These foods I’m going to share with you may seem unconventional at first glance, but they must be eaten and loved somewhere, right? Once you get over that initial reluctance, that “but we don’t eat those here,” you just might find a dish that you like that until now you didn’t even know existed.
What an interesting name this bivalve has! You may have seen the spelling before, but did you know that it’s pronounced “gooey duck,” not “geo duck?” The name itself comes comes from a native Nisqually word meaning “very long-lived clam.”
Somewhat unbelievably, the average age of these clams — the largest bivalves on the planet — is 140 years. They can be found all along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Baja California in Mexico, buried two to three feet deep in the coastal sand, muck, or gravel.
And they look quite phallic.
The phallic portion of the clam is called the siphon, an appendage which reaches upward to the surface of the water allowing the clam to breathe, in the process stretching it to at least two times its resting length.
How Are Geoducks Eaten?
The best way, in my opinion, is to eat the siphon, or neck, raw — sashimi-style. The stomach, which is the part of the clam found inside the shell, can be deep-fried or sliced thinly and eaten sashimi-style as well.
Essentially, before you eat the geoduck, you’re going to want to blanch it which will allow you to remove the skin covering the siphon hassle-free. Leave it in the boiling water for about fifteen seconds before dunking it in ice water, cooling it back down.
The blanching will also let you pry the clam apart much easier. Follow along with me as I clean, slice, and eat my geoduck in the video above.
#2 Chicken Feet
Have you ever tried chicken feet?
A childhood favorite of mine, dim sum-style chicken feet are cooked in a rich, fermented black bean sauce. The recipe obviously calls for the feet — bits that would be normally cast off — here transformed into an amazing, crunchy side dish.
Known in Chinese as jī jiǎo, or jī zhuǎ, or fèng zhuǎ which means Phoenix feet, they are a staple on Chinese dim sum menus. They have a marvelous, chewy texture — unctuous, gooey, sticky and gelatinous. Once you try this dish, you’ll never look at chicken feet the same again.
Made with a rich mixture of soy sauces, oyster sauce, sherry, and fermented black bean paste, the feet are first deep fried and then cooled and soaked in water before incorporating into the rich sauce.
Trust me, you may have never tried chicken feet before, but you’re going to love this dish!
#3 Brains & Egg Recipe
It hasn’t been until relatively recently that people have gotten squeamish about eating offal, those organs or other bits that often get discarded when animals are butchered. There is, however, around the world, a long tradition of eating these nowadays discarded parts, and indeed, they are considered a delicacy.
In this country, pork brains are still popular in parts of the Midwest. In St. Louis, the Ohio River Valley, and Indiana, pork brain sandwiches can be found at Mom & Pop restaurants, festivals, and bars. Battered and deep-fried, the brains are placed between two pieces of white bread or hamburger buns to form a sandwich.
In the American South, brains were often paired with eggs, usually scrambled. Called brains and eggs, the dish was often served for breakfast, though as time has passed it seems that the dish is harder and harder to find.
How Do Brains & Eggs Taste?
The brains have a wonderful texture — very creamy and just so very tender. And they do taste slightly of iron — somewhat like liver, but not nearly as strong. The predominant flavor, of course, is pork with just a bit of saltiness. Paired with the eggs, which have a slightly more bouncy texture than the brains, you get a very rich and protein-dense breakfast which would have served farmers well back in the day.
#4 Koolickles, or Kool-Aid Pickles
A koolickle is simply a dill pickle soaked for at least one week in Kool-Aid. Now for those of you who don’t know what Kool-Aid is, it’s a very sweet, artificially flavored and colored beverage consumed mainly by children in the U.S.
Koolickles are quite a popular snack in the American South — they can be found on the counters of gas stations and convenience stores.
And since Kool-Aid comes in a variety of flavors and colors, Koolickles do too. For my recipe in the video above, I chose cherry, but you could also use grape, strawberry, orange, or mango!
The process is pretty straightforward: you simply drain the pickle juice from the jar and add a cup of sugar and one or two packets of Kool-Aid to it. Then, you slice the pickles and place them back in the jar before adding your now sweet pickle juice.
After that, all that’s left is to marinate the pickles, a process that will take at least a week. Just place them back in the fridge — and wait.
How Do They Taste?
Well, for those of you who have been following me for some time, you probably know that I’m not a huge fan of pickles, so I’m a little biased from the get-go.
But these are not too bad! They taste a lot like a sweet relish. Of course the dill and vinegar flavors are at the forefront, but the the cherry flavor, which is subtler than I thought it would be, dampens them, making this pickle, aside from the characteristic crunch, a little less pickle-y.
So you may want to play around with the number of Kool-Aid packets you use in your recipe. I only added one, but for a more pronounced flavor, I would definitely add a second.
#5 Cricket Cookies
In years past, on my YouTube channel, I’ve done a series of videos for Christmas that I called Bugmas. In those videos, I tried all sorts of insects including scorpions, giant centipedes, and flying termites.
For the most part I tried these creatures “as is,” i.e. I ate them raw, in a dried state, without cooking them or using them in a recipe.
Now insect eating, or entomophagy, while rare in the U.S., happens to be much more common around the world. For example, in Mexico, hundreds of different bug species are used in dishes, perhaps the best known among these being chapulines, or grasshoppers, which are sometimes served boiled, then roasted and dried, on tacos.
Crickets are another bug species that can be eaten. These days you can also purchase cricket flour online, which I did, in order to make cricket flour cookies. By substituting a portion of cricket flour for regular flour you can add a bit of protein to your cookies.
How Do Cricket Cookies Taste?
Well, when I tasted crickets in one of my Bugmas videos, they had a nice, nutty flavor to them. I actually quite liked them.
So that was the flavor I was expecting in my oatmeal cookies. But to be honest, with just a third of a cup of cricket flour, I couldn’t taste the cricket at all. My cricket cookie just tastes like a regular, delicious oatmeal cookie.
Bugs by themselves are certainly edible, but many people, being unfamiliar with them, may balk. So some companies, like Don Bugito, have begun spicing their bugs up to make them a little more palatable and familiar to the novice insect eater.
Want a little spice? Try spicy superworms or chile-lime crickets. Both have a nice, toasted flavor, infused with spices. Personally I preferred the crickets as the chile-lime was more pronounced than the spice in the superworms.
If you’re looking for a dessert worm, then try either the chocolate-covered superworms or the chocolate-covered salted crickets. Both are fun, crunchy, chocolatey snacks.
#7 Ox Penis Soup
What do you do when you find some ox penis at the supermarket? Make ox penis soup in the instant pot, that’s what!
I had never eaten or prepared bull penis before so I had to do a little sleuthing. In my research I came across an article in Chichi Wang’s column The Nasty Bits in Serious Eats on how to prepare Chongqing-style penis soup.
The recipe was recommended to her by Fuchsia Dunlop, a great cookbook author on Chinese cuisine, so I had a suspicion it was going to be good.
There is a little preparation involved in making the soup. First of all, you’ll need to remove the stretchy skin on the outside of the penis, then you’re going to slice it down the middle and open it up. Once that’s done, you’ll want to soak it for a half an hour in cold water.
Once that done, the majority of the time will be spent simmering the soup on the stovetop for ten hours. I used an instant pot, which is essentially an electric pressure cooker, which will shorten the time significantly.
You can follow along with me in the video above to watch me make and taste this delightful and phallic soup.
Well, that’s it for seven unconventional dishes you really must try. The takeaway? Don’t be afraid. You just might find something you never knew you liked!