Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods, makes a living out of traveling around the world to eat unusual delicacies. From boiled fetal duck in the Philippines to calf's brain in Morocco to teriyaki cockroaches in New York City, Zimmern's fearless palette has garnered him the title as one of the most adventurous eaters in the world.
The Daily Meal sat down with Zimmern at The Atlantic City Wine & Food Festival on July 28 to ask his opinion on what bizarre foods anyone with an audacious appetite should be brave enough to try. Much to our delight, his response is much more than a rattled-off list of wacky dishes.
Zimmern weighs in not only on which bizarre foods people should eat but also on the importance of traveling around the world to eat them. To Zimmern, the best thing about eating bizarre foods is more than the rush of tasting foreign flavors; it's the experience of embarking on what he calls “the voyage of discovery” through food.
“There is great food around the world and I think what's interesting is the voyage of discovery and finding it for yourself,” said Zimmern. “It's really, really cool.”
Zimmern hopes that Bizarre Foods imparts on viewers a heightened knowledge of the world's culinary cultures and motivation for viewers to venture out and discover these regions for themselves.
“I think people should go to different parts of our country and different parts of our world to see for themselves what's going on there,” said Zimmern. “Because along the way I think it's important to meet Tlingit and Inuit families in the Western villages of Alaska.”
What Zimmern is suggesting is a desire to see the bizarre foods conversation shift from a focus on the ick factor of eating unusual dishes to a heightened concentration on the culinary traditions of the region these dishes comes from and the cultural history behind the people who cook them.
“It's not that I think everyone is going to eat snakeheads, you know, the salmon heads that are rolled on hay and left to rot on the ground or the fermented whale oil or seal meat or potted walrus or moose nose jelly,” said Zimmern. “It's not that I think those are going to be popular foods next year, it's that I want people to get out there and see that those families are just like us.”
Among his vast experience eating and exploring abroad, Zimmern singles out a few regions eager globetrotters should make the voyage to, including Morocco and Botswana.
“I think people should go to Botswana and get into the Aha hills and see what life is like in real tribal Africa,” said Zimmern. “People should go to Fez and see the old market there, the souk.”
In Sardinia, Zimmern offers up foods, such as bottarga and mullet that travelers can try while gaining an appreciation for the region's rich culinary history.
“Go to Cabras in Sardinia and eat the bottarga and eat the eight-course mullet meal in a restaurant that's been doing it for 800 years where they've had the same aqueducts and the same fish farming techniques that the Romans and the Moors created there 2,400 years ago,” said Zimmern.
This culturally inquisitive philosophy is what encourages Zimmern to trek across the world in Bizarre Foods and uncover the food, stories, and groups of people that viewers would not otherwise encounter.
“We can talk about avocado milkshakes in Fez in Morocco or the tiny little deep fried sparrows in the markets in Hanoi, or the wet markets in Bangkok and the amazing, insane amounts of nutty food that are there,” said Zimmern. “Nothing like grilled frog kanji in the morning at Tung Choi market.”
“The hook for me, where I catch people, is in telling stories from the fringe they haven't heard before,” said Zimmern. “I like the voyage of discovery for those things.”