Weird Foods: Fish
- Sea Slugs (Korea): While in Korea (and slightly inebriated from drinking soju), I tried a sea slug. They were kept alive in a large tub. The old lady who sold them, took one out, sliced it into pieces (threw the guts away) and gave it to me with a yellow sauce in a cup. It was surprisingly crunchy, and tasted sort of like a radish. I would eat one again, but they just don't sell them here in the USA. -- Tim
- Shark (Iceland): Traditional Icelandic food is not as bad as it sounds: in fact several dishes are actually edible. The one glaring exception is hákarl, putrefied shark meat that has been buried for up to six months to ensure sufficient decomposition.
- Jellyfish (China): The jellyfish is cut into thin strips and served in a bowl as an appetizer. It tastes like crunchy, salty, thick rubber bands. -- andreas
- Cuttle Fish (Hawaii): Shredded dried cuttle-fish with a dusting of hot red pepper. It looks a bit like hay, but stringier. If you can imagine mineral asbestos the color of hay then you have it exactly. When you open the package everyone in the room knows there is a dried fish product available. Tough, stringy, delightful - I used to get through a package of this every few days.
- Xinchin (Yucatan): Xinchin is a fermented fish sauce made with citrus juice and chilies. Similar to crevice except that it has been allowed to ferment and becomes somewhat ripe in odor. Can be tingly on the tongue like tuna salad gone bad. The heat of chilies is what save this clear viscous sauce from being as nauseating as ludefisk. Can be found in restaurants on Isla Mujeres and around Cancun.
- Oysters (US Seattle): Once when I visited Seattle, Washington, I tried "oyster shooters", basically shrimp sauce with vodka, and raw oyster in a shot glass. It's best not to look at it before you try it, but it tasted pretty good. Nice tangy-spicy-fishy taste(not to mention chewy!), didn't taste the alcohol at all.
- Rolmops (Netherlands, Denmark): Raw herring wrapped around a pickle and/or a cocktail onion and secured with a toothpick. Served cold.
- Herring (Netherlands): Haring, it's a type of raw fish we eat in Holland. It shouldn't be missing from your fish section. We eat it optionally with unions (usually) on the streets at a haring-car and hold it by the tail, tilt back our head and eat it. The head of course is taken off, and its been cut with the thingies, fishbones out etc.
- Raake Orret (Norway): A trout is caught in fresh water and must be dealt with there and then before landing to avoid possible botulism (soil dwelling bacteria)It is left in water containing a small amount of sugar and salt and stored in cool even temperatures in garages etc. for months. it smells like rotten decaying fish, is smooth in texture to eat and very mild. it is eaten with flat bread made from yellow peas and, allegedly, home made spirit drunk with it. it is not available other than from domestic sources and potentially poisonous if the wrong bacteria contaminate the food.
- Surströmming (Sweden): Your Fish List is totally incomplete without the foulest smelling food you can ever imagine! swedish.html
- Herring (Sweden): Surströmming (Fermented Herring). It's herring which spends a year in a barrel (You can't imagine the smell!). Gut the fish on your dinner plate. Fermented herring, potatoes, onion and tomatoes served on tunnbröd (thin hard bread)
- Morton Bay Bugs (Australia): They are kind of like a lobster, but taste a lot nicer, well, not to me but everyone else seemed to enjoy them immensely.
- Poke (Hawaii): Raw seafood dish. The seafood can be ahi (Hawaiian for tuna), tako (Japanese for octopus), or other fish like salmon on rarer occasions. Usually has shoyu (Japanese black salty soy sauce), garlic, and a variety of veggies which can include any or all of the following: green onions, onions, limu (crunchy seaweed).
- Surströmming (Sweden): Surströmming (Fermented herring) Let me just state from the beginning, Surströmming is NOT my favorite food (even though it is from my country). You leave a huge amount of slightly "under-salted" (at least for tinning) herring in a wooden barrel for a couple of months. The result is that it starts to ferment. The smell (much worse than the taste) is like rotten egg, but the taste is like something fermented/rotten and salty. You can NOT open the tin that the "fish" is packed in after the fermentation process (that is bulging) indoors. You have to do that outdoors, in a plastic bag or under water!! Eaten with potatoes, bread, onions and "gräddfil" (curded cream) and a strong hard cheese. This is a course more popular in northern Sweden, but I'm afraid that some people as south as Stockholm it this crap (not counting people with heritage in the northern part of Sweden).
