Published February 20, 2013
| The Daily Meal
We’ve all been there — staring down a big, steaming plate of snow crab legs or lobster, or any one of a number of delicious-looking foods, ready to dig in… but with absolutely no idea where to start, or how to get at the actual edible part of it.
It’s a problem that’s plagued us since the dawn of man, and the reason why items like nutcrackers were invented.
There are some food items that are simply hard to eat. Some foods, like ice cream cones, don’t require any special equipment to get to the good stuff, but you’d be hard-pressed to finish a whole cone without at least some very sticky fingers. Other foods, like shell-on nuts, are all but impossible to get into without a specially designed contraption. And then there are the foods that are absolutely the most frustrating: difficult to access without special equipment, yet so delicious that each little morsel makes it well worth the sheen of sweat forming on your brow.
But sometimes that’s exactly what we’re looking for. Those times when the struggle is for a worthy cause, because the end result is a glorious bite of food. Sure, a simple steak is delicious, but all things being equal, would you rather eat that or a 4-pound lobster?
We’ve assembled a list of the 15 foods that are the most difficult to eat. But we also considered something else: that noble struggle has to be worth it. Yes, durian is one of the most difficult fruits to open without the help of a machete, but let’s just say that it’s an acquired taste. And while we were at it, we made sure to include some helpful tips as to how to conquer the challenges ahead.
Wings are one of the few items on our list that can be eaten with bare hands, with no help from any special contraptions, but they can still be a bit daunting. Sure, for some, wings are one of the easiest foods to eat: just grab hold of one, start gnawing, and don’t stop until all that’s left are bones and a sauce-covered face and hands. But for those of us who choose to be a bit daintier in our eating habits, those bony, messy, spicy, fatty bar snacks can be a culinary obstacle course. There’s really no right or wrong way to eat a wing, though. Eat enough, and you’ll develop your own technique.
It’s just a slab of rice with a slice of fish on it, so it's no big deal, right? But ask anyone who’s eaten sushi (and not the rolled-up maki) just a couple of times in their life if it was a piece-of-cake experience, and they’ll probably give you a few reasons as to why it wasn’t. First, the whole raw fish thing can take some getting used to; second, it’s a balancing act if you want to add toppings like ginger and wasabi (not too much!); third, it takes some skill to dip it in soy sauce without having the rice fall apart; and fourth, it’s too big for one bite but too small for two! Our advice? Don’t even bother with ginger, wasabi, or chopsticks. Just pick it up, dunk it fish side down into a little soy sauce, and pop the whole thing in your mouth.
Ice Cream Cones
You’d be hard-pressed to find a kid that would turn down an ice cream cone. You’d also be hard-pressed to find a kid that doesn’t mind getting covered in sweet, sticky goo. Even with a napkin wrapped around the cone, the ice cream melts onto your hands and can only be washed away with water (which just so happens to not be easily accessible at the fairs, carnivals, and other outdoor events where ice cream cones tend to be eaten). Lick too hard, and the whole scoop falls to the ground below, one of the all-time childhood tear-jerkers. We’ll take ours in a cup.
Ah, the mango. So sweet, so creamy, and so darn hard to eat. Many a knife has gotten stuck inside its irregularly shaped pit, which cuts across basically the whole length of the fruit. To get the most out of your mango, we suggest cutting off the two sides as close to the pit as possible, slicing cross-hatches into the flesh (making sure not to break through the skin), turning it inside-out, then slicing off individual chunks. As for the rest? Peel off the skin and eat the meat right from the pit.
OK, so you’ve finally figured out how to actually open this leathery fruit (score the skin and rip it apart). But what now? Sure, you could just bite right into it, but you risk getting the little juice-surrounded seeds (actually called arils) all over the floor, and staining your clothes in the process. Our method? Place the whole thing in a big bowl of water, separate the arils from the pulp (which floats), drain the water, and you’re left with nothing but the seeds. You can make this process even easier by freezing the fruit first.
Several varieties of snails from both land and sea are eaten all over the world, with varying degrees of popularity. Land snails, as you probably know, are most commonly referred to as escargots, and are most often found in white-tablecloth French restaurants. Sea snails are called periwinkles. Both are difficult to eat. For one, a full-size fork will not work in your favor. You’ll need to use a teeny tiny cocktail fork, which is about a quarter of the size of a full-size fork, to get the suckers out of their shells. Try as you might, there’s simply no other way to go it.
Shrimp, crabs, and lobsters are all members of the crustacean family. While shrimp might not be too difficult to peel (remove the head and legs, then peel the shell off), the other two members of the family can make for very interesting eating experiences. They both require a special shell-cracker, similar to a nutcracker, and more often than not a bib. While there are certainly some tricks to removing claw meat (crack around the thickest part of it and try to pull it out in one fell swoop), and lobster tail meat can be extracted by hