Monday, November 16, 2009

The next Andrew Zimmern*?

Who? Me? Well, no, I don't think so, but it was a comment my father made a while back when we were chatting about some of the local foods I've been trying. So what exactly have I been eating? Let's go through a list and you can tell me if you think they're weird.

Barcelona: Nothing really weird, actually. I had rabbit one night that was delicious, but lots of people eat rabbit, even in the States, I think. Other than that, the food I ate was pretty "normal": lots of cheese and meat, bread and wine.

Prague: Still nothing particularly weird, although I had foods prepared in ways I hadn't had them prepared before. The traditional food I ate included ghoulash and roasted pork with bacon dumplings (Laura, are you reading this?? Bacon! In dumplings! Bacon makes everything taste better!). As you can probably tell, I liked this food, too.

Athens: Most people are fairly familiar with Mediterranean foods - olives, olive oil, feta cheese, seafood, that kind of thing. I ate a lot of souvlaki in Athens (it's quick, very cheap, you can eat it on the go, and it's perfect after a night out drinking), but it's not what I thought souvlaki was. Souvlaki starts with meat (chicken, pork, or beef) that is carved off of a spit and put into pita. Added to that is lettuce, tomato, onions, and 4 or 5 french fries, and it's all topped with tzatsiki and wrapped up. Speaking of tzatsiki, I don't know about the kinds you've ever tried, but Greek tzatsiki is totally different from what I've had at home. The taste is essentially the same but with 10 times the garlic and it's thick like a dip, not thin like a sauce.

The other foods of note in Athens are actually drinks. Greek coffee is actually what most people would probably know as Turkish coffee. It's thick, half of the already small cup is full of coffee grounds, and it's very strong. Not really my cup of tea (or coffee, as the case may be). Then there's raki which is made from the must of wine grapes and has 37% alcohol. It's served warm in shot glasses and is sweetened with a touch of honey. It's very good and goes down WAY too easily. :-) Also, I don't know why, but none of the wine I had in Athens was drinkable at all. It was more like grape juice than wine, but maybe it was just poor selection on my part.

Istanbul: This is where things started getting a little more unusual. I wrote about some of the foods I tried here, but nothing I've already mentioned was particularly weird. First up is kokorec, a sandwich made of chopped and seasoned intestines. The first opportunity I had to try this dish, I turned down. The second time, I figured I had to try it, but I was really nervous about it. As it turns out, it was very, very good and ended up being one of the things I ate in Istanbul over and over again. Next up was a raw beef dish that I was still nervous about trying, but I figured I already ate intestines, so why not? It is mixed with spices and grains and I don't know how else to describe it, but it also was good. It wasn't my favorite dish, but I'd eat it again without hesitation. Then there's gozleme which is best described as Turkish quesadillas, nothing too strange there.

There were two drinks I had in Istanbul that were definitely not my thing and yet I drank them over and over again trying to figure out what the appeal was. Aryan is a yogurt drink that's very popular. There's also a fermented black carrot and beet juice that I only ever saw the one time my host and I tried it. Both of these drinks are quite salty which was very unusual for me. I mean, don't you drink to quench thirst and not make yourself even thirstier?

Cairo: A few more unusual foods here, too, some of which I've already talked about. Additionally, I've now tried three kinds of shawerma, a sandwich with chopped and seasoned meats - beef, liver (cow), and chicken. All were very good, but the liver was actually my favorite. Foul (pronounced like fool) is made from beans, but they don't taste like any other bean I've had before. It's usually served with falafel which I love. Kocharay (not at all sure about the spelling) is probably what you'd make if you were trying to get rid of leftovers. It has rice, a couple different kinds of noodles, beans, veggies, and some sort of meat all tossed together. When you eat it, you can decide how much lemon water and super spicy sauce to add in. Also, salads in Cairo are probably not what you'd consider a salad. No leafy greens or tomatoes in sight! The salads are served with pita as an appetizer and are more dip-like than anything else. A couple I tried were made from beans, one from potatoes, and a couple from cheese (one of the cheese ones was made from "old" cheese - it was very salty; again, not my favorite, but not horrible).

Then there's shisha. Not a food, but it is consumed, so I'm including it here. Shisha is tobacco that's smoked from a water pipe. In addition to the regular, non-flavored varieties, you can also choose from mint, lemon, mango-apple, peach, strawberry, orange-mint, and pineapple (among others).

I told my father that if I kept eating the way I was eating, I was going to come home as big as a house. He said he couldn't believe that someone could get fat eating intestines and raw beef because he would just as soon starve than eat those things. :-)

So what does everyone think? Is anything included here truly weird? Would you try or have you already tried any of these foods?

*For those who don't know, Andrew Zimmern hosts a tv show called Bizarre Foods in which he travels around the world eating (in my opinion) far stranger foods than what I've tried so far.


  1. OK, so you're probably no competition for Andrew Zimmern's bizarre meals - you mentioned no deep fried whole baby ducks, no live octopus, no squirrel brains. Nothing you've eaten so far makes my stomach roll.

    I believe that I could eat all of the foods that you've mentioned but only if I found out afterwards what it is :-D

    Thanks for sharing,
    Love ya!

  2. Well shan, i don't think i would eat intestines, but you may want to take note of some of the foods you've tried and share them all with us when you get back home.{Hint}

    Love ya!

  3. put some bacon with those intestines and i would eat them up! then add cheese! yum! xoL

  4. The weirdest things were definately intestines and raw meat. The first is hard for a western mind to think of as edible and the second sounds dangerous. You're a brave woman. The rest sounds if not appetizing, at least edible. :) I'd love to get my hands on some of that raki.

  5. Dad - The problem with telling you "Just eat this. . .*then* I'll tell you what it is" is that you wouldn't eat it then! :-)

    Mom - I don't know if I can prepare most of these foods, but it's something to keep in mind.

    Laura - I KNEW you'd pop in with a bacon-y reply LOL.

    Aja - I didn't even honestly thing about whether the raw beef was dangerous or not. (Yah, that's right, I've been drinking tap water everywhere I go, too!) I guess I just figured if the locals did it, it couldn't be all bad.