In the latest edition of bizarre things going viral, a video of a street vendor at a night market in China has internet users hooked. Why? Because he’s seen selling a curious culinary creation — stir-fried pebbles, made with small river rocks with chilli, garlic, purple perilla and rosemary. To savour this odd delicacy, you suck on the stones. Later, you can take them back home and prepare their own delicacies.
Backstory: Suo diu, as it is called, is a traditional dish from central China’s Hubei, and goes back centuries. In another recent instance of culinary peculiarness, Spanish Michelin-star chef David Muñoz added a unique dish called shirako — prepared with fish semen — to his menu.
While one person’s strange might be another’s special, culinary trysts with unlikely ingredients can certainly bring a sense of adventure to dining. And Indian chefs are no strangers to the thrill, gladly widening their horizons to specialties from across the world and India. “Stand-alone restaurants are usually afraid but we used to make risotto with squid ink, a very interesting and unusual ingredient, and it was loved by our guests,” shares Ashish Singh, Gurugram-based corporate chef. “The most bizarre dish that I have tasted is one made with goat testicles but I somehow have not developed a taste for it.”
Not just food, many have also given unique beverages a try. Talking about the unique dishes he has tried on his travels around the world, chef-entrepreneur Tarun Sibal says: “I have tried snake wine in Vietnam. Mezcal with a scorpion was very interesting for me as a consumer. Red ant chutney, known as chapda, was a unique experience.” Sibal owns up to having a love-hate relationship with durian, a fruit that is banned for transportation in most countries due to its overpowering smell.
Offal or nose-to-tail diets — while common and increasingly celebrated as sustainable in many regions across the world — comprise bizarre eating for some. “Bhutwa/bhunni from Uttarakhand, for instance. It is not always about fancy, expensive cuts of the meat to create memorable dishes. Maximum efficiency and zero wastage of meat results in bhunni. If you are an offal lover, it’s for you,” says chef Pawan Bisht about the local delicacy that’s prepared from goat organs such as stomach, liver, blood and intestine. “They are mixed, curried and fried with local spices, giving it a wonderful taste. It is often hailed as a poor man’s celebratory meal,” he ends.