Don't try it, don't even get close to it. It might be fun though to try to import a tin or two just to see what the custom people in your country would do with it, I'd love to see their faces when they open the tin.
(Another Report) The most disgusting thing I've ever attempted to eat in my life must go to a Swedish dish called Surstromming, translated into English as 'fermented herring.' Now, surstromming is something that I often heard mentioned by friends, "Hey, Bob, have you eaten surstromming yet, hah hah hah?" I knew that it was fermented fish and that eating it would be a challenge but, having eaten all sorts of weird seafood when I lived in Spain, I was determined to give it a go.
One day, just around lunchtime, I was shopping in my local supermarket when I came across a tin of the stuff. "Well, now seems as good a time as any," I thought, and popped it into my shopping basket. When I got back home, I put it in the middle of the kitchen table and took a tin opener out of the drawer. Now, what no one had told me was that fermenting builds up quite a lot of pressure inside the can and that you should always cover a surstromming can with a cloth before you open it. The other thing I didn't know is that surstromming is usually eaten outdoors.
I leaned over the tin and just at the moment I pierced it, there was a hissing sound and then a fountain of juice shot into the air and spattered the left lens of my glasses - thank goodness I was wearing glasses; I hate to think what it could have done to my eye. Then, the air in the room was filled with a stench that was reminiscent of a public toilet that hadn't been cleaned for 20 years. I picked up a piece of the fish on my fork, held my breath, screwed up my eyes and placed it into my mouth.
Can you imagine how a solidified lump of surgical spirit would taste? Well, that's the feeling I had as it burned into my tongue. I rushed over to the kitchen sink, spat it out, coughed a lot, and drank several glasses of water. Then I went back to the table, tied up the can in 3 plastic bags and dumped it in the garbage. Some of the juice had spilled onto the plastic tablecloth, so I wiped it up with a dishcloth, opened the window to get rid of the stench and then left the room.
When I went back into the kitchen 10 minutes later, I beheld the most nauseating thing I've ever seen in my whole life. The room was full of flies - about forty of them and they were just going absolutely crazy, charging all around the room at supersonic speed, bouncing off one wall, then bouncing off the opposite one. I put my handkerchief over my mouth (the fact that I didn't throw up was close to miraculous), ran over to the window and closed it. I then ran for some fly spray and just sprayed continuously for over a minute. Then I left the room and waited for about 10 minutes. Finally, I looked back in - all the flies were lying on the floor. I got the vacuum cleaner out of the room and swiftly disposed of the remains.
Sweden has some nice dishes. I loved pytt i panna, Janssons frestelse, and pickled (as opposed to 'fermented' herring) washed down with Swedish schnapps is a wonderful treat. But as for surstromming... well, enough said. (This came from Bob Jones' website at tradisjoner.no. For more items about surstromming, see Surstromming and Surstromming)
- Herring (The Netherlands): In the Netherlands, raw herring gets decapitated, gutted, and eaten raw, mostly with chopped raw onions. It is typically eaten on the streets as a snack, either holding the fish by its tail and lowering it into your mouth, or chopped in bits, on a little paper plate. Every year, there is a herring festival ("vlaggetjesdag"), and the queen gets presented a bucket with the first catch of the year.
- Crayfish (USA): Crayfish- a.k.a. crawdads, crawdaddies, or (arguably more appropriately) mudbugs. Small, fresh-water crustaceans which look like miniature lobsters. The biggest are barely as long as your hand, from tail to claw tips. Found mostly in the southern United States, with a big crop to be had in Louisiana. Used to be used as catfish bait in some places until someone figured out what Cajuns knew all along - they're delicious. A popularized Louisiana event is the "crawdad boil," where crawfish, corn on the cob, potatoes, sometimes crabs, and occasionally other vegetables are boiled in water mixed with liquid or packaged spices inside a huge propane-fired pot on someone's back patio. The cooked result is drained and then emptied out onto tables covered with butcher's paper. Beer is the most popular side dish.
