Cow placenta, it seems, is right up Andrew Zimmern’s adventurous alley.
It’s kind of impossible to pick from the long list of penises that Andrew Zimmern has consumed: throughout the course of the show, he has eaten more than 50 different types of this animal organ. That said, the strangest depiction in the show did not involve Zimmern himself: attending a circumcision ceremony for the coming of age a 5-year-old boy in Madagascar, he witnessed the grandfather of the young boy involved eating the severed foreskin. According to the Travel Channel, the grandfather eats the foreskin as a symbol of strength.
While in Thailand, Zimmern found a rodent for sale in a northern market that he wasn’t familiar with. He bought it and took it to a cook in the same marketplace for preparation. It was not gutted, just covered in salt and slapped on a grill. “I actually was somewhat excited about trying this until about 10 seconds ago when he sort of split open and the smell of his entrails sort of flooded the market place,” Zimmern said. As he bit into the stinky grilled rodent, he said, “This is like jumping off a mountain, I swear to gosh.”
As a rule, Zimmern doesn’t eat foods that he expects will put him in the hospital. He refused to eat cow placenta of dubious age while he was in a Thai market, but that wasn’t because he had a problem with eating cow placenta: he did eat cow placenta immediately after a calf was born at a farm in Washington. The farmer cut off a piece of the placenta – most of which was saved for the calf, which they expected to eat the placenta for nutrients later on – and gave it Zimmern straight from the ground. His review? “Sweet. Nutty. Liver-y. If you gave that to me I’d probably say it was poultry liver of some kind. Very mild.”
While in Goa, India, Zimmern was given a cup full of “herbs and cow urine.” The drink was part of a stay at an Ayurvedic health center, designed at making him a healthier person. His regimen was to help him lose weight, and the regiment involved yoga sessions, being covered alternately in hot oil and cold buttermilk, and then, of course, being made to drink “purified” cow urine, which was supposed to help his body burn excess fat. The drink, he said, was very sour and very bitter at the same time.
Zimmern is a renowned entomophage (one who eats insects), and he often defends them as being nutritious, tasty, and unfairly discriminated against in Western diets. But possibly one of the weirdest insects that he has downed is actual dung beetles. Dung beetles have that name because they are found in the dung of different animals — in this case, water buffalo in India. On his blog, he explains how to harvest dung beetles: “Find a stinky dung pile, poke around with a sturdy stick and pluck out the beetles enjoying their meal.” They are then cleaned and cooked in a wok.
Fermented sheep’s head (called svið in Iceland and seyðahøvd in the Faroe Islands) is part of the traditional Icelandic meal called Þorramatur. Zimmern tried it on a trip to the Faroe Islands. Eating sheep’s head was originally a matter of necessity; before modern times, natives in Denmark’s Faroe Islands, in the North Atlantic, couldn’t afford to waste any part of the animal, so they fermented the sheep’s head in lactic acid, then boiled it. It is said that the eye is the best part of the head.
Zimmern himself claims that hakarl is the worst-tasting thing he’s ever eaten. Hakarl is an Icelandic delicacy made of “fermented” sleeper shark. The fermentation process could just as easily be described as an intentional rotting of the meat: It is gutted and placed into the sand and covered with gravel, where it is allowed to ferment (or rot) for six to 12 weeks. After that, it is hung and dried for several months. Not only was it the worst tasting food, Zimmern also said it reminded him of “the most horrific things I’ve ever breathed in my life.”
Zimmern tried this delicacy while visiting a fishing village in Sicily. He was taken to a tuna processing plant where more than just your standard tuna meat was on display. Also available were tuna eggs, tuna testicles,and tuna sperm. The sperm, of course, is believed to be an aphrodisiac, and Zimmern of course didn’t bat an eye at eating it. The tuna sacs, called bottarga by the locals, are seen as a “poor man’s caviar,” and are said to have a very fishy taste.
There’s a restaurant in Taipei called Dai’s House of Unique Stink which has a 10-year-old tofu that has been immersed for weeks in a bacterial sludge. Zimmern referred to the smell of the tofu as being akin to “the bottom of a dumpster at the end of summer.” He adds, “It’s just horrific.” Dai’s House of Unique Stink specializes in stinky tofu, which has been a military and street food staple in Taiwan for years. The restaurant has been visited by famed film director Ang Lee, who, unlike Zimmern, was much more impressed with the fare.