Monday, March 23, 2015

YOU WANT EMBRYO? & other Asian foods we have been offered


Remember before I moved to Asia when I talked about the potential of eating dog meat? After living here a few months dog meat sounds pretty good compared to the other types of foods we have been offered.  

Before I dive into telling you about the foods here I want to say something: the foods here are very different than what we eat and that is ok! What is a delicacy to someone else might not be at all to me but honestly, I'm happy that they get to eat foods they love.

Something I really love is seeing people eat food from their own country. You can always tell when it's food from their home country because they eat a lot more and are just really excited about it. Me included! I mean mashed potatoes? YES!

Okay, so let's bite into these food differences shall we? 

"You Want Embryo?"

That is an exact question Dave and I were asked!

Ok, I gotta tell you the history behind this. A while back my friend itnroduced us to the show Idiot Abroad. We laugh and laugh until our stomachs hurt when we watch this. It's a documentary of a man that they place in a new culture and they film his reactions. This video is about Chinese food. It might be funnier if you lived abroad? I don't know, but it's entertaining. Anyways, we watched this clip about them eating egg fetus and I just kept thinking "NO WAY! There is no way!"

If you want to watch the two minute clip from the documentary I have it here for you. If you have a weak stomach you should just move right along....


I shared all that because Dave and I had to go to the Cambodia border for a visa run and while we were waiting for our papers to be processed they were eating these eggs. I started staring, unashamedly staring, and then I told Dave "Those are the eggs from Idiot abroad!" Well, apparently one of the guys heard me talking about the eggs because he looked at me, smiled really big and said "YOU WANT EMBRYO?" I politely declined but we did ask to take a picture. 

                                       


I won't describe how they ate them because I was gagging. And I will gag if I write it out. 

That food is a delicacy in the Philippines and although I hope I never have to eat that I'm glad others enjoy it and get to eat foods they love from back home. 

Fish Paste

Fish paste is a common dish in Myanmar. You can buy it in the markets and it is available in many restaurants. It also has a 'whiff' and there just are no words!  

What are the ingredients? I'm not 100% but I know it is a fermented fish or shrimp that is salted, ground up and then sun dried. It isn't eaten alone but often with rice and other dishes to accompany it. 

I have not eaten it here and when we walk buy it in the market place lets just say I use my scarf as a face covering to breathe because once again, I gag! 





Unmentionable Body Parts

Ok, this one does not come with a picture and you can just thank me now. 

Dave and I were eating with a group of people from Myanmar. They serve everything family style which is nice because I can pick and choose what I hope will not give me explosive diarrhea I want to eat. 

I had my rice, salad, potatoes and I kept looking at this bowl of meat. Like I kept looking and looking and thinking "Is that what I think it is?" After we ate and I was alone with Dave I said "Dave! Was that chicken anus?" and you guys, it was! 

Cultural Day

Sorry, no picture either. I tried to google for one but ... I started gagging. 

I was subbing at school for a whole week. One day I was teaching and two nice ladies came in. I was asked if I knew that it was a cultural day, which I had no idea it was. I told them to go ahead and come on in and share. 

Well, they started talking about a really special dish they had made for all the students. As soon as they started talking big huge red flags started waving in my brain! 

The ladies said they had soup...intestine soup. They knew the intestine was too long for the kids to eat on their own so they had cut it into little pieces. They also had a hot chile salad the kids could add into it. 

Then they turned to me and said "and Teacher Beka! We have a bowl for you too!" 

Guys, I just couldn't do it! I try, I really do but there is no way and I was scared of getting sick. So what did I do? Well as soon as I dismissed the kids for lunch I ran to Dave and said "Dave, you have to go get a bowl of that soup!" and he did. Isn't that nice of him? 

One of the Moms later asked me if I had tried it and I had to be honest and tell her I was just too scared but I told her Dave had. 

I honestly felt bad because the Mom really did spend time making it but I don't think she was offended that I didn't eat it. The kids enjoyed it so I'm glad that they had that opportunity. 

PS - Dave had an upset stomach. I laughed. and felt bad and grateful for him at the same time. 

Mexican Food

Let me tell you something my friend Pam told me. It goes like this: 

"You can tell how long a missionary has been on the field by how they handle bugs. First year missionaries, upon finding a bug in their food refuse to eat it! Second year missionaries think it isn't a big deal and just remove the bug and finish their food. Third year missionaries see a bug and just eat it. Fourth year missionaries look at their food and if there is not a bug in there they go, find a bug and add it in." 

I think I'm in between year one and year two. 

Dave and I found a new Mexican restaurant! WAHOO! I ordered a burrito and was super excited. Well, I was 3/4 done with that thing and saw a large black spot in my burrito. I then had a conversation with myself. In my head of course because I would have sounded crazy...

Voice 1: "Is that a bug?"
Voice 2: "No! No surely it isn't. It's just a black spot" 
Voice 1: "I don't think it is a black spot. It is a bug. You should look closely." 
Voice 2: "I don't want to look closely because then I'll know for sure but I have to know." 
Voice 1: "Yes! Yes. That is a bug. However, it looks like it somehow crawled into just the tortilla which means bugs aren't completely rampant in this restaurant so it is ok." 