Like lobster, the tail is the most commonly eaten part. The claws and legs are usually too small to be worth the hassle of digging out the few atoms of meat they hold. True aficionados will tear the tail off of the head, squeeze out the tail meat, and then suck the heads to get at the tasty fat.
Live crawfish can be found in some stores in my home State of Texas. Most grocery stores carry frozen tails with the shells already removed. Some frozen packages contain crawfish from China or Southeast Asian countries.
The taste is similar to a fine lobster if you get fresh crawfish. Frozen can sometimes come close, but usually the taste of frozen is closer to little fishy erasers.
I have personally downed a couple of pounds of freshly boiled mudbugs at a sitting, including the mandatory head-sucking. Yum.
- Shiokara(Japan): Fresh raw fish (usually squid) served in a sauce made of fermented fish/squid guts. Truly awful. I'd sooner eat a quart of natto than down more than 1/2 cup of this stuff. From: Curtis Jackson.
- Sild(Denmark): Salted, pickled herrings. They are cured outdoors in barrels for about three months, then marinated raw in vinegar and spices. If the herring aren't gutted before salting, they turn a deep red color and have a musty taste. It's unusual to meet an American that will eat "Roede sild" (red herring) especially if they are told about how it's made. Similar foods are found all over Scandinavia.
- Belachan(Malaysia): Dried shrimp paste. There is no substitute. It is often sold in a rectangular brick. It has a very strong smell that might put off the untrained nose. A word of warning, make sure you are in a well ventilated room when you open it. See also BLACHAN, NGAPI-JAW. You want to make sure you seal off the kitchen from other parts of the house. The smell is VERY potent. Try to open all windows, doors, and so on, in your kitchen to make sure the smell goes out. Belachan can be stored in the fridge. just keep it wrapped up in the paper it came in, put a layer of plastic bag and so on, on top and shut it tightly. a nice place would be an air tight container.
- Fugu (Japan): Blowfish, with an organ containing a toxin so deadly that only specially licensed chefs are allowed to prepare it. Supposedly it is the delicious flavor, not the macho thrill, that draws consumers. I noticed a little physical buzz, but that might easily have been psychological rather than physiological. Certainly the danger is part of the appeal. I read that fugu poison kills by paralyzing the muscles including the lungs, but does not make the victim lose consciousness. Imagine being wide awake but completely unable to move or speak as you count off the seconds until you suffocate. Kills about 300 in Japan per year according to Mac Clancy in Consuming Culture . But people keep eating it.
- Ceviche (Mexico, Spain): Raw fish marinated in citrus juice overnight. "Cebiche is the traditional dish of the Mexican coastal towns, where it takes many different guises, the ingredients being as varied as the people that prepare it. Red snapper is the most popular fish used, but cod and haddock can be used instead. "
- Sa Kuo Yu Toe (China): Fish head soup
- Sashimi (Japan): Raw fish
- Sushi (Japan): Variety of exquisite morsels, often including raw fish. Sushi seems like the standard food of Japan, but it was invented only in the 1950s.
Woman To Have Sushi In Space TOKYO --Japan's first female astronaut is looking forward to marking another milestone--being the first in space to dine on sushi. Dr. Chaiki Mukai rocketed into space Friday aboard the shuttle Colombia on a two-week laboratory research mission. The 42-year-old heart surgeon from Tokyo told Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono and Makiko Tanaka, director general of the science and technology Agency, on Sunday that she was looking forward to eating sushi and octopus cakes and other traditional Japanese foods.
The mission is packed with experiments on the effects of weightlessness on fish, newts, jellyfish, frog eggs, sea urchins, fruit flies and worms.
Many sushi places, especially in the local regions where the items are actually caught fresh, pride themselves on serving very fresh foods, which usually means that the food is usually still alive and kicking until you order it. This includes fish that are filleted while alive, tiny fish that are swallowed whole and alive, AND the worst one I just saw on TV the other week--in Hokkaido, they had a sushi place that had live octopus. The sushi master pulled the live tako out of the tank, cut a piece of its appendage off and served it to the show's host. The bugger was still wriggling on the chopsticks. One little tako leg. Bleaugh. She waited until it stopped spazzing--but she said when she put it in her mouth, it suckered onto the inside of her mouth and wriggled around.
