Perhaps the most daring of all foods that backpackers can try in South East Asia. Balut is fertilized duck or chicken embryo that is boiled alive and eaten while it is still in its shell. This unique finger food is extremely popular in the Philippines, but also eaten sometimes in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Often sold by street vendors and seasoned with a mixture of salt, chili, garlic and vinegar, Balut is considered to be high in protein and rich in vitamins. Like many unusual foods, Balut is also believed by some to be an aphrodisiac, (what’s wrong with chocolate dipped strawberries?) giving amorous men the stamina to keep going all night (yet to be scientifically proven)!
Some say it tastes like chicken. Other say it tastes like crab/crap. Eaten deep-fried, scorpions are a scary snack popular in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China. But wait a minute – aren’t scorpions deadly poisonous? Apparently, the poison in the scorpion is neutralized once it is fried (alive) in the boiling oil… apparently. Once again, there is also a belief that eating the sting will make you strong and that it is good for male virility.
3. Chicken’s Feet
Making the most of all of the chicken, in Thailand, Laos and indeed China, chicken’s feet are a tasty treat! Crunchy, gelatinous, a little rubbery and well… slightly bony (as you’d expect), they are either barbecued or deep fried and often sold on the side of the street as a snack. In Isaan, the ‘spicy chicken feet salad’ is a popular dish, made with green chilis, tomatoes, coriander and fish sauce. If you’re lucky/unlucky, you might also find one lurking in your noodle soup! Don’t be chicken…
Rat meat has been eaten by people in the countryside for centuries, but according to a 2012 BBC report, is now being considered a delicacy in Thailand, more expensive that chicken or pork. Rats caught in the rice fields are the only ones cooked and eaten, not those that you see running around the streets of Bangkok, than God! The meat is said to be extremely tasty and unique – anyone for ratatouille?
Eating dog-meat often horrifies backpackers, as it is so unusual Western cultures. In Vietnam, dog meat is mostly eaten in the north at specialized ‘dog-meat restaurants’ and is even considered to bring good fortune. Either roasted or stewed, dog-meat is also considered to raise the libido.
6. Creepy Crawlies…
A popular street food snack in Thailand, your first encounter with these unusual nibbles is probably on the Khao San Road as they sit, fried and crisped with oil glimmering underneath the bright lights. There are crickets, silk worms, grasshoppers, beetles and last but not least cockroaches! Tempting huh? Curious backpackers and tourists surround the cart, pointing and taking photos, but few are brave enough to taste the local appetizer.