I was grossed out. I know in America we would demand a full refund for something like that but that isn't the case here. People work hard to make a living and bugs are just more common in the tropics. So it was ok. 

Don't worry! I didn't eat the bug. I just took out the rest of the filling and didn't eat the tortilla. It wasn't the end of the world but I don't plan on going back to that particular restaurant. 

Has anyone else found bugs or weird things in their food? How do you react to that? 

Marrying Food

Do you know what that means? I didn't until I worked as a banquet server for the Hyatt. Basically if there is a buffet and only 1/4 of the big dish of mashed potatoes from the buffet line gets eaten you can add it to another pot of mashed potatoes. That way you aren't wasting but it is still safe. 

Here is how they marry food in Myanmar. 

Food here is often served family style. After everyone is done eating, whatever food is left, that has been on the tables and picked through by various utensils, gets put back into the master pot of food to be served to the next table. 

I don't think that is sanitary and personally it grosses me out but on the other hand I know they do things differently here. I also think it is a way for them to save on cost and make the most of the food they purchased to serve. It is a commonly accepted thing here though so it is just a part of their culinary experience. 

What do you think about marrying foods? 


Now, after I posted all that you probably wonder what in the world we eat? Let me just say we eat really well! I'm amazed at how God has blessed us with food. We have fresh produce literally across the street. There is also a grocery store that is very western which allows me to cook at home. And I cook a lot, which I really really love! 

This is where I'm supposed to ask questions but come on! I'm not asking "Would you eat embryo?" ha! 

If you have more questions for me about food please ask away! You can comment or if you have more questions our 'ask us anything' forum is still open.  I also have written some posts about what grocery shopping looks like for us and some of the specific foods we eat here along with the prices of foods here versus foods in America. I'll just give you a spoiler now ... cheese is way way more expensive here. Like $6 for a small package of it. 

20 comments :

  1. I have to say, I really appreciate the respectful way that you phrased this post. There are plenty of local dishes here in China that I don't enjoy, but a good chunk of the youtube videos or blog posts I've come across about Asian delicacies have a very mocking, derisive tone, and I strongly dislike that kind of attitude. We're all allowed to have different food likes and dislikes.
    Angel is my food-consuming hero--he has an iron stomach and will eat just about everything, so I have often, often sneaked food from my dish to his, because where we live, it's incredibly common for hosts to put food on your plate, and there are some foods I can't quite manage to eat. I gave him a fish heart that was served to me recently. From my very first day in China I have told people that I was a vegetarian--which isn't incredibly far from the truth--I love and will eat any sort of veggie or fruit, while the only meat I'll eat by choice is boneless chicken. The Chinese have a very loose concept of what 'vegetarian' means, however, so they still give me plenty of animal-based things to eat. While Angel eats most meats and parts of animals, I go to town on any and all vegetable dishes around, devouring them, much to the surprise of our friends, who are like, "It's just cabbage. Why do you think it is so good?" I genuinely love Chinese veggie dishes.
    At the school cafeteria I'll sit down with my coworkers, with my tray of rice and veggies, and one of them will say, "Oh, you didn't get any chicken feet? Here, you want one of mine?" They're so sweet. We've been served intestine soup too, which reminded Angel of "menudo", so he felt right at home.
    To turn the whole food situation on it's head, we also invite our chinese friends over and serve them things like tacos and mashed potatoes and chili--I don't want to serve them my poor imitation of their own food, so I stick with American and Mexican dishes--and they usually don't eat much, most of them have found our food quite odd. It goes both ways! :)
    Apparently I have way too much to say about food. Sorry for the novel!

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  2. I loved reading your novel!


    I thought about being more 'humorous' with this post but then I realized some of my friends from Myanmar might read it and I'd hate to hurt their feelings! Even though I eat different I don't want to be mean and make them feel bad for what they eat. It's an important part of their culture.


    I'm so glad Angel eats foods for you! We are blessed to have husbands that eat things for us. AND I thought that was funny about the intestines reminding him of Menudo.


    I also think Asians think we eat weird. In Korea I sacrificed a box of my mac'n'cheese for the kids and what did they say "Teacher! This is not very delicious!" ha! Also, I will say I get embarrassed because people here talk about how HUGE American portions are and how unhealthy we are. I can't deny it either because Americans do eat much bigger and unhealthier portions, myself included at times.


    I think the veggie dishes are pretty good too! I'm so thankful they have them.


    AND yes to a vegetarian being a loose term. My friend from Kansas that I went to Korea with was a strict vegetarian and they would say "Oh this is vegetarian. There are just small pieces of chicken in it." ha ha ha!

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  3. An Idiot Abroad can be pretty funny! Here in the States, I would say that for the most part, I'm willing to try many new foods. But I don't think I would be able to do that if I lived in another country. The idea of tons of fresh fruit and veggies available all the time is pretty appealing!

