Weird Foods Of The World

There’s a lot of weird food out there. Most of these strange offerings are simply menus that have been eaten through the generations and have become commonplace (and enjoyed) in the areas where they’re consumed. I’m acquainted with people who have come to my country from around the world and visa versa (myself included). All of these people (myself included) have a tendency to miss the food from home, all the things they can’t get where they are currently planted.

I think we can all agree that traditions, including food traditions, are something we all hold dear without ever really wondering how they came into being. Why are some foods eaten in certain areas of the world but not others? Two words: Opportunity and necessity.

Many parts of the world today are fortunate to have continuous access to food that is sourced locally as well as internationally but this was not always the case.
Before there were grocery stores and worldwide transport, food was provided according to what could be grown, foraged or hunted locally. There was always the fear that this food supply could be interrupted at any time by weather, insects, political unrest, illness and many other random occurrences.

For this reason, any item that was obtained was used to its fullest extent. No part of the animal or vegetation was wasted.

And when those interruptions to the food chain did take place? You still gotta eat. Of course, anything tastes good when you’re hungry but many people found that their “food of last resort” was better than they thought it would be and continued to eat it even after the crisis had ended.

What do you say we take a look at a few of these weird hangers-on that are still enjoyed in different areas of the world?

Aftermarket Body Parts

Fish Heads and Eyeballs

Although the head and eyes of animals are eaten worldwide, fish seems to be the most popular. In many cultures, the entire fish is presented at the dinner table and the eyes of the fish are often saved for the most honored guest. The heads of animals are commonly used to make soup in a number of countries.

Jellied Moose Nose

Similar to head cheese, this dish is considered a delicacy among indigenous communities of the northwestern region of Canada and Alaska.

Shirako

Shirako translates to “white children” but is actually the sperm sacs from certain fish. These blobs look like tiny brains and are said to have a sweet, custardy taste.

Balut

Served mainly in the Philippines, Balut is a fertilized duck egg. To properly eat one of these puppies (um….duckies?), tap a hole in the top, slurp out the liquid goodness and then enjoy the crunch of the partially developed embryo that’s left.

Muktuc

Muktic is raw whale blubber with the skin still attached. This dish can be served “as is”, frozen or pickled and is popular in Greenland and Canada. Apparently, if you have enough chew power, it renders a oily, nutty flavor and is high in vitamins C and D.

I’m Gonna Eat Some Worms

Crispy Tarantulas

It’s believed that tarantulas were first eaten by Cambodians starving under the Khmer Rouge regime. These days, the fried creepy crawlers are often rolled in sugar or garlic and sold by street vendors but, unfortunately, the effects of deforestation and over-harvesting may put an end to the practice.

Ant Egg Soup

This blend of fish, fish stock, spices, ant eggs and ant embryo is popular in parts of Asia. Fans say it tastes like shrimp, while the addition of baby ants lends a sour aftertaste.

Locusts

Eating Locusts sort of makes sense. They’re crunchy and sweet tasting, can be eaten smoked, dried or fried, sometimes mixed with meringue or caramel for dessert. Locally sourced and high in protein, locusts are also kosher. And they eat your crops. What better revenge than to beat them at their own game?


Did Someone Say Cheese?

Casu Marzu

This cheese from Sardinia starts out as Pecorino. Fly larvae are introduced into the cheese which burrow through the cheese after they hatch. Casu marzu is considered unsafe to eat after the maggots have died unless it’s been refrigerated.

Milbenkäse

This German specialty cheese starts out as something akin to feta but then it’s placed in a box with some rye flour and mites. The enzymes in the digestive juices excreted by the mites (Yup. Mite poop) cause the cheese to ripen. This method of cheese making, which dates back to the Middle Ages, was almost extinct by the 1970s when only one person remained who knew how the process worked. Luckily (?) he was able to pass the information on before he died.

Eat This and That

Huitlacoche (Cuitlacoche)

The word itself translates to “corn smut” or “black mushroom” and refers to a blue black fungus that sometimes grows on organic corn. It’s a rare occurrence and is considered a delicacy in Mexico.

Airag

This Mongolian drink is mildly alcoholic and made from fermented mare or camel milk. Advocates say the taste is “quite agreeable after getting used to it” and the flavor profile “refreshens and sparkles softly on the tongue”. Very few first time drinkers agree.

Black Pudding

This is a traditional English/Irish pudding made from the fresh blood of a slaughtered animal. Although similar to blood sausages found in other regions of the world, black pudding is distinctive for using a higher proportion of cereal (such as oatmeal) and various spices.

 

Eat! Drink! And Be Merry!


