(Grab some popcorn. This is a long one.)
My birthday’s coming up, so my thoughtful brother and his wife (you remember Andrew and Melinda) sent me a gift.
If you find yourself wondering what’s going to be in the box, let me remind you that you’re in the Adventures in eating section of the blog, so it’s a safe bet that it’ll be some kind of odd food. But what kind of odd food?
I was in for a surprise, and so are you.
First thing out of the box, canned quail eggs. Hey! I already did those, but that’s alright. I have been wondering if my bad experience was somehow a fluke. Or maybe my palate has changed in the years since my first try.
I’ll give it another go.
Wow. OK. Good find, Andrew.
Salted Mud Fish. This is apparently some sort of mud-dwelling fish in a jar. I presume with salt added. I’m getting nervous, guys.
Wait. What the hell is this‽ Some kind of bug in a can… Great. Juuuuuust great.
At this point I’m breaking out in cold sweats. Let’s pause this.
I went to the pantry and got this out. This is some weird tamarind candy that Megan’s sister, Jennifer, sent me from her trip to Mexico a little while back. I need something to balance out the horror from above. I can do candy.
Back to the box.
Last thing in the box. Alright.
Cakes. No problem with cakes. My hyperventilating is subsiding.
I called my brother and he explained that they threw in the Moon Cakes because they felt bad about the rest of the care package. That’ll round out the dessert course.
Here it is. My birthday feast:
Oh boy. Andrew Hepworth is a jerk.
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Starting off with the old favorite–Canned Quail Eggs.
I open the can to that all-too-familiar waft of faint but assertive sulfur. There’s no better way to start the day than a nice chicken fart.
Six. Not even a full dozen. I think this probably the snack pack for your kid’s lunch. You know, if you’re a terrible parent.
I insert a fork and the rubbery outside goes “creak, pop”. These things are a bit tougher than a standard egg.
I’ve clearly done this before. You can see the look of experience on my face.
As I chew, I think to myself, “OK. This is fine. I don’t know what I was thinking before. Maybe I just got a bad batch.”
“This tastes exactly like an egg, but the yolk is a bit underdone… and a bit gamey… a bit like dirt…”
“Oh no. I remember! It starts out fine, and then devolves into a mouth-coating olfactory dungeon. Turn back! OH NO! It’s too late!”
“Why don’t I read my own blog?!”
There’s that fat content of the soft yolk that has an amazing staying power. It just coats your tastebuds and won’t let go. It’s exactly the kind of thing I look for in a good milk chocolate, or a nice soft cheese. But this eggy mess is awful. It’s like eating a spoonful of Crisco that’s been stored with gym socks.
I ate some tortilla chips and drank a lot of water. Leave me alone, egg!
Next up: Salted Mud Fish.
The ingredients make it seem like maybe it should be called sugared mud fish. I also appreciate the contrast between the crystal-clear waters on the label and…
…this. It’s a snake in embalming fluid with clay dumped on top. This looks like the kind of thing that should not be opened inside.
So here we are in my outside tasting laboratory, AKA my woodshop, AKA the porch. Let’s continue.
Freshly opened I get a playful aroma of wet dog at the ocean with just a touch of rotting corpse. Good idea, not opening this inside.
Holding it up to my nose, the wind blows the scent around. I get notes of capers and olives, so there’s some pickling agents in there, for sure. But there is still a solid base of rotting ocean dog.
Out comes a piece of fish and into a nearby bowl. Here we can see the truly horrid texture. Slimy, and scaly at the same time. Preserved and undead.
I wrestle with it, to slice off a portion. It’s like cutting raw chicken.
As I bring it to my nose again, I detect new scents. Melted plastic or burning rubber. Chemical. This fish has a very complicated odor.
For the first tenth of a second, there is an interesting flavor. Complex, meaty, savory… but before I can pin it down…
Burning Caustic Salt. SOOO MUCH SALT. My mouth clamps down, and I bend over to spit, and spit, and spit.