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  4. Yes! Idiot Abroad is really really funny! Especially after living overseas.


    I'm glad you try new foods, even if it is in America! I've been blessed to overall been offered really good foods here or had a scapegoat, aka my husband =).

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  5. The strangest thing I've ever tried was octopus, when I went to Mexico as a college student. In general, I love seafood, but I did not care for octopus. I didn't like the texture of the little suckers.

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  6. Ew! I don't like octopus either. It is chewy and weird.

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  7. That about sums it up. :)

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  8. Crazy! That's so funny about the different levels of missionaries!

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  9. I'm pretty adventurous in my eating, but I don't think I'd eat any of the things you listed. I'm not so sure about marrying food either. But I do think that you will have an awesome immune system after all of this!

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  10. It is funny about the different level of missionaries. I think about that a lot when we eat out now and it always cracks me up. That is it cracks me up until I find a bug in my own food. =)

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  11. I will say our immune system seems a bit stronger. The first two months were rough and I felt like we were always sick. I lost around 12lbs. I was trying to eat healthier but I also got sick several times.

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  12. mashed potatoes... America's claim to fame! hahah!


    oh my goodness! yes, i would say that dog meat might be the safest of some of these choices!! i don't know that i could stomach any of these.... chicken anus.... oh my!

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  13. I love trying new foods, but new meat dishes scare me. Chicken anus? No thanks!


    When I was in school, I took a cultural food class. My class was pretty tame (there were a lot of Italian and Mexican dishes) but I specifically remember a few of my friends from the other cultural food class next door talking about the egg fetus. Apparently someone brought it in to share and everyone that was unfamiliar with the dish was grossed out for the rest of the semester. I don't think I could even watch someone eat it let alone try eating it myself!

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  14. This was so interesting to read. I've always found it tricky when traveling abroad to figure out how to show my respect and genuine interest in local foods without also being negligent about exposing myself to illness or - let's be honest - just being too big of a wienie to try something! :)


    One of the things I think is most fascinating when eating in other cultures is to look through WHAT they're eating and learn WHY they're eating it. Whether it's simply to make the most of what's available to them, as you mentioned, or for health reasons, there are often some really insightful and respectable motivations there that aren't always present in our modern American food culture.

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  15. Yes to those mashed potatoes! All though the other day I taught English and showed them a picture of my favorite food, mashed potatoes, and they just looked at me like they had never heard of those before. And I just looked at them like they hadn't lived before ;)

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  16. That is so funny and interesting that someone brought in the egg fetus to school. I still think it is really interesting that other countries just love that dish. And friend, I can't watch them eat it either. Can't do it!


    Some meat dishes scare me but usually if it is something new (and someone I know) I will just ask them what the ingredients are. Usually once I know the ingredients, other than chicken anus, I can usually eat it.

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  17. I very much understand the difficulty with trying to find the balance in eating things and politely declining. With the intestines I just knew I'd be sick. Not because they are terrible people for eating it but we don't eat that in our culture and I knew my system couldn't handle it.


    I love that you mentioned the 'WHY' behind what people eat. I think in Myanmar they eat a lot of things because, for a long time, they didn't have many options. I also think they are more resourceful with their chickens. For example, when they eat a piece of chicken they suck the marrow out. At first it was weird for me to see but then they explained what they were doing and it made sense.


    Also, here in Thailand they usually have a specific health benefit for eating what they do. I think it is really neat that they do that and wish America would do more of that.


    LASTLY, fruit here is usually dessert! America needs to do this too. =)

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  18. hahahahha! i would have done the same!

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  19. Oh ew!!! It is so weird/strange how different the cuisine and delicacies are in Asia! And I totally know what it's like to not be rude and turn down food that someone has so willingly made you. That's so sweet that Dave stepped up to eat that soup for you! The marrying food thing is crazy... if I knew a place that did that I would not be happy, haha. And yuck fish paste... I would not want to smell that.
    Random food story from this past week working at an orphanage: the fridge in the baby house stopped working over last weekend, so Monday morning we had to help clean it up. There was meat in there that had clearly spoiled, yet they saved it and didn't cook it until FRIDAY!!! They made meat-stuffed potatoes, and they offered it to us Gringos! A lot of the group turned it down, but I was brave/loca and ate around the meat. (hello- potatoes are delicious!) Surprisingly I didn't have any GI issues afterwards, but the other Gringos were so shocked that the women still used the spoiled meat. To the women, they didn't want to waste the meat or the money, so it was normal. Crazy how different other countries are with their food/sanitation!

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  20. You are BRAVE for eating those potatoes. I think I would have eaten the outside part of the potato like you did but avoided the meat. I can understand the women not wanting to waste meat. People value things more there because they don't always have money or a convenient grocery store to go and purchase more meats.


    I keep thinking food will be 'normal' for me eventually but I don't think it will. Even last night they had a small bowl of squid cooked in its own ink. Dave ate some and turned and smiled at me and I was so grossed out. He had black tinted teeth with speckles. It was gross!

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