While I’m not adventurous enough to actually try any of these foods, I’m certainly not knocking them. Hey, I’m from New England, where we eat peanut butter marshmallow sandwiches (“fluffernutters”) and brown bread that comes in a can. Moxie, a local carbonated beverage for which outsiders have used the words like “burnt root beer”, “rust” and “battery acid” to describe it’s flavor, actually has its own yearly festival. Who am I to point fingers?

Have you tried any of these unusual foods? What strange foods are served in your local area? Let me know in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

OneHope Wine Review

 

Show of hands…who loves wine?  Me, too!  Are you wondering why this subject is coming up on a website that encourages healthy eating habits?  Because, as it turns out, wine is good for you.  It’s science, man.

There’s evidence that moderate wine intake helps prevent heart disease, can delay the onset of cognitive impairments and even make you a happier person.

What’s not to love?

Now, what if I told you that every bottle of wine you bought would provide meals to children who are battling hunger?  Contribute to planting a tree in reforestation projects around the world?  Help a lonely dog or cat find it’s forever home?  Well, it’s true.

Welcome to my OneHope Wine Review.

The Story of OneHope Wine

Jake Kloberdanz, Brandon Hall and a group of friends founded OneHope Wine in 2007 after one of Jake’s best friends was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 22 years old.  They decided they wanted to make a difference.

Since Jake worked for Gallo wine at the time, it wasn’t a great leap to decide they wanted to start a wine company.  They also decided that the best way to make an impact would be by not just supporting one cause but many.

Starting a wine company is a long and arduous process that can, under the best of circumstances, take years.  Jake had a better idea:  he approached the Mondavi wine family and asked for their help.  The Mondavi’s were happy to let OneHope use their facilities to get their socially conscious business up and running.

In the early years, they had just three varietals and just three causes.  Chardonnay (breast cancer research and awareness), Cabernet Sauvignon (children with autism) and Merlot (AIDS treatment and prevention).

Wine With A Cause

Now, 13  years later, their brand has grown to 100 different products and 40 different non-profits.  To date they have given more than 5 million dollars in donations through OneHope Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Here are a few specifics:

  • Sparkling wine provides meals to children fighting hunger
  • Cabernet Sauvignon funds ABA therapy for autistic children
  • Pinot Noir helps provide a forever home to a stray animal
  • Red Blend helps veterans support disaster relief
  • Chardonnay funds clinical trials to find a cure for breast cancer
  • Merlot provides educational resources to prevent heart disease
  • Sauvignon Blanc helps to plant trees in reforestation efforts
  • Rose provides education on ovarian cancer risks and symptoms

I could go on but I think you get the point.  Every single bottle supports a charitable cause.

Most recently, OneHope has been giving hope to mothers who have been laid off in the service industry during the Pandemic as well as healthcare workers.

One Hope Foundations continues to add cause partners but rarely changes them as they feel that building long term relationships are an important part of having a sustainable impact.  They pair this with the need to ensure that each charity continues to adhere to the strict guidelines, goals and missions that had originally enabled a partnership with OneHope.

Potential cause partners are thoroughly vetted using a 13 standard method to ensure the authenticity and stability of a non-profit organization as well as impact and overhead ratio.  Only those that have very little overhead and give the biggest percentage of their donations to charity work are selected.

OneHope Preferred Customer Benefits

In addition to partnering with nonprofits, OneHope strives to bring the community together by allowing preferred customers to donate 10% of their annual purchases to a nonprofit of their choice!  In addition, preferred customers get up to 20% off AND free shipping with a wine club membership.

OneHope Cause Entrepreneurs can also host wine events on-line to raise money for causes their hosts care about.

Do you have to be a Cause Entrepreneur to make this happen?  Nope.  You can simply host a virtual wine event, give to a great cause and earn points that you can cash in for free wine and merchandise.

As a matter of fact, I’m hosting a virtual event right now to further support OneHope Foundation.  If you choose to host your own event, you can pick a nonprofit cause that’s close to your heart!

As you can see, there are many ways you can take advantage of OneHope Preferred Customer Benefits but maybe you just want a bottle of wine.  That’s cool.  We can do that too!

Wine Time

But, you ask…what about the wine?  Yes, I hear you!  OneHope is an American-made wine out of Napa Valley.  Since their inception in 2007, they have received numerous awards including:

  • Top 100 consumer product companies
  • Impact 100 social business of the year
  • Top 300 of 8,000 wine companies in the U.S.
  • Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers
  • INC. 500/5000 top 1,000 fastest growing private companies
  • EMPACT100’s Social Business of the Year.

