Andrew Zimmern has eaten a lot of truly “bizarre” dishes during his tenure as the host of “Bizarre Foods,” but he reserves the word “disgusting” — a term he claims he rarely uses — for a very odd condiment he tries in the upcoming season.
Zimmern, obviously, is no stranger to strange cuisine. He’s munched his way through over 20 collective seasons of “Bizarre Foods,” “Bizarre Foods America” and “Delicious Destinations.” He’s eaten putrefied shark in Iceland, tree grubs in Peru and even “horse rib and rectum sausage” in Kazakhstan, the latter of which he described as “delicious” despite being one of the most bizarre things he’s ever eaten.
But it was a simple tomato-based dish that intimidated Zimmern during a trip to Missouri while retracing the route of the James Gang.
“I think it’s been a while since I’ve eaten something that I felt was truly horrific on camera,” Zimmern told Fox News. “That being said … the rotten tomato ketchup certainly was disgusting, in every sense. And that’s a word I never use around food, but at one stage before it’s cooked, that’s the only way to describe it.”
As Zimmern told Fox News, the “ketchup” he sampled in Missouri isn’t really ketchup in the same sense that most diners would recognize as the red stuff they dip their fries in, but rather a savory, vinegary condiment for roasted meats.
“[It’s] literally rotten tomatoes with inches and inches of blue, white and black mold growing on it,” Zimmern explained. “The type of thing you’d throw in the garbage. You’d never get near it.”
But once all of the harmful bacteria is boiled off, Zimmern sampled the ketchup and described it as having a “faint, fermented, off flavor … in the same way that really great hams or cheeses have a slightly off or fermented flavor to them.”
And at the end of the day, Zimmern ended up liking it so much that he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of recreating the dish in his own kitchen.
The one thing Zimmern loves more than sampling the world’s most bizarre foods, however, is the people he meets and the villages he visits where folks still appreciate these dishes.
“The show has taken quite a turn over the last 11-and-a-half years that we’ve been on,” said Zimmern. “What started out as a show that was definitely ‘fat white guy goes around the world and eats bugs’ — even though we had a higher purpose — it was a Trojan Horse [I used] to try and sneak into the television world. I wanted to talk about cultures by exploring food.”
From the sound of the upcoming episodes, Zimmern definitely gets to do just that: In addition to retracing the route of the James Gang, the new season of “Bizarre Foods” takes Zimmern hunting in Poland, down the “romantic road” in Germany, and stopping for a bite everywhere from Minnesota to the Amalfi Coast.
“To walk into a store and see someone who still makes rotten tomato ketchup, and that moment of looking to the pot and seeing all that mold and rotten food that they were going to boil off… it just gives you pause,” Zimmern said. “And to see that there are people who still prefer to live that way.
“It’s the little moments that grab me.”
The new season of “Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern” premieres Tuesday, Jan. 23 on Travel Channel.