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Museum Showcases China's Grossest Food
Published on: 2018-10-17
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eggA museum for disgusting food featuring distasteful dishes from around the world will open in Sweden at the end of October, and gastronomes are already taking note of two Chinese foods that have been offered a place at the table: stinky tofu and century eggs.

Su Callu Sardu or Goat kids rennet cheeseSu Callu Sardu
Su Callu Sardu, or goat kid's rennant cheese, is a rare specialty of Sardinian cuisine. It's made using the stomach of a baby goat filled with its mother's milk. One end is tied and it is left to mature for two to four months. It can be eaten spread on local flat breads or sliced and fried.

In addition to the early inductees from China, the exhibit in Malmö has selected 80 of the world’s most loathsome dishes, ranging from Sardinia’s maggot-infested cheese known as Casu Marzu to Iceland’s aged shark meat called Hákarl.

guinea pigs from PeruCuy
Cuy, also known as guinea pig, is a major part of the diet in Peru and other countries in the region of the Andes Mountains, including Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia. The dish has origins in Incan culture, where cuy was only eaten by nobles or used in sacrifice. Today, it is farmed for meat, and either baked or barbecued whole. It is high in protein, low in fat and cholesterol and similar in taste to rabbit or fowl.

According to the museum’s official website, the exhibition aims to build connections and remove boundaries between different cultures by demonstrating a shared appreciation for “disgusting food” across a number of countries and regions. The museum has also scheduled an event called “Taste One of the Team,” where groups of six or more people will be invited to take a bite of the food on display for the price of $33 per person.

Sardinias maggot infested cheeseCasu Marzu
Casu Marzu, delicacy of Sardinia, is translated as rotten or putrid cheese, although many anglophones know it best as maggot cheese. The sheep's milk contains live insect larvae and are fermented using the larvaes' digestive enzymes. Experts say the process results in an advance level of fermentation that breaks down the cheese's fat and leaves the texture of the cheese extremely soft. The cheese is eaten inclusive of the larvae and some consider the cheese unsafe to eat once the maggots have died.

Museum director Andreas Ahrens said on Tuesday that there are going to be 13 dishes from China included in the exhibition in total. In addition to stinky tofu and century eggs, the Chinese delicacies include bull penis and spicy rabbit head — although Ahrens did not expand on the other nine food items. “We have carefully selected the items based on taste, smell, texture, and the background of the food,” Ahrens said. “An absolute criterion is that the food has to be real and still eaten, or historically significant.” He added that he and his colleagues hoped to one day bring the exhibition to other countries, including China.

As bizarre as the unappetizing entrants chosen by the museum may sound, China has even more to offer when it comes to “disgusting” delicacies.

Pickled Sheeps Eye in Tomato JuicePickled Sheep's Eye in Tomato Juice
After a heavy night of drinking, outer Mongolians have a go-to secret recipe to cure their hangover: a pickled sheep's eye in tomato juice. The concoction is said to hail from the era of Genghis Khan.

With a love for cuisine perhaps best demonstrated by the traditional saying “People think of food as the sky,” China has spent thousands of years cultivating a diversified diet – from the fashionable Lao Gan Ma chili sauce to the internationally renowned hot pot chain Haidilao. Even dishes with strong, pungent scents and flavors are considered time-honored delicacies.

In recognition of China’s supposed passion for the unpalatable, here are some notable examples of the country’s most famously unsavory fare.

Century eggs on display at the Disgusting Food Museum in Malmö Sweden1. Century eggs

Century eggs, also known as pidan, are duck eggs that have been preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice husks. After being stored in the blend for a few weeks to several months, the egg whites congeal and turn black, with a light snowflake pattern on the surface.

Century eggs have long been recognized as a gross-out favorite. In 2011, CNN put the eggs at the top of a list of disgusting foods, causing a stir among Chinese readers. After the article’s author faced death threats from angry netizens, CNN apologized and said it did not intend to disrespect Chinese culture.

