"Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, and moribund"- Anthony Bourdain
Bourdain is one of the few chefs the world offered us that really understood food for what it was and what it had the potential to be. While most others focused on one cuisine and saw only one side to cooking, he was one of the few that was able to view the full spectrum of what is now considered the world's culinary understanding.
Most chefs tend to stop pushing forward after they reach the point of owning their own restaurant. What Anthony's fans value most is the fact that he never saw any point as the end. When he travelled, so did millions of others and it taught us exactly what was out there.
A lot of it is stuff most of us do not have the courage to even look at without having to deal with our gag reflex. We can wholeheartedly admire the way Anthony never shied away from trying something new but it also needs to be understood that his capabilities far surpassed ours.
This list can also be viewed as a list of challenges to those who dare to test their taste buds or just a fun read. Either way, this is yet another well-deserved acknowledgement to a guy that for many is a total inspiration.
A fetal duck egg is something most of cannot deal with reading about let alone eating. Coming from someone who has been to Cambodia - this dish ain't pretty. Fetal duck eggs are predominately available in Cambodia, the Philippines and Vietnam. As many locals in these countries explain to tourists over and over again, South-East Asia has always had to deal with a lot of poverty and with it comes the need to eat just about anything. Even now as the economy is getting better, the food from the past has simply taken on a new role and become a delicacy instead of a necessity. Even though this dish may look a little vile, Bourdain promises that it is a "crunchy, delicious" snack.
24 Cow Liquids
While in Kenya along with his fellow diner, Kamau Bell, Anthony tried a mixture of cow's blood and milk that is a well known drink among the locals. They tried this drink while they were at the Masai village where it is typically found. This drink has been known to grace religious ceremonies as well as occasions that include feasting. Other than this, it is also used as an ingredient with other dishes that are made in the village. The cow is not actually killed for this drink. It does go through an experience that is not exactly pleasurable but it is taken care of afterwards rather than the meat being used as well.
23 Cobra Heart
Cobra heart is considered to be a delicacy that helps with a men's virility in South-East Asia. Because of this, it tends to attract tons of tourists that want to give the famous dish a try for the story if nothing else. This is actually one of the first dishes that Anthony ever tried on camera. It should be taken into account that this cobra heart is consumed while it is still beating. Yup, that is right. Anthony may have nerves of steel but we are in no way recommending this. Anyway, he did mention that he thought it tastes like a "very athletic, aggressive oyster" which translates to "bad oyster" in most people's heads.
This is something that even Anthony found difficult to stomach. Hakarl essentially translates to fermented shark and is found in Iceland. If you do visit Iceland, there is a lot to see and a lot to try- do not bother trying this though. It probably came into existence because someone thought it would be a great dare and then just caught on by mistake. Not only is this something that tastes bad but it is also known to be one of the world's smelliest foods. Yes. It is that bad. So, if a friend of yours wants company- say no to that too. Anthony describes this dish as "the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing." If the culinary world's daredevil could not take it, we are not going to roll the dice.
21 Raw Seal Eyeball
Looking for a side dish for your balut? This raw seal eyeball dish could be exactly what you are looking for...or avoiding if you are one of the sane ones. Throwing caution to the wind, Anthony had not only the eyeball but the liver and kidney as well. When seal is being eaten, being offered the eyeball is actually an honour. It is considered to be a way of showing generosity to the guest and you must never refuse it. Which is why you should never eat seal with locals. Bourdain said that the eyeball was 'not bad' which is just not reassuring enough.
20 Pig Blood Soup
While Bourdain was in Thailand, he went to a local restaurant that was famous for using just about any animal part that was in existence. This episode of Parts Unknown like many before it contained some bits where viewer discretion is advised. At this restaurant, Bourdain decided to take the plunge and try a soup that had a significant amount of pig blood as its main ingredient. This was actually something that even Bourdain admitted he was dreading since the soup literally looked like a pool of blood. After trying it though, Anthony did admit that it was quite nice with some a sweet and spicy taste to it. To each their own I suppose.
19 Sheep Gonads
If you have watched even a few episodes of Parts Unknown, you will quickly figure out that Anthony has tried a wide variety of animal parts and sheep is just another one on the list for him. When he was filming in Morocco's desert, Bourdain tried roasted sheep's balls. His answer to how it tasted just proves my initial point. He said that it tastes 'like any other he has tried.' Even though Bourdain grew accustomed to these strange dishes, it is doubtful that we ever will so it is probably best to stay away.