This is saltier than pure salt. My tongue tingles.
I probably could wash it off and try again. That’s probably the actual preparation instructions, but nope. This stuff is foul.
I gave up, and I have never been happier.
Now, what’s next?
Sorry. I try to keep it clean here, but what the hell? I mean. What is that, even?
Thank you, translation sticker. Even assuming it means “Fish Bait“, that does not ease my tension.
Pupa… as in… bug adolescent… OK, time to hit the Google. Can I even eat this?
Google says that it’s called Beondegi. It’s silkworm pupae and, while it’s frequently called “fish food” or “fish bait”, it is actually a food for humans. Google also said that I should prepare it warmed up.
Opening the can eludes me for a moment, until I notice the pull ring on the bottom of the can. When I crack it open, I take a whiff.
It smells brown. Like wet leaves, mildew on lumber, or being buried alive.
If I’m going to warm it up, I should transfer it to a bowl. Everybody out.
More closeups, because I know you guys want to see it more. Warmed up, it smells exactly like a tire store. I feel like I just walked into a Goodyear. It seems familiar, and for some reason, this comforts me.
The outside texture is a bit tough like cardboard. No stabbing with a fork here. It’s either chopsticks or scooping.
I’m actually less nervous at this stage than I was with the fish. Maybe it was my research; maybe it’s the familiarity of being able to pinpoint a smell.
This is an action shot of me biting down. Squiiish, squirt. The squirt is mainly the same liquid that they’re floating in, on the inside too. For the most part the actual inside is like a thick paste.
The texture is very much like a stuffed grape leaf, or a soaking-wet cigar.
Flavors? The outside flavor is woody. The inside is earthy. Both are mild. The inside is a bit like burnt popcorn, but more like greens. Not entirely plant though; I can tell I’m eating protein.
No fishy taste. For some reason I expected that.
They’re not nearly as bad as I expected. The texture is the worst part. The flavor is pretty neutral. If they were crispier, I’d probably eat more.
Maybe I should fry them … but I won’t.
After that, I need something sweet. Let’s roll out the desserts.
Sweet Tamarind Paste. I should preface this. I don’t like tamarind. I’ve had it a few times, and I just can’t seem to get into it. But this was a gift, and I tried the eggs again…
Oh, well. Here we go.
Opening up the bag o’ blood, releases a smell of raisins.
I grab a spoon and scoop some up.
This is going to be a piece of cake. I ate bugs.
It tastes like slightly salty strawberry jam. The added sugar is granular and I can feel it rub against my teeth. Tamarind always has that hint of chiles and vinegar, too. Kind of like a squirt of spicy ketchup.
Normally, I would not enjoy this as much as I am, but after what I just ate, I could eat this by the pound.
The process of mashing that tamarind seems pretty crude. There’s a big seed in my first sample.
This is what I found in the first two bites. It’s like the forest floor in there.
I switched to the candy version. Pelon Pelo Rico or “Delicious Bald Hair”.
Appetizing and not at all snot-like.
And with the force of a hundred first graders, I manage to squeeze out a bit.
That marshmallow squeeze thing from a few episodes back was tough to squeeze too. What is with candy packaging that requires children to have super strength? Is this some sort of new covert exercise plan?
The candy paste tastes pretty much the same. More processed, more added chile flavor. I just feel weird eating something with so little texture. It’s just paste.
I guess I like tamarind, now. All it took was some terrifying food to compare it to.
Now, for those cakes.
They smell like rum balls.
Taste sweet but bland. Way too dry and very chewy. The complete opposite of the tamarind paste… Hey. That gives me an idea.
Best thing I’ve eaten all day.
I invented it. It’s called a Tamarind Paste Moon Cake, or an S|7 Pie for short, and it’s delicious.
Just make sure you eat some sweat-eggs, hell-fish, and bug-pods before, so you can truly appreciate it.
See you next week.
Check out more “Adventures in eating.”