The wine itself has received over 100 medals in wine competitions and multiple 90+ pt ratings. Positive articles and write ups have appeared in Wine Enthusiast, People Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings and Forbes Magazine.

Add that to the fact that 100,000 cases of wine were sold in 2018 and I would say that’s a testament to their popularity!  

Life’s Too Short To Drink Bad Wine

OneHope has a commitment to make great wine paired with a commitment to support worthy causes around the world.  With every glass, you’re making the world a better place.  Why not make giving back something you do every day?

As it turns out, doing good tastes great! And then there’s the whole wine-is-good-for-you thing.  So…raise a glass.

Because life’s too short to drink bad wine.

All my best,

 

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

Quick and Easy Pickled Red Onions

 

Quick and Easy Pickled Red Onions

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 tbsp sugar

¾ cup apple cider vinegar

½ tsp salt

Place onions in a ceramic or glass container.

Place sugar, vinegar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.

Pour hot liquid over onions, making sure the onions are completely submerged. Cover and allow to cool.

Store leftovers tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

134 calories

Hack: Do not use metal or plastic containers to store onions.

Hack: These onions are great on tacos, burgers, sandwiches, salads, beans or anything else you want to flavor up!

Hack: This vinegar, sugar and salt combo can be used to pickle any vegetable. Try it with cucumbers, cooked beets, radishes or anything else you have on hand. Better yet, experiment with some combinations!

Saving Money On Food – 13 Ways To Slash Your Grocery Bill

Here you are in the checkout line of your local grocery store. Do you watch in horror as the numbers on the display register go up and up…and up? How many times have you cringed when the cashier announced your total? Yup. Me, too.

How did this happen? You just went in for a couple of items and now you’re wondering how to adjust your monthly budget to adjust for this comestible catastrophe. Well, this episode may be water under the bridge but let’s look ahead and talk about saving money on food the next time you go shopping.

With some planning and critical thinking, there are ways to slash your grocery bill!

Have A Game Plan

First, I’ll say this: All that money you (over)spent? Not entirely your fault. Grocery stores pay people to come up with ways to entice you to spend as much as they can entice you to spend. The store set-up, end cap displays, lighting, colors, shopping carts, the yummy smells? All part of their diabolical plan to make you spend more. There are 2 important things you can do to overcome this psychological warfare before you even leave your house!

Make a meal plan: This isn’t as hard as it seems. What are you having for dinner tonight? Why not double it and have the rest for lunch tomorrow? Two meals down. Maybe grab some oatmeal, raisins and yogurt for overnight oats or granola parfaits to take to work for breakfast this week? Now you’re down 7 meals. That’s ⅓ of your entire meal plan and it just took a minute. See how easy that was?

Make a shopping list: Now, use that meal plan to make your shopping list. I’m going to assume you’ll be shopping in the same store that you always do, so, with that in mind, set up your shopping list in the order that you’ll be walking the store. Does the entrance lead you to the produce section first? List all your produce items first, then (for example) all your meat items followed by the dairy items.

Once you hit the aisles of the store, group items together that will probably be in the same section (all the spices together, all the baking items together, etc.) This will prevent you from backtracking and being further tempted by all those sneaky displays!

Into The Fray

Stick to your list: Do it like it’s your job. No unauthorized purchases, no maybe-I-can-use-its, no gosh-that-looks-goods. Keep your eyes forward and only stop for the things on your list.

… Unless you don’t stick to your list: OK, so there’s that Manager’s Special on chicken. That really good special. Riddle me this: Do you eat chicken? A lot? Can you break that package down into smaller portions for storage? Do you have room in your freezer? Can afford to spend the extra money this week? If you can answer “yes” to every single question, then go ahead and pick up a package.

Stay In Your Own Lane: No unplanned off-ramps. No side trips down aisles “just to check it out”. Stick to the store perimeter and only enter the aisles that have items you planned to buy.

Stick To The Basics

Learn to read the shelf tags: These tags help you to discern the true value of an item compared to another by breaking down the cost per unit (such as ounce, pound or individual item). Once you know how to do this, the following advice is easy to check out.

Do your own prep work: Food in it’s most unprocessed form is always less expensive than pre-cut or prepared items. A few examples of this are:

  • Whole carrots compared to baby carrots or matchstick
  • Whole roast compared to steaks or stew meat*
  • A block of cheese compared to pre-sliced or shredded cheese

Doing your own prep work does take more time, but I find that it’s easier to just do it all when I get home from the store. Some like to set aside some time on their day off to all the prep work for the week while others prefer to just prep for the meal that they’re cooking. You can play around with different methods until you find one that works for you!