18 Pigeon Meat
In Cairo, pigeon meat is actually served to newlyweds to help them with 'what is to come.' This is also served in restaurants across Egypt though so if you do want to try it you do not have to get married thankfully. The dish in itself actually tastes pretty good and looks pretty crispy because of its batter layering. It is stuffed with various spices and served with a brown liquid drink that is supposed to be extremely healthy. This liquid is actually the broth that remains when cooking the meal that is served on the side as a drink. Overall, it may taste great but it does sound a bit gross at the same time.
17 Live Octopus
On one of Anthony's No Reservations episodes, he visited one of New York's most exotic restaurants to try what is considered some of the best seafood. Over there is where he tried live octopus. This is considered to be an extremely expensive dish and it needs a skilled chef. If you want to try this one, you are not going to need just your wallet but also a little courage. The live octopus has been known to latch on to the throats of diners in a last-ditch attempt of escape. This can potentially suffocate a diner in a worst case scenario so it is best to stay away.
16 Egusi Soup
Like a lot of places that Bourdain visits, Nigeria is not exactly tourist central and so its food is not known around the world like some cuisines are. Normally when a place gets a large number of tourists, the food does become westernized to a certain extent but certain places like Nigeria have kept their originality intact. Whether this is good or bad depends on your palette and what dish it is. While in Lagos, one of Africa's biggest cities, Bourdain tried the egusi soup that is made with goat meat and fish stock among other ingredients. Most people cannot stand the look of it but some do manage to have a bite.
Here is a quick tip from Anthony - if you are in Namibia, ignore what the backpackers of the past have to say and do NOT eat like the locals. It may well be your last meal if you do. Warthog anus sounds like something you would like to tell friends you tried while you were on your travels but it simply is not worth it. This dish lacks a lot of things, most notably: hygiene, taste and appeal. The anus is served unwashed with dust, sand and some fecal matter as your sides. Unfortunately enough Bourdain could not even stop at one bite because it would have been rude since the tribe chief was right next to him. In short - experimentation has limits and we should probably learn from his mistakes.
14 Dirt Omelettes
Namibia has some pretty scary dishes on offer, as we have already established. A lot of them are pretty unhygienic and you do not have a McDonald's next to it as back up option. The ostrich dirt omelettes are like your starter before the warthog anus. These omelettes substitute cheese, onions, tomatoes and every other traditional ingredient with a little bit of dirt - literally. This is where I would draw the line personally but Bourdain just could not say no. I suppose you are getting a lot of minerals in his defense but that also comes with the possibility of a hospital bill.
13 Stinky Tofu
This one sounds pretty tame but stinky tofu is pretty terrible. Anthony tried this one while he was visiting China and deeply regretted it soon after. Stinky Tofu is essentially fermented tofu and is disgusting to the point where swallowing it is difficult. Andrew Zimmern, his fellow diner, found it hard to even get it down his throat. The tofu you are served can be up to ten years old with some raving over it while others cannot stand the thought. It is much like foie gras in some ways - a developed taste if you have an open mind.
12 Bull Member
Most of us watch 'I am a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here' and cringe at the thought of our favourite celebrities eating the undercarriage of animals for a game show. Anthony wants to do this. He called the meat rubbery and 'not bad' when he tried it. This is at best a dare that you will inevitably lose and at worse a trip to the hospital. Watching Bourdain try these dishes was not even easy for us to watch. This dish does not even have health benefits that you could convince yourself with. It is just best left alone. Somethings are not meant to be cooked.
11 Stewed Pork Leg
An episode of Parts Unknown that followed Bourdain around Chiang Mai featured a scene where Bourdain and his friend tried a local speciality - stewed pork leg. The woman that prepared this dish for them was known to be a master at her trade and was known throughout the area. Known locally as Khao Kha Moo, the dish is cooked in a sauce that has been taught to the children of her family for years. This sauce is never actually thrown out by the cook. She went on to explain that the sauce is never restarted. It just continues to be made every day. The pork leg is cooked until tender after which it is served in bite-size pieces.
10 Breakfast Porridge
While Bourdain was in Brazil, he started off pretty tame and went for the meats and rice but sooner or later he decided to give the weirder foods a go. During his stay, he got pretty friendly with a local boy who he shared his fast food meal with. Their friendship helped Bourdain find the local spots that he was craving. One of these restaurants served what became known as the breakfast porridge. You may be comfortable with your oatmeal and waffles but Brazil takes it a step further. You can order a beef broth porridge at seven in the morning if you know where to look. This yellow liquid does not look appealing, to say the least. The thick yellow broth consists of beef parts as well. For most people, beef broth sounds like a bad idea but Bourdain thanked the owner of the restaurant for a great meal after he was done so maybe we are wrong?