Stinky tofu in Changsha Hunan province2. Stinky tofu

This unique kind of fermented tofu is popular across the nation. Many regions have their own formulas for making the tofu and recipes for cooking it. Most commonly, stinky tofu is deep-fried and served as a snack on street corners or at the dinner table. Its characteristically pungent odor, though, is shared by every variation.

ningbo3. Stinky wax gourds, stinky green soybeans, and stinky amaranth

These recipes originate from the city of Ningbo in eastern China’s Zhejiang province. Locals marinate the vegetables in a malodorous brine for around two weeks. Once prepared, they are said to have a subtle yet pleasing fragrance hidden deep within the stench.

anhui4. Stinky Mandarin fish

This specialty was invented in China’s eastern Anhui province. The fish is put in a light salt brine for approximately a week at a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. The dish is said to have a faint odor that many people, despite their best efforts, strain to sniff. The fish is usually stewed, rendering the meat tender and moist.

rice5. River snail rice noodles

River snail rice noodles, also known as luosifen, originated in the city of Liuzhou in southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The scent has a reputation for being even more revolting than stinky tofu. People in China are quite divided on luosifen: Those obsessed with its unique smell and taste claim they can’t live without it, while others describe it as a “biohazard.”

douzhi6. Douzhi

Douzhi, literarily translated as “bean juice,” is a traditional Beijing beverage made from fermented mung beans. Its gray color mirrors that of regular soymilk, but it has a slightly sour taste reminiscent of rotten eggs. Riding the recent tide of cultural pride among the younger generation, douzhi is once again gaining popularity with restaurant-goers in the capital.

Pig brains at a hot pot restaurant7. Barbecued pig brain

Barbecued pig brain is known for its adoring fans in southwestern China’s Sichuan province. The texture is soft like cheesecake, with a taste that is rich but not greasy. As more diners across the country develop an affection for this unique dish, a growing number of restaurants are adding pig brain to their menus. Even Haidilao offers raw pig brain for customers to cook in their hot pots.

yunnan8. Fried insects

Famous for its local cuisine, China’s southwestern Yunnan province is a place where people can come across deep-fried grasshoppers, scorpions, cicadas, woodworms, bee pupae, and other insects.

bull penises9. Animal genitals soaked in wine

Traditional Chinese medicine used to promote the concept of yi xing bu xing – roughly translated as “Consume the parts you want to improve.” Penises from tigers, bulls, goats, and other animals perceived to be masculine are often used as ingredients in medicinal liquors across the country.

Jell O SaladJell-O salad
Jell-O salad, a dish common in the United States in the 1960s, is made with flavored gelatin and fruit salad, while varieties might also contain grated carrots and other vegetables, marshmallows, nuts and mayonnaise. Jell-O salad continues to be served in states like Utah, where Jell-O is an official state snack.

Haggis is a Scottish dish made of a sheep's stomach stuffed with its heart, liver and lungs, and mixed with onion and other spices. It is considered to be a pudding and said to be savory with a nutty texture. While it was traditionally prepared because its ingredients were cheap and easy to come by after hunting, it is now commonplace in Scotland, where it can be easily found in restaurants, fast-food chains and even frozen or ready-made in grocery stores. Haggis is often served as a part of a traditional Burns Supper, a day that celebrates the birthday of 18th century Scottish national poet, Robert Burns.