- Tako (Japan): Octopus. see Sushi
- Takosu (Japan): A bit fancier than takoyaki, this is a simple dish in which slices of boiled octopus are soaked in rice vinegar. Vinegar softens the octopus flesh and adds the distinctive sour flavor. My mother always put sliced cucumbers or wakame, a kelp-like seaweed with the octopus; I don't know if this is a common practice.
- Takoyaki (Japan): Little balls, 1-2in diameter, made primarily of flour/eggs, with a piece of boiled octopus in the center. Uncooked octopus is way too slimy to be eaten. Most people add other ingredients as well; I usually put shreds of raw ginger that are dyed red using sour plums, called beni-shouga. Typically served with generous toppings of Worcestershire sauce and seaweed bits, or aonori. Takoyaki is a traditionally sold by roadside vendors, particularly at festivities.
- Gefilte Fish (European Jews): poached balls of ground fish, mixed with ground onions and maybe ground carrots, salt, pepper, sugar, depending on where your family comes form, and then boiled. Often in a fish broth, but not always. Some people like to make a jelled broth, like with the bones. The ironic thing is that in yiddish this jelled stuff is called yuch. Actually, that's the Yiddish word for broth, but it just always struck me funny in this particular context.
- Geoduck Clams (USA Northwest): Big clams with a huge long neck. Very popular, just looks weird. Often called "Gooey Duck." You forgot to mention their real charm--the "huge long necks" bear an uncanny resemblance to an obscenely oversized penis, including the head and a hole at the end from which water oozes.
- Hakarl (Iceland): I have tried and survived hakarl!!! Well the Icelandic delicacy is hakarl -somniosus microcephalus- Greenland shark. The hakarl is poisonous when it is fresh. The production process does not include any peeing, but the body fluids of this shark contain different compounds of ammonia and urea, the same that give your piss that special smell... Actually the shark meat is put through a fermentation process. Earlier this was done by burying the meat deep in the ground, about 1.5-2 meters wrapped up in something to cover it. Nowadays this is done by packing the meat in air-tight plastic. The meat is left to ferment for some weeks and is then hanged up in air to dry and get a nice color for some more weeks. Hakarl is eaten without anything with it, like jerk-meat. It is only the tourists and urbans who get it served as tiny cubes on a toothpick. No UL.
- Ricci di mare (Sicily): See Uni
- Lobster (USA Northeast, among many): The best part of the lobster is also the yuckiest part: the lobster butter. Crack open the head. There's a green mucus stuff. Scoop it up with your fingers. It tastes really good. It's also in crabs. In Steve McQueen's last movie, Tom Horn, he plays a cowboy at a banquet, confronted with his first lobster. Trying to look unperturbed, he says, "Well, I will say that's the BIGGEST bug I ever ate!"
- Lutefisk (Norway): Cod fish soaked in lye. As an alternative to prison for non-violent offenders, the latest trend in penology is to make the consumption of lutefisk a condition for parole. Apropos lutefisk, I understand that the pizzeria in Grand Marais Minnesota, USA, Sven & Ole's Pickled Herring Club, will make a lutefisk pizza--if you give them $1, 000, 000 to compensate them for the smell. "I've never had lutefisk, and I'm so grateful to my Norwegian parents."
- Ngapi-Jaw (SE Asia): See also belachan This one has various names in different countries and is a stir fried concoction containing chilies, garlic, onions, dried shrimp and some of the previously mentioned fermented shrimp/anchovy paste. It's known as ngapi-jaw in Burma, kapi in Thailand, and blachan in Indonesia. While you're making it, your house reeks of dead fish.
- Oyster Sauce (China and others): This is fermented oyster juice.
- Dried fish (Philippines): Different types used. Smell bad in the packet, stink like hell when frying, but actually taste quite nice, eaten in chunks in the hand with plain rice.
- Uni (Japan): Raw sea urchin roe. The Sicilians also eat it as "ricci di mare". It can taste either like thick cream or low tide, depending on whether it's really fresh or not.
- Unagi (Japan): Fresh-water eel
- Bagoong (Philippines): Usually salted, fermented prawns which have rendered down into a paste. It is a national dish and is often used as a side dish, as we might use mustard, or mixed in during cooking, or as a relish for dips. A popular way to eat it is dunking slices of raw, green unripe mango in the bagoong.
