her internal organs with it.
Anyway, that’s about it. I can’t remember more exotic food I have tried. And I am willing to try some more in the future, just as long as I get nutrients from them and just as long as they are tasty. By the way, I hope I did not violate any animal act or rights or something after eating all those from above. Have an exotic eating day to you all! 🙂