Controversial foods you might want to avoid in Asia
PATTAYA street vendor Paisri Worawong found himself in an unstable predicament when tourists plastered pictures of roasted seahorses being sold at his stall on social media over the weekend.
The market manager and vendor had to jointly apologize for the mishap and ensure the endangered seahorses won’t venture into the market again.
But if you’ve traveled to Asia before, you’ll know the bustling markets aren’t scarce of a few peculiar foods, many on sticks, waiting to be dunked into a vat of spitting oil.
Crispy cockroaches, wriggling octopus, bird-spit soup, wasp crackers and freaky fried tarantulas, to name a few, can all be found in Asia, and while it attracts curious travelers seeking a unique experience, the question burdens: are these even ethical to eat?
Of course, you could debate until the cows come home about the ethicality of eating anything that was once breathing, but you could also argue that Asia has some of the most stomach-churning dishes in the world.
Here are some dishes we think should be avoided at all costs, no matter how curious your taste-buds might be.
Using the powered shell of a turtle, mixing it with herbs and boiling it until the point of evaporation, will leave you with turtle jelly. The black, sticky, bitter jelly is often served with condensed milk or honey.
But what happens to the rest of the turtle? It’s not as though the shell will grow back, and with nearly all sea turtle species being classified as endangered, from poaching and habitat destruction, eating this soup will only quicken their extinction.
Snake wine, snake soup
Some winemakers in Japan don’t think sake already has enough of a bite, so they came up with a plan to drown snakes and use their panicked venom to create a habu sake (aka snake wine) that is supposed to enhance a male libido.
Jars of this lethal cocktail can be seen lining the shelves in specialist shops and bars, with the bodies of the forsaken snakes left inside.
Another slithery concoction, rumored to help males wow in the boudoir, is snake soup. In Hong Kong, it is considered to have brilliant medicinal benefits for upping your libido, but there is no scientific research to prove this, and most likely a placebo effect.
Although the snakes most often used in these soups don’t fall into the endangered category, it is said they are kept in inhumane conditions on snake farms on mainland China, before being skinned alive.
Whether you’re a reptile lover or not, you might want to consider skipping this experience – and the soup is supposedly flavorless anyway.
Ikizukuri is the Japanese word for preparing, serving and eating food that is still very much alive.
It is most commonly practised for the dish, sashimi (raw fish), whereby a chef will take a live fish from the tank, filet and gut it while it flaps around and then serves it on a plate.
It sounds like the brainchild of a psychopathic killer, but this practice isn’t reserved for just fish; shrimp, octopus, and squid also feature on the controversial ikizukuri menu.
Often, live squid and octopus are wrapped around chopsticks and eaten in one gulp. The method is widely contested around the world, but some Japanese believe it to be part of their cultural heritage.
Shark fin soup:
In the few seconds it takes you to read this sentence, approximately 16 sharks around the world have been de-finned and thrown back into the ocean. Without fins, sharks are unable to propel themselves through the sea and oxygenated water can’t pass through their gills, causing them to drown.
The origins of shark fin soup can be traced back to Emperor Taizu of Northern Song. He ate it to showcase his wealth, power and generosity, but this leader died in 976AD, and so should have the recipe for shark fin soup.
You might see dogs as man’s best friend but there are some who might see them as a source of food.
In countries such as China, Vietnam, South Korea and Indonesia, dogs are reportedly still being bred, killed and then served on plates, some for the purpose of superstition and – you guessed it – to up a man’s sex-drive.
China goes as far as throwing a whole festival in the name of butchering pooches. Begining in 2009, the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in Guangxi province was started to celebrate the summer solstice and it attracted large crowds of around 20,000 people.
Active campaigners have managed to free hundreds of dogs by stopping trucks, but reports of canines being boiled alive, skinned alive and clubbed to death will still roll in if this festival isn’t banned.