*I’m not going to discuss edible yield in regard to meats here as I find the bone-in/boneless argument is usually more of a personal choice than a cost point.

Size doesn’t matter: Bigger is not always less expensive. Use the shelf tag to determine which size is truly the best value.

Buy generic: Many store or lesser known brands are less expensive than the Big Guys. Make sure to read the ingredient and nutrition labels to make sure it’s as high quality as the name brand.

Put down the frozen french fries: For real. Just do it. Put back those individual packets of flavored oatmeal while you’re at it. These two items, on average, cost twice as much per unit than their unprocessed counterparts (fresh potatoes and old-fashioned rolled oats). That’s true of most convenience foods. The truth is that it doesn’t take much more time to make these items fresh.

Ban Junk Food

The average American spends almost 25% of their grocery budget on processed, convenience, pre-made and snack foods. Don’t believe me? Dig out your last grocery receipt and add it up. I’m positive it’s more than you think it is.

Ask you how much of that food was eaten mindlessly? It’s easy to prepare (if it needs any preparation at all) so it’s easy to just grab some to chow down on while you’re watching TV or working on your computer. Seriously, when was the last time you wondered why there were only crumbs in the bottom of the chip bag? And did you really eat all the microwavable pizza nuggets?

Now ask yourself if you’re really going to spend that much money on things you didn’t even enjoy eating? Surely if you had enjoyed them, you would have remembered actually eating them. Think of how much you’re going to enjoy keeping all that money right in your bank account from now on!

OK, yes, you’re gonna want cookies. These no bake cookies come together in less than 15 minutes for about $3.50, which is less than ½ the price of buying the same amount of the same cookies pre-made.

Go Forth And Conquer

Be bold. Be unafraid. Get out there and go shopping. You’ve got this.

 

All my best,

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

Fish Flavored Pork

Fish Flavored Pork

½ red bell pepper

½ yellow bell pepper

3 large mushrooms

8 cloves garlic

3” knob of ginger (.7 ounce or 20 grams)

8 green onions

½ pound lean, boneless pork

2 tbsp red wine, divided

3 tbsp soy sauce, divided

1 egg white

2 tbsp cornstarch, divided

1 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp Chinese black vinegar

3 tbsp water

2 tbsp jarred crushed red peppers

Salt to taste

6 tbsp vegetable oil

Slice onions, bell peppers, and mushroom into ½” slices. Thinly slice garlic cloves and ginger.

Thinly slice pork and mix with 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp red wine, a pinch of salt and pepper and egg white. Massage pork for 2 minutes. Add 1 tbsp cornstarch and mix well. Set aside.

Mix 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp red wine, 1 tbsp sugar, 3 tbls vinegar, a pinch of salt, 1 tbsp cornstarch and 3 tbsp water together in a small bowl for cooking sauce.

Heat oil in the wok or heavy skillet. When hot, add ginger, garlic and crushed pepper. Saute for one minute. Add pork and saute until cooked through. Remove pork mixture from pan, reserving oil.

Add peppers and mushrooms to the pan. Saute for 2 minutes and add a pinch of salt. Add pork, cooking sauce and green onions.

Serve with rice, if desired.

3 serving, 520 calories per serving, excluding rice

Hack: Check the produce department of your local grocery store for loose mushrooms to avoid having to buy an entire package. If you don’t see them, ask a clerk if they are available.

Hack: Do you know that you can freeze fresh ginger root? If you choose organic ginger, you don’t have to peel it but you will have to thaw it before slicing.

Hack: Chop any leftover green onions and freeze in a sealable freezer bag or container for future use.

 

 

French Dip Casserole

French Dip Casserole

2 tbsp olive oil

½ lb stew beef

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp)

1 cup water

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1½ cups heavy cream, divided

1 tsp pepper

2 tsp prepared horseradish

⅔ cup mushrooms, sliced (5 ounces)

½ lb angel hair pasta

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp flour

½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 oz)

½ cup pepper jack cheese, shredded (2 oz)

Heavy olive oil in a large heavy skillet or pan over medium high heat. Dry stew beef on paper towels and add to hot oil. Brown on all sides and remove from pan.

Add onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Push onion to the sides of the pan to make a well. Add garlic to well and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add beef back to pan, add water and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to simmer, cover and turn heat to low. Simmer for 2½ hours. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Stir in 1 cup cream, pepper, horseradish and mushrooms.

Heat 4 quarts of water to boiling. Add angel hair and cook for 4 minutes or until “al dente”. Drain well but don’t rinse. Toss with beef mixture and pour into an 8 cup covered casserole dish.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Stir in flour and bring to simmer, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining cream and bring back to a simmer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add cheeses, stirring until they are melted.

