Weird stuff made tasty!
LOTS of EATS here that most of us, at least growing up in America, may have never experienced. For me even as a kid, the weirder the better, and now I am constantly introduced to new flavors, textures, and animal parts cooked with many creative techniques created in the culinary world of Vietnam.
Balut : A developing duck embryo.
These are found all over the streets of Vietnam and should be enjoyed as a snack throughout the day. The egg is usually between 2-3 weeks old before boiling it to a prefered temperature and texture is achieved.
It can be pretty scary to look at. In fact, the first time I had to man up and take one for the team and try it, I thought I was going to DIE! I saw a beak! But, I have tried it a handful of times since and as long as I have lots of fresh lime and chili salt to dip it into, I quite like it. I'm not going to lie, the texture and flavor is DANK. But if you can adjust your mind the flavors become tasty and interesting. If Thai ever puts it on the menu, I'll ensure that there is plenty of Vietnamese Coriander as a refresher as well. Now that I think of it, we have the coolest cups made by cousin Vu in Vietnam to serve them in!
On the other hand, those from all over Southeast Asia that have grown up with this being a traditional street snack know this to be a special delight to appreciate.
Not sure this will end up on the menu but it is worth a mention as "weird stuff". This was prepared many ways. You are a real bad ass if you take down the still beating heart in a glass of whiskey or down a straight shot of warm blood.
The snake is cooked in a flavorful light broth with rice noodles and vegetables. The skin texturally compliments the fibrous flesh. You can also eat it with your hands and dip it into one of the many dipping sauces like, chili/lime/salt, or fermented fish sauce.
Whelks: various types of sea snails or mollusc particularly larger ones.
These big guys have been steamed and are prepared to receive a spicy, sweet, dipping sauce from the heaven's. Add a little citrus and brighten that bite right up with some fresh herbs and chili then fish them out with a toothpick. The texture is slightly firm with a nice soft bite and should never be rubbery. I have also seen Chef Thai stuff and bake these with a farce of it's own meat, ground pork, and herbs. I remember when he took them off of the menu at Embeya, our guests were so upset!
Mud Creeper Snails
These are Mud Creeper Snails that are simmered in a mild coconut curry broth. It is an interactive dish and I encourage you to dig in fingers first and either suck the snails out, like the professionals, or dig them out with a tooth pick. Sip some beer, and hang with some friends while picking at a big bowl of sea snails. That's the best way to enjoy these guys.
The entire country of Vietnam hugs a body of water and fresh fish is available in abundance. We always make our way to the beach for a day filled with beautiful views, warm sun, and fresh fish caught right out of the ocean. These are snails that are steamed with lemongrass and aromatics. Snack on fresh herbs, sip beer on ice or coconut water right from the coconut like the locals. Now that is a beautiful day. (Note to Adam Schulte: I vow not to actually put ice in our beer.)
In Vietnam, no part of the animal goes to waste.
These are stuffed pig intestines. Intestines are used as a casing (or conduit as we say in the architectural world) and can be stuffed with lots of different things. The ones below are filled with coagulated pigs blood with Vietnamese coriander, perilla, black pepper, & chillies. One is steamed and the one that is fried has pork with fat back too.
Look, you all have to get over your fears some day. So I suggest that you do that with us. We would never give you anything but good eats. I promise!