Unusual foods

This thread about Casa Bonita in Denver, and the quality of their food, reminded me of a menu I keep in my office. “Odd” in the sense of “unusual where I come from.”

Guinea pig is a staple food in the area. Here (in Huánuco, Peru) it was served roasted/grilled or as pachamanca and cut in half nose to tail. Tasty, but a lot of work to eat. The two guys from Lima who were with us definitely had an embarrassed attitude of “this is peasant/country/redneck food” when I said I was going to order it.


I’m under the impression that they are generally kept live and slaughtered on demand by bashing it against a counter or something similar.

Well, that’s a awful thing to visualize. Ugh.


I’m not sure if that’s sarcasm or something else, but the guinea pig I was served was an entire animal, with a complete (and intact) head, skinned and halved lengthwise.

No, that was how a Peruvian meal was described to me. The eater said he was actually asked to pick the Guinea Pig out like a lobster. I don’t think you’d have to actually break the skull in order to kill a guinea pig. I can’t really imagine it being any better if they did it in a slaughterhouse.

Wow, OK. Interesting. My Peruvian companions did mention restaurants where people could pick their meal, but that wasn’t the case at this place. How they dispatch them . . . I dunno. For rabbits we grab them by the neck and do a quick shake.

To continue Odd Foods, In Iceland I ordered hakarl, which was on the menu, and the Icelanders around me all said “Oh, nasty, no, no way, that’s gross.” I was surprised.

Thanks @ficuswhisperer for splitting this out. I had thought about it but don’t have that superpower.


How bout sautéed milkweed pods?

I had them for the first time recently – yummy!


Interesting. Never knew this was a thing.


My wife was just telling me about a breakfast she had recently of mesquite flour pancakes. Evidently you make mesquite flour out of the seed pods but not the seeds themselves.


Not exactly unusual, but the gulf between its ready availability and its limited use in modern times is certainly surprising: acorn flour. You can collect pounds of high-protein, high-quality, shelf-stable food in a matter of hours. Processing takes a bit of time and effort but the bulk of it is passive.

And acorn pancakes are delicious!

Here’s a good summary on acorn harvesting and processing by a well-established foraging expert.


Same goes for their national drink. Brennivin. The stuff tastes like Aqua Velva. Strictly for tourists who read a travel guide.


Worse then Malört?


The two weirdest things that I’ve eaten in Japan were…

  1. A piece of shrimp sushi where the shrimp was still alive and kicking… especially when I bit into it.

  2. Fried 白子 (shirako), which is the scrotal sack and milt (i.e. semen) of a fish, usually cod.

Note: In neither instance was I told beforehand.


This sort of stuff (milkweed, mesquite pancakes, etc.) was very common in the 1800’s and before.

I have a book on wild edibles which discusses at length the practice of padding your wheat flour supplies with ground acorn, various pollens, etc. Settlers or even just woodsy folks had a much more varied diet than we do today.


For me and my time in Japan it was a raw snail and Natto (fermented soybeans).


My wife introduced me to natto long before my first trip to Japan. It’s surprisingly easy to find in Asian grocery stores.

Japanese New Year food was an eye opener. The osechi box of preserved goodies and ozoni (mochi soup)

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That’s funny. The hakarl came cubed in a martini glass, with a shot of Brennevin (“hell water?”) on the side. The hakarl was so . . . jarring . . . That I drank down the brennevin without tasting it.


Wouldn’t know. Never seen Malort in my neck of the woods.

The best Icelandic drunk food I had was a stand that sold lamb based philly cheese steaks.

Whale steak there was awesome. I am so going to hell for it.

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Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I’m planning on taking a trip to Hokkaido, where there are a couple of restaurants that serve bear steak.