Spread cheese sauce over the top of the casserole. Cover and bake in a preheated 350℉ oven for 20 minutes. Remove cover and bake for 10 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 160℉.

Let the casserole rest for 10 minutes before serving.

8 servings, 500 calories per serving

Hack: One 4 oz can of mushrooms can replace the fresh mushrooms in this recipe.

Hack: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Alternately, seal serving sized portions in freezer safe containers and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

 

 

Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread

 

Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread

1 cup flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 cup milk

¼ cup maple syrup or honey

4 tbsp butter, melted

2 large eggs

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 jalapeno pepper. minced

Preheat the oven to 425℉.  Coat 9×9 baking pan with cooking spray.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, which together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt until combined.

In a small bowl, whisk together milk, maple syrup, butter and eggs.  Add to flour mixture and mix until just until moistened.  Add shredded cheese and jalapeno to cornbread mixture and stir just until combined.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool slightly before cutting.

9 servings, 250 calories per serving

Hack:  This cornbread pairs nicely with homemade barbeque beans.

Hack:  Use leftover cornbread to make featherbed eggs.

Hack:  Store cornbread tightly covered at room temperature for up to 2 days or freeze individually wrapped slices for up to 3 months.

 

Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls

Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls
(Courtesy: Yuhong Sun)

4 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for frying

3 eggs

Pinch salt

4 green onions, julienned into 1” lengths

1 carrot, julienned into 1” lengths

8 water chestnuts, thinly sliced

2” knob of ginger root, thinly sliced

4 mushrooms, thinly sliced and julienned

¾ cup bean sprouts

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil

20 spring roll wrappers

 

Crack eggs in a bowl and add a pinch of salt. Beat well.

Heat 4 tbsp of vegetable oil in a heavy pan over medium high heat. Add eggs and cook until puffy. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add ginger to the pan and saute until fragrant. Add water chestnuts and carrots. Saute for 3 minutes.

Add mushroom, green onion and bean sprouts and a pinch of salt. Cook for 3-5 minutes until bean sprouts are translucent and golden. Add soy sauce and sesame oil. Remove from the pan.

Thinly slice egg into 1” lengths. Add to vegetables and mix thoroughly.

Lay spring roll wrapper on a flat surface. Place 2 tbsp filling on one corner, keeping away from edges. Roll the edge over the top of the filling and then flip the and right sides of the wrapper over the filling. Continue to roll, moistening the edge of the remaining corner to seal.

Heat 2” vegetable oil in a heavy pan cast iron skillet to 365℉. Turn heat to medium and lower spring roll, one at a time, into oil and fry until golden brown, turning once. Fry in batches, taking care not to crowd the pan.

Yield: 20 spring rolls, 95 calories per roll

Hack: Spring rolls can be cooked in an air fryer at 375℉ for 6 minutes.

Hack: Spring rolls can be frozen before cooking. Lay them in a single layer on a pan to freeze, then transfer them to a freezer safe container for up to 3 months. Spring rolls can be fried in their frozen state.

 

 

Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce

 

Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce

2 cups tomato sauce

½ cup tomato paste

¼ cup maple syrup or honey

¼ cup molasses

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons paprika

1 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp cayenne pepper (use more or less to taste)

 

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes.

Yield:  2 ½ cups barbecue sauce.

Serving size:  2 tbsp, 55 calories per serving

Hack:  Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

 

Chinese Pork Fried Rice

Chinese Pork Fried Rice

 

5 tbsp vegetable oil, divided

¼ lb pork, cut into small cubes

2 cloves garlic, sliced (2 tsp)

½ cup frozen corn

½ cup frozen peas and carrots

3 eggs, beaten

3 cups cooked rice, cold*

Salt to taste

3 tbsp Soy sauce

2 green onions, sliced

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok or saute pan over high heat.  Add pork and garlic.  Saute, stirring constantly, until pork is no longer pink.  Add corn and peas/carrots and saute for 3 minutes.  Remove the contents from the pan and set aside.

Add 3 tbsp vegetable oil to the pan.  When it’s heated, add eggs and stir until cooked.

Push the eggs to one side and add rice.  Stir to combine and add pork mixture.  Add salt.

Make a well in the middle of the pan and add soy sauce.  Add green onions and heat through.

Serve hot.

*Leftover, day-old rice works best for this recipe, as it’s less sticky.

6 servings, 310 calories per serving

Hack:  Freeze serving sized portions of leftovers in freezer safe bags or containers for future use.