9 Bile Soup
Bourdain has always managed to find some pretty odd meals and never shied away after he figures out what exactly they are made of. This happened yet again in Pampanga. A diner sitting next to him at a restaurant he was eating at managed to convince him to order a bowlful of bile soup that contained some chopped up organ parts. Bile is known to be very bitter but it was part of the experience. Even Bourdain said that the dish was too gross even for him which is rare. He has tried bile before as well and the second time was unfortunately not the charm. Overall, Anthony does not recommend anything that has bile in it.
8 Blood Sausage
This is actually one of Bourdain's favourite dishes but for a lot of other people, it is something that crosses the line. Anthony used to have this dish at Les Halles, where he also worked as executive chef, and the restaurant actually got pretty famous because of his writings about it. This sausage is made out of congealed porcine blood that is then mixed with pork fat. This then creates a paste which is stuffed into a casing before being fried with butter. This blood sausage is totally black and does not go well with much. It is not worth a try unless you are extremely adventurous.
7 Beondegi Soup
In an episode of Parts Unknown, when Bourdain was in South Korea, he decided to try the Beondegi soup. While he was in South Korea he also managed to have a meal with an ex-member of a local rap group. Together they had the soup that we have already mentioned otherwise known as the soup of death.
Beondegi soup is made out of silkworm larva predominantly so expect those flavours to overpower any other ingredient. This soup is normally sold from street vendors and not many tourists go near it. In their defense, it does not look very appealing.
6 Cuttlefish Ink
Even though most of Bourdain's strangest dishes are from South-East Asia, this one is actually from Italy. It is a pasta dish that is served in the southern regions of the country. Sicily, in particular, serves this dish pretty regularly. It has the basic pasta and shrimp along with a cuttlefish ink sauce. Adding cuttlefish ink to pasta in Sicily has actually been going on for ages but it is not something that a lot of tourists try. Firstly because it is not found as easily as pizza is and second - it does scare you a bit at first unfortunately enough.
5 Pig Ear Sandwiches
So, while we were taking peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school for lunch there have also been children taking in sandwiches that have pig ears instead of the peanut butter. In the Mississippi Delta region, Bourdain managed to find a restaurant that exclusively sold pig ear sandwiches that featured on the menu as 'simply ears.' These sandwiches sell like hot cross buns and they can be compared to sliders because you will be done in three bites. Even though many claim this sandwich is among the best dishes they have ever tasted, you will have to get over some amount of initial fear. Here is the restaurant in case you gather the courage to give it a go.
Tripe is found pretty much everywhere. For those of you who do not know what tripe is - it is the lining of the stomach of an animal. Tripe can look different depending on various factors like the animal it is coming from and the condition of the animal. It is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world and Bourdain has actually tried tripe in numerous countries including Portugal among others. Tripe is not for the faint of heart and it does not taste very good even after you gather the courage to take a bite. We would stay away from this one.
Most of us know for a fact that Canada is home to some of the nicest people on the planet and that they would not hurt a fly. This sentiment does not carry forward to their beaver friends though as Anthony soon figured out. If you are ever in Canada, you do have the rare opportunity where you can try some beaver. This beaver meat is prepared in a pot and stewed for a while. The tender meat is then served along with a sauce that has been thickened with the animal's blood. Yup- leave your vegan friends behind, this is not going to fly well with them at all.
2 Iguana Tamales
During one of his first ever episodes on television, Bourdain visited a small town in Mexico where he tried Iguana Tamales. This may sound like a dish that you would not even fathom exists but for a lot of people in the small town of Oaxaca, it is something they have every day. This dish is traditionally prepared during holy week and is not even known very well across Mexico. Iguana meat is actually quite nice or so Bourdain says as long as you do not think about the fact that it came from an iguana. US customs claims that they have stopped over 60 pounds of what they believe is iguana meat being smuggled in. So, apparently, some people really do appreciate the dish.
1 Meat Slushy
During one of Anthony's episodes for No Reservations, he visited Singapore and tried a couple of dishes available at a local food court. Most people would not attempt trying any of these chalking them up to 'something that only locals can appreciate.'
Bourdain has always been one to pay no attention to stuff like that so he decided to go for the meat slushy. This is essentially served as a pile of bones along with some broth in a bowl. You do not really need any cutlery to enjoy this dish. As Bourdain did, you simply pick up the bones and suck out the bone marrow.