Celebrations International Travel Blog

Not All Strange Foods Are Uniquely Asian!

Posted on: September 22, 2009

A post on Twitter yesterday read: “101 Frightening Ice Cream Flavors From Around the World,” with this link: http://goplanit.com/l/1gu

Intrigued, I scrolled through the entire article. I found it quite interesting that although the title reads “….From Around the World,” all of the ice cream tubs have Japanese labels. So unfortunately, though I’m sure there are strange ice cream flavors from all over the world, this assortment doesn’t show it.

However, this article got me thinking about how foodies and travelers view other countries, their foods, and culinary traditions. As an American-born Chinese, and having lived in various parts of the U.S. and in Europe, and being married to an Indian man, I recognize the fact that my own perceptions of the world’s culinary scene is more than likely atypical.

I’m well aware that many strange-looking, unfamiliar delicacies in the world originate in Asia: 1000-year-old eggs, squid ink, and shark fin, just to name a few.  But I must say that reading this article made me realize that more often than not, Asia is the first place in the world many people would associate all that is unappealing, weird, maybe even downright yucky in regard to food.  Why that is, I’m not sure.   Unfortunately, I think this pop culture reputation sometimes causes Asia to be regarded as too different, exotic, and possibly less desirable to less adventuresome foodies and travelers.

I do know that my experiences in France as a teenager quickly turned some of my long-held notions about food and culture upside down. Up until then, I had never seen duck eaten any other way than roasted Chinese-style.

When a waiter presented me with my first Canard a l’Orange, I knew it was a traditional French preparation of duck, although I had never tasted it. My host, momentarily forgetting about my Chinese heritage, leaned over to explain, “C’est du canard.” (It’s duck.) For lack of a better response, I said “Oui, je sais.” (Yes, I know.) His eyebrows shot up, then realizing that I had, of course had duck before, he quickly says “J’ai rien dit.” (I have nothing to say.)

On a different occasion, I had lunch at Au Pied de Cochon, near the Centre Georges Pompidou Museum in Paris. Same experience, except this time it was pig’s feet. I didn’t even know people other than Asians even ate pig’s feet, let alone that there were different ways to prepare it. Too squeamish to try it, I watched in amazement as my host mother polished off the entire dish of baked pig’s feet.

What about foods largely uncommon in the U.S. that don’t have any “mainstream” connections to Asia? My host families served horse meat, rabbit, lamb, and mutton in stews and other dishes. Sometimes I wasn’t sure what I was eating until I was told; I just knew it was something different that sometimes tasted funny, although many times flavorful sauces helped to mask other less pleasant flavors.

I think it’s worth mentioning that although uncommon foods come from all around the world, it’s up to foodie travelers to discover each country’s authentic flavors.

Amongst some of the most common “unique” foods of the world, these come to mind: Roasted Guinea Pig (Ecuador & Peru), Haggis (Scotland), Dried Cuttlefish (Asia), Stinky Tofu (Taiwan), and Paneer (India).

Note that while I have listed these as foods that I view as “unique,” others who are more familiar with and who enjoy them would disagree with me.  In my mind, that’s the beauty of culinary diversity:  the fact that every traveler and every foodie can find culinary creations to enjoy no matter where your travels take you!



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This is blog based on the experiences and interests of travel agency owners Adrienne and Agni Mitra. Through our blog entries, we will share our travel experience and expertise. We will also have other entries of interest to inspire your travels.

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