Casu Marzu (Italy)
Humans are known for their bizarre eating habits, as they are able to eat anything that is there in the food chain. Every day we explore new food sources and love to try anything. But the question is: how could someone dine on a table with an animal struggling for its life?
1) Casu Marzu (Italy)
One form of sheep's milk cheese is full of crawling white worms. It is over-fermented – in a stage of decomposition – and is known as Casu Marzu. It is a traditional dish from Sardinia, Italy that is believed to increase sexual desire.
Casu Marzu is made when the cheese fly lays eggs (about 500 eggs at one time). When the eggs hatch, the maggots (larva of the fly) begin to eat through the cheese. The soft texture of the cheese is a result of the acid from these thousands of maggots’ digestive systems breaking down the cheese’s fats. But see for yourself.
The most important aspect of eating Casu Marzu is that it should be eaten when these wriggling maggots are alive, or else it is full of dead maggots and is considered to be unsafe. It is also advised to wear eye protection while eating as these maggots can jump as high as half a foot, straight into the eye. Also, not only could this food cause allergic reactions and intestinal larval infection, but it may also lead to vomiting, nausea and deadly diarrhea. Still, people risk their lives to eat it.
2) Drunken Shrimp (China)
Listed as one of the top ten cruelest dishes in mainland China, "drunken shrimp" is still very popular. Known as a bachelor’s dream recipe, drunken shrimp is different type of fast food that can be prepared in just 30 seconds.
Here's how to prepare Drunken Shrimp.
Most often, the shrimps are eaten alive but sometimes they are first made to get drunk and then cooked in boiling water. Another recipe idea suggests that the shrimps should be marinated in Chinese white wine, known as Baijiu, after being boiled. Either way, eating such uncooked or semi-cooked shellfish could cause the serious food-borne parasitic infection Paragonimiasis. Still, it is considered as an incredibly tasty dish.
3) Ikizukuri (Japan)
In Japan, order any living sea animal of your choice from the menu or just point in front of a tank full of fish, shrimp, squid, lobster, octopus or oyster. It will be served on your table within minutes, carved but still alive and with vital organs left intact. Ikizukuri means ‘prepared alive’ in Japanese and therefore freshness is the key for this Japanese food art - Shashimi - where live food is served in traditional decorative fashion.
Certainly, it’s a cruel practice and it needs a high level of skill to hit the fish on the head to stun and then fillet it. Fish Ikizukuri is often served garnished with lemon wedges, whereas small octopuses and squid are usually eaten whole, wrapped around a chopstick.
Odori ebi is a type of delicacy similar to shashimi in which baby shrimps, intoxicated by rice wine, are eaten alive while still jumping around and moving their legs. People who eat Ikizukuri claim it to be very tasty, but do you think this controversial method of food preparation should be continued?
4) Raw Oysters (worldwide)
Listed as ‘best choice’ on the seafood watch list, oysters are significantly closer to plants than animals. Like Casu Marzu, oysters are also believed to increase sexual desire and must be alive just before consumption. An excellent source of minerals and vitamins, oysters are a very popular food, especially in coastal areas.
Oysters are often eaten raw on half the shell and are in high demand. But what if I tell you that they could cause a blood infection known as Vibrio vulnificus septicemia? In the U.S. alone, at least $120 million is invested every year on Vibrio vulnificus-caused illnesses or death. So for those who love to eat raw oysters, the best solution is to eat only post-harvest processed oysters.
Those who aren’t convinced can read more here. The source clearly says that 51% of people who get the Vibrio vulnificus infection will not survive. Also, 95% of deaths from seafood are caused by this bacterium. Best is to follow the slogan “boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it”.
5) Sannakji (Korea)
Sannakji is a raw dish that consists of live and freshly chopped small octopuses, seasoned with sesame and sesame oil. It is famous in the Korean cuisine. But what if I advise you to chew your food properly and thoroughly, otherwise squiggly tentacles of freshly chopped octopus may get stuck in your throat and choke you to death?
Yes, it is true, because even after being served, the animal tries desperately to crawl away in an absolute revolting manner. But see for yourself in the following video...
Considered a delicacy, Sannakji is a sensational tourist attraction eaten mostly in Korea and other parts of Asia. Fresh octopus, killed by one swift blow to the head, is quite a tricky dish to eat. Each time you try to pick a piece, it will attempt to ‘go its own way’ and often refuse to let go of the chopsticks, as the octopi try to cling to each other. Still, Sannakji fans like to feel the wriggling, squirming, gloopy tentacles as they swallow it. How must it feel, tentacles attacking you from the inside of your stomach? Ewwww!!
6) Ying Yang Fish (China)
Another shocking and disturbing food item comes from China, famously known as ‘dead-and-alive-fish’ or simply Ying Yang fish. This dish is made up of a fish that is fresh and moves its head while its body is deep fried and covered with sweet and sour sauce. When you try to pick up the fresh meat dish, you’ll find the fish’s mouth stirring and head still twitching.
Originally from Taiwan, Ying Yang fish is now widely criticized and forbidden worldwide there, but in China, people love to eat it. I really do not understand how someone could eat a fish in pain, with its eyes staring at you, while you are about to swallow its meat. Isn’t that sick and monstrous?
7) Snakes, Bats, Goat's Head Soup, Whale-meat and... What Else?
A dog meat platter found in a street market a few miles east of Hanoi.
As I mentioned earlier, humans can eat anything that is there in the food chain. Beef, pork, chicken, fish and seafood have become old fashioned food items. In Indonesia, people eat boiled bats seasoned with coconut cream. Now people are looking forward to trying something new and interesting. Eating dog, cat, tiger, horse and other pet animals is no longer challenging. So why not try whale, shark, turtle and even snake too?
Video from a Chinese reality TV show.
So, how about eating a semi-cooked snake trying to slither out of your plate? If this is not sufficient, I would like to mention two other very smelly food items. Hákarl is a traditional food from Iceland, which is actually ‘fermented shark’, often eaten with a shot of the local wine.
Stinkhead is another traditional food from southwest Alaska that is prepared by leaving fish heads and guts buried in the ground for about a week, in a wooden barrel.
Though in prehistoric times, humans would have eaten animals alive, what we have seen so far makes us believe that perhaps we are traveling back in time. The practice of eating food that is alive is quiet unnerving and unexpected. My personal belief is that eating an animal while it is still alive is appalling, inhuman, barbaric and totally unnecessary. It’s no fun eating with a sinking heart, pale-face, with eyes wide and a churning stomach.