Take a plunge with these adventurous meals.
Alexander Torres

27 Sep 2016 - 2:34 PM  UPDATED 27 Sep 2016 - 2:34 PM

I’ll be the first to admit it: I shy away from strange foods. Like many, I prefer the comfort foods I was brought up with - fermented mung beans, 1000 year old duck eggs, stinky tofu... Just kidding. It’s not that I’m not adventurous. I’ll give anything the “two-bite rule” (within reason, I’m no Andrew Zimmern). However, if it has a weird texture or smell, or triggers a moral dilemma, I’ll politely pass.

The way I see it, I want an experience, not an experiment in nausea and regret. In keeping with this pledge, here are five dishes from Adam Liaw’s Destination Flavour Japan that may sound unappealing at first, but when prepared properly merit the coveted honour of being added to your bucket list. 


1. Takoyaki (octopus balls)

OK, I know I’m in the minority here, considering how popular these are as a street food all over Japan. The ones I ordered tasted like savoury doughnut balls. I remember chewing, searching for my piece of octopus like a prize I was anxious to find.

When I did finally find it, the texture was akin to a piece of chewing gum from the octopus being boiled for too long. Ultimately this was a weird combination that just didn’t add up in my head. It was also from a street vendor who didn’t have much of a queue, so that should have been a red flag. If only it had been prepared as below, my experience would have most likely been much more pleasurable.

Check out the SBS Food recipe here.


2. Risotto of eel and foie gras

As haute as this dish sounds, the thought of combining eel and foie gras is something I just can’t wrap my head around. Yes, I know it’s an exotic variation of “surf and turf”, but no matter how many ways you slice it, it’s just weird. I didn’t say bad, I said weird, and weird usually piques my curiosity, especially when this particular dish is presented in such a pretty way.

Eel and foie gras may not make a whole lot of sense, but I somehow feel I would regret not trying it if given the opportunity. It’s also a very expensive dish, which would also make me a fool if someone else was buying.

Check out the SBS Food recipe here.


3. Homi with garlic chives and miso

“Where my homi at” is a joke I used repeatedly when I ate this for the first time in Okinawa. It was my way of masking the fact I was nervous as hell, especially after my travel partner told me how these mollusk creatures taste. When I did finally try it, the flavour was very much like mild mud and iodine. However that was due to the fact that it was prepared very simply. Too simply for me. This is a problem Adam Liaw easily solves by overpowering the natural taste of the little buggers with garlic and miso. Essentially making homi more “homey”. 

Check out the SBS Food recipe here.


4. Horse rump tataki

Did you ever see Hidalgo or Seabiscuit? If you cried as much as I did watching those movies, then you will understand why this is a bridge I just can’t cross. However, all social taboo aside, Adam has shown us that horse meat (even horse sashimi) is pretty common fare in Japan.

In fact, certain types of horses are raised like Kobe cattle to provide the best meat. Personally, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy this without hearing Viggo Mortensen say to Hidalgo: “You done me proud, partner.” If you’re not worried about making your inner child cry, Adam has posted a recipe that presents horse as a delicate, tender beef-like dish, seasoned with garlic and ponzu sauce. 

Check out the SBS Food recipe here.


5. Japanese pond smelts

When it comes to fishy fish, these fish are as fishy as you get. And to make things even more intimidating, they are not de-boned or de-gutted. Deep frying them pretty much makes it all edible, bones and all, and gives them the texture of french fries.

The first (and only) time I ate these, I remember wondering how such a small fish could pack such a pungent aroma. This explains why Adam uses milk to diffuse the fishy kick before frying them. It’s a brilliant idea. I would be inclined to try these again if prepared this way.

Check out the SBS Food recipe here.


Starting Wednesday, 12 October, Destination Flavour: Japan airs weeknights at 8:30pm and 9pm on Food Network. After they air, episodes will be available on SBS On Demand.

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