- Prawn heads (Philippines): Whenever my wife and I eat gambas [prawns], she always gives me the bodies and she sucks the stuff out of the heads. Other Filipinos I know do the same thing. It's quite a good arrangement as we both get what we want and nothing's wasted. They know what they are doing: the head is actually the best part with the best flavor.
- Fish heads (Philippines): Common with Chinese and other Asians nationalities, Filipinos like fish-head stews and soups.
- Sild (Iceland): Did you mention dry fish anywhere? It's kept hanging outdoor for weeks and then beaten to soften it up. It's eaten with butter, sold as candy.
- Octopus (Galicia): Pulpo a feira is a typical dish from Galicia. Take a fresh octopus and put it in a pot , for two hours for the octopus to become tender. Later cut the octopus in small parts and add red pepper. Serve cold or warm on wooden tray.
- Squid Sandwich (Spain): Bocata de calamares is a typical dish from Madrid. It's simply a sandwich full of fried squid.
- Trasi (Indonesia): Trasi is a paste of salted, fermented prawns, similar to the Malaysian belachan. Stink terribly uncooked. During cooking, the smell transforms into a rich, seafood cooking smell and used in food, the food takes on a richer flavor. We always have trasi or belachan in the house. Belachan is like a large greyish Knorr cube. You pull off a small piece and put it into a dry frying pan. You then roast the belachan until it dries off and turns crumbly. It is then sprinkled into the food being cooked. Indonesians use trasi for typical dishes like sate, gado-gado, nasi goreng, mie goreng and such spicy food. Malaysians use it in much the same way.
- Whitebait (England): At pubs, these are a real treat: delectable, whole, i.e., heads, innards and all, little minnow-sized fish, dusted lightly with seasoned flour and then deep fried. They come as a heaping plateful. Absolutely terrific accompanied by a pint of Guinness--and some chips on the side if I am feeling especially reckless!
- Fermented Shark (Iceland): The shark is left in rock covered boxes for two months and then hanging for several more. As if this isn't enough, the shark is accompanied by Icelandic potato wine, known as Black Death.
- Smoked Eel (Germany): I tried these both when little, and as I have not been able to find the first anywhere in the states, or, at least here in Texas I only cook and serve the second. The eel I have only found in Bremehaven, Germany - the closest I have found in taste to it is smoked kippers, but it is just not the same. You peel one side, eat out the meat from between the bones, then flip it over and peel and eat the other side.
- Fish Eyes (Southeast Asia): Fish eyes are a delicacy in the Philippines and probably other parts of Southeast Asia. Recently I went to a restaurant with my husband's extended family, and my sister-in-law claimed "first dibs" on the eyes from the steamed whole fish. I, for one, was only too happy to oblige her! She scooped out an eyeball with her spoon, popped it into her mouth, ecstatically sucked down the juices, and then spit out the cornea.
- Fish Flotation Bladder (China): The air bladder that fish use to control their buoyancy. Chinese cooking uses this for a soup. It's pretty good, actually, sort of spongy.
- Fish Paste, Fermented (Southeast Asia): Shrimp or anchovy paste. Traditionally, you piled up a mound of the critters with salt mixed in and let it sit outdoors until it was thick with flies. Modern production techniques are said to be much more sanitary.
Thai "fish sauce" is absolutely revolting--you take a barrel of fish and salt and let it set in the sun. Now and then you press a board down on the top and collect liquid dribbles out a hole in the bottom.
Southeast Asian fermented fish is more important than many realize. Adding sugar, tamarind, and marketing savvy produced the deliberately misnamed Worcester sauce. Adding sugar and tomato paste produced the world conquering Ketjap/Catsup.
And to put some classical Western historical perspective on it, the Romans were known to be fond of "garum, an essence made from fermenting salted fish" [from Pomp and Sustenance: 25 Centuries of Sicilian Food, Mary Taylor Simeti, 1991. Holt & Co., New York. ISBN 0-8050-1601-5]. The English are also supposed to have an anchovy paste called "gentlemen's relish". I won't get into the bawdy derivation here.
- Eels, Jellied (England): Jellied eels are specifically a Cockney food, sadly now in decline. They have an affinity with pie and mash shops where the eel liquor (the eel cooking liquid) is gussied up with parsley and served over a minced beef pie and creamed potatoes as a gravy.
- Cod Liver Oil (USA Northeast): More medicine than food, but eaten for its huge vitamin A content. Polar bears absorb so much vitamin A that their livers contain deadly concentrations, and indigenous people know better than to eat the liver. It killed explorers.
- Cod Tongues (Canada): Deep-fried cod tongues--or cheeks--are as common as hamburgers on St. John's restaurant menus. Eaten plain they're a little slippery, like oysters.
- Cho Do Fu (China): See Tofu
- Dried Fish (China): Various kinds of dried, salted fish are popular in East Asia. One particular Chinese dish is made with ground pork and dried fish, steamed. Delicious, but one of my Caucasian friends says it smells like dirty socks and won't go near it.
- Drunken Shrimp (China): Live shrimp swimming in a bowl of rice wine. You capture them with your chopsticks and bite the head off. I think you're also supposed to eat the head.
- Squid/Octopus-flavored chips (Korea): available in most ethnic shops worldwide... These are actually shaped like tiny squids!
- Lutefisk (Sweden): My mother has told me about this. It is a traditional Christmas dish in Sweden. And I understand that you can find it in stores (all lye-soaked and ready to cook) in stores in Minnesota and other Swedish/Scandinavian-rich areas at Christmas time. Mom says they always served it at home at Christmas time, but they never forced her to eat any. They lived in Nebraska, so I think grandmother had to make theirs from scratch.
- Dancing Shrimp (China): Large live shrimp are taken from a tank and plopped into a scalding hot clear soup broth and served with a side of red pepper paste. Shrimp prepared in this way are usually served in a large glass bowl with a lid. They need the lid because they bring them to the table quickly and the shrimp are still "kicking" and jerking. You bite right into the shells and bodies with your teeth and chew the meat out and then spit out the shells and legs and such. I couldn't bring myself to eat one since I had just seen them moving.
- Sea Slug (Korea): While in Korea (and slightly inebriated from drinking soju), I tried a sea slug. They were kept alive in a large tub. The old lady who sold them took one out, sliced it into pieces (she threw the guts away) and gave it to me with a yellow sauce in a cup. It was surprisingly crunchy, and tasted sort of like a radish. I would eat one again, but they just don't sell them here in the USA.
- Lancaster Perch Rolls (Canada): Served like a hot dog, but only with the top split buns. The buns must be buttered and browned on the outside. The perch is a locally caught pan fish, usually dusted in white flour and then fried in a pan with butter. It's the sauce that makes the dish! Vinegar, cream, sugar and various ingredients like mustard, garlic etc. I still enjoy a couple of Perch Rolls any time I am in the area.
- Hakerl (Iceland): Glad to see you mentioned hakerl - my husband works for an Icelandic company and has gone there on biz trips several time -- he ate whale meat, tried to keep up with the incredibly hard-drinking Icelanders (incl. some vile schnapps), and nibbled on something he describes as "pink guts", but his hosts took pity on him and didn't force hakerl on him.
- Giant Barnacle (USA): At Alma de Cuba in Philadelphia, I had the opportunity to eat a giant barnacle. It was as big as a softball, but shaped like a volcano. The shell was bright white and the "beak" (which is removed to get to the animal inside) is replaced after cooking. (Kind of like a lid). The consistency and color is that of a very light egg soufflé, very delicate. The flavor is its own (no, it does not taste like chicken!) but it wasn't fishy at all nor salty; very ocean-like and fresh. There was also a light breadcrumb topping under the beak. It was absolutely delicious and if I ever have the opportunity to try it again, I definitely will!
- Smoked Eel (USA, Maryland): Smoked eel is one of my favorite foods. It is not cheap: $8 to $11 per lb. After smoking the eel, one skins it and takes out the spine. Many little bones might remain but if one works around them you have a very rich delicacy and texture. I can only locate it at some Jewish stores or high-end specialty food stores. If one can get past the thought of eating a sea/river snake, as I call it, its taste is quite good and not, at all, unpleasant to the smell and taste. (Note: This is also Japanese. I love smoked eels. - andreas)