Nattō, or 納豆, is a common Japanese dish of fermented soybeans. It is known for its pungent flavor and its slimy and sticky texture. Nattō is often served with mustard and soy sauce to cover the taste. It is believed nattō was invented by accident, by soldiers cooking beans while fleeing from war in the 11th century. It is now cooked and fermented with a strain of bacteria, then refrigerated to produce the stringy texture. Today, it is often served for breakfast and can be eaten over rice and a raw egg, in sushi or on its own.

a swig of mouse wineBaby Mouse Wine
Baby mouse wine is exactly as it sounds – 3-day-old mice drowned in rice wine and fermented for about a year. The drink is made and consumed in parts of China and Korea and is thought to have medicinal properties.

fermented mares milk kumysKumis
Kumis is a fermented dairy drink similar to kefir made with horse milk. While not easy to come by, the drink is popular in Central Asia and contains a minor alcohol content due to the sugar levels in a mare's milk and has a much higher lactose content than cow's milk.

While licorice is considered a candy in the United Kingdom and the United States, salmiak liquorice is a savory and almost numbing variety found in Scandinavian countries. It gets its flavor from salmiak salt, which contains more ammonium than table salt, and anise oil. While its origins began as cough syrup, it is now often enjoyed as candy and its texture can range from soft to a hard pastille.

Kopi LuwakKopi Luwak
Kopi luwak – "kopi" meaning coffee and "luwak" being the local name for the Asian palm civet (an animal that slightly resembles a raccoon) – is a coffee made using the partially digested and defecated remains of coffee crops eaten by the mammal. It is produced mainly on Indonesian islands like Bali and Sumatra, and is considered the most expensive coffee in the world at $700 per kilogram. Experts believe this production method ensures the best coffee since the civets only eat the best plants and the digestive process changes the composition of the coffee.

Kiviak or Kiviaq is a traditional food prepared around wintertime by Greenlandic Inuits. It is made using up to whole 500 auks – a small bird in the puffin family – stuffed into a hollowed-out body cavity of a seal. The seal is then sewed up and sealed, then left under a pile of rocks to keep air out for 3 to 18 months to ferment in the seal's blubber. The fermentation process causes the auk to soften and can be eaten raw after the feathers are removed. While preparing kiviak is a difficult process, it prepares an essential food source for Inuits during the winter months when food becomes scarce and hunting becomes more dangerous.

Kalle PacheKalle-Pache
Kalle-pache, is a specialty of Iran although it is consumed through southeastern Europe, the Caucases and parts of Asia. The dish consists of boiled sheep or cows' parts, and often features the head, feet and stomach. The delicacy varies regionally, but is most commonly served in a broth and accompanied by alcohol or as a hangover cure.

root beerRoot Beer
Despite the name, root beer is a sweet, non-alcoholic soft drink popular in Canada and the United States. It was traditionally created with sassafras, a tree native to North America, but is now made with artificial flavors after the FDA ruled the plant a carcinogen. A similar beverage was originally developed by Native Americans before the arrival of European settlers, and is now commercially produced and sold in grocery stores all over North America.

Menundo, or pancita, is a Mexican soup made using beef stomach or tripe and chili peppers. The dish is labor intensive, as preparing the tripe can take hours alone. The dish varies regionally, and some places include pig's trotters or use a different type of chili.

wormsMopane Worms
Mopane worms, the caterpillars that become Emperor moths, are eaten in some southern African countries like Botswana. They're handpicked in the wild, pinched at the tail to expel their innards like toothpaste and then dried or smoked. Some families eat them dried like a crunchy snack while others may rehydrate them and fry them with onions, tomatoes and other spices. Mopane worms are a common addition to the diet in places where protein is scarce.

Garum is a fermented fish sauce condiment with roots in the Byzantine Empire and Ancient Greece, but gained popularity for its widespread use in the Roman Empire. The liquid is made using the intestines of tuna, eel, anchovies and mackerel and became so popular at one point that trade routes sent garum around the world. It was used as a condiment to season food but also drunk either on its own or with water.

a fruit batFruit Bat
Fruit bats are considered a delicacy along the Pacific Rim and Asia, including Laos, Guam and Vietnam. They are often hunted using nets and guns and can be grilled or barbecued whole or used as a protein in stews. Many compare the texture to chicken and consider it to be a cleaner meat since their diet consists only of fruit.

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