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Upon hearing of my quest to broaden my flavour horizons by sampling strange foods from other cultures, Vince Nitro immediately informed me that there was an enormous Asian supermarket near his place where he had seen all manner of unusual foodstuffs. Enlisting the help of Vince’s brothers Schnapps and Chicken for our experiment, the Brothers Nitro and I stepped through the sliding glass doors and into a world of flavour unlike any other. Little did we know what awaited us…
Literally the first thing we saw right as we stepped through the doors was a cooler unit full of “Vietnamese Black Glutinous Dessert” packages. I must have been so floored by the bizarre idea of something black and glutinous as a dessert that I forgot to take photos of anything we were planning on sampling, and instead just snapped shots of things I found disgusting or full of innuendo. Like pork rectums.
As delicious as marinated pig anuses sound, this was miles outside of our comfort zones, or, as Vince Nitro put it: “I’m not inclined to eat a pork rectum just for the lulz.” I really do wish I had taken more photos of the interior of the supermarket, because it was pretty incredible. There were giant bins of big, spiky durians (more on them later), and even a lady selling what looked like steaming alien pods wrapped in twine. But it’s hard to concentrate when you’re surrounded by stuff like “Cream Horns”…
And “A Dong Sausages”…
We filled our basket with an assortment of oddities and headed back to Castle Nitro for the taste testing. Our list of goodies consisted of one large durian fruit, a bag of okonomiyaki-flavoured potato chips, pickled pepper leather, a lemon-jelly fizzy drink, chilied and sugared tamarind candies, garlic flavoured crispy chicken skin chips (yes, I got them), a pennywort beverage, something called “Kuai Kuai Peacock Snack”, and shredded, spicy squid jerky. We decided to start with the durian.
These things were all over the place at T&T. I saw at least a half a dozen large bins full of them, and honestly, it didn’t seem like anyone at the supermarket knew what to make of them. As we carted ours around, a middle-aged woman stopped us and asked “How do you eat that?” to which Vince responded “We’re gonna take an axe to it.” She seemed satisfied with his answer and left, presumably to get one for herself. This picture doesn’t do justice to the size of the durian, either – ours was a bit bigger than a rugby ball. It must have weighed about eight pounds, and the thorns on it were sharp enough to make Vince bleed.
Because of its spiny hide, cutting the durian open was a challenge – one solved with a pair of oven mitts.
As we sliced open the durian, it began to ooze white, custard-like fluid. Cracking it open revealed weird, cream-filled pods with bits of something like a cross between a banana and a pineapple inside. It also smelled pretty strange. We dug in.
Schnapps: Very good first impression, but I’ve gotta say, it tastes like caramel and onions at the end.
Vince: The trick is to keep eating it so that you never reach that onion place.
Schnapps: I don’t regret trying it once, but I’d probably never try it again.
Gill: It’s like a pineapple fucked a banana in an onion patch.
Chicken: It’s for beating people only.
It should be noted that over the course of the next half hour or so of us sampling the other foods we bought, the durian would occasionally fart some onion-y, stinky gas, best decribed in this Richard Sterling quote from the Wikipedia entry on durians:
Its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia.
No wonder it was on sale! Before we get to the next food item, I can’t resist posting this picture from Wikipedia.
Next on the list was the bag of okonomiyaki flavoured potato chips. We had no idea what an okonomiyaki was when we purchased the bag, but from the picture on the front, it appears to be a kind of spaghetti-pancake dish doused in soy sauce.
Vince: These chips combine the flavours of ketchup chips and roast chicken flavoured chips. I find it hard to believe that’s what this spaghetti pancake thing tastes like.
It’s true: they tasted almost exactly like the roast chicken and ketchup chip flavours combined, with maybe a hint of soy sauce. According to Wikipedia, okonomiyaki really is a savoury pancake dish often served with soy sauce, so I guess this package wasn’t misleading in the slightest. Though I am a bit confused by the ingredients listed as “egg fish” and “sauce powder”.
Now we get to the first real gamble: the pickled pepper leather. We selected this food product specifically because it looked really gross. Could it actually be tasty?
Chicken: This is going to be the worst one.
Vince: I bet it’s going to be salty and rubbery.
Schnapps: I call sweet. It’s going to be sweet.
Gill: Nah, I’m with Chicken. It’s going to be revolting.
It was. None of us could keep down a whole piece.
Vince: It tastes like soft leather boiled in the brine made by washing used gym underwear.
Chicken: I was right. It was the worst thing ever.
Schnapps: I’m going to puke just smelling this.
Gill: It tastes like someone flattened a whole lot of hardboiled eggs, soaked them in pickled pepper brine and then left them to dry in the sun.
But in spite of how awful it tasted, Schnapps took one for the team and tried to eat a stack of five pieces.
After that ordeal, we were all in need of something to wash the terrible flavour out of our mouths, so we chose to sample the fizzy lemon-jelly drink that we bought, the official brand name of which is unknown because there was barely any English writing on the can.
I say barely any English writing, because the back of the can did display the following warning:
Not recommended for elderly people or children under five years old. Please keep it refrigerated, otherwise the jelly may burst out if fiercely shaken.
Needless to say, that warning made us all a little uneasy. Pouring it out revealed that the beverage wasn’t so much a “jelly drink” as it was a “drink with phlegm in it”.
The jelly was way too watery to qualify as actual jelly, and it had exactly the same consistency as phlegm. The drink itself tasted just like Sprite, and it would have been fine if I didn’t immediately picture someone horking loogies into passing cans at the factory whenever I took a sip. Sadly, this drink was ruined by its own gimmick. Too bad.
Vince: The jelly is a bit offputting.
Chicken: I like slurping jello.
Schnapps: It’s really slimy, but not bad.
Gill: I’m not a fan. If this was just a normal fizzy drink, I’d chug it, but the jelly just grosses me out.
We were only halfway through our pile of goodies, and there were more strange foods to try! Keep watching TBR for part 2!