The ostrich is a strange creature. A relic of a world ruled by birds, it is both flightless and the largest bird on Earth. These factors combine to make it ideal for food, and if it weren’t the fastest bird on the planet, I have a feeling its meat would be a bit more ubiquitous on the dinner plate. Ostrich is certainly not the strangest of meats, as it can be found as beef alternative in healthy burgers. Yet, it is unquestionably abnormal.
On the first day of our safari, we spotted something strolling around the hotel grounds. To an untrained eye like mine, I thought it was a deer. But hey, I was in South Africa and deer are boring. It turned out to be an antelope called kudu. Kudu are pretty common, which is why, when I found myself being served kudu a couple days later I was only somewhat concerned that it was the kudu I had seen bumming around the grounds.
It’s not often you get to eat one of your favorite characters from childhood, but on my trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe, that’s exactly what I did. I took down Pumbaa, at the first possible chance. And I didn’t just do it once, it was so good I kept coming back for more.
Is it a nut? Is it a fruit? Is the question of whether or not it’s a nut qualify to make the lychee a strange fruit? I sure think so, but if that’s not enough for you, consider that the lychee is the only member of the litchi genus. That’s right, it’s an orphan, which automatically makes it strange. While canned lychees can be found pretty much everywhere, they really don’t do the fruit justice. It must be eaten fresh to truly appreciate its strangeness and flavor.
Once upon a time, I was biking through the rice paddies of Yangshuo, China, when my local friend stopped at a small tree to pick the strange, small berry-like fruits off of it. She handed a few to me to try and told me they were called kumquats. Growing up in Michigan, I had heard of kumquats before, but had never seen one with my own eyes and had no idea what one should look or taste like. This was a strange fruit, indeed.
For my birthday, my lovely girlfriend got me something called a beer class at L’Epicerie Market [EDIT: Now Closed] in Culver City. This was exciting as it turned out to be a multi-course set meal with a glass of beer per dish. Yet, as exciting and delicious as the beer and meals were, there was a particular course worth its own blog. It was one of the strangest meats I had ever eaten: frog legs.
In a world full of apples, pears, bananas and peaches, it’s comforting to know that out in the crazy world of ours, there are still strange fruits waiting to be eaten. I’m sure it seems weird to be reading an article on an unvegan website about fruit, but I must confess I am a huge fan of fruit. After all, this is a site against vegetables, not fruit. Who could really hate nature’s candy? While in China I came across two fruits that break the mold of those average, everyday fruits: the Durian and Mangosteen. They are also known as the King and Queen of fruits, respectively.
To many people, it’s surprising to find out that China isn’t a country full of just one ethnicity. In fact, China is home to 55 different ethnic minorities and actually has a significant Muslim population. A big part of that population is the Uyghur (pronounced wee-gur) people, who mainly reside in Xinjiang, a western province that borders Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan, Kygyzstan and Afghanistan. But Chinese Muslims can be found all over the country and in major cities like Xi’an in Shaanxi Province. While the Terracotta Warriors are surely the biggest draw to Xi’an, the city also has China’s biggest mosque, which looks like any other temple in China except for the Arabic writing. Xi’an also boasts some delicious Muslim food.
After Shanghai, we headed to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Warriors. We landed at night and although it was pretty late, I was a hungry unvegan. I remembered Xi’an having some great late-night street food, but after four years so much had changed in China and I hoped this was not one of them. I took a quick stroll just south of the Bell Tower and found just what I was looking for. While Shanghai had some good street skewer food (none of which I actually had on this trip), it was nothing compared to what could be found in Xi’an.
Just what is chou doufu (pronounced cho dough-foo)? If you don’t know Mandarin, you might think it sounds pleasant. The words roll off the tongue pretty cleanly and it sounds like it could be some sort of doughy deliciousness. Like a doughnut or something. But if you know Mandarin, then you know the true meaning of the words and they are nothing at all like a doughnut. Chou doufu means, quite literally, stinky tofu. And the name is certainly appropriate. As with much of the rest of Chinese cuisine, chou doufu comes in many forms, but the form I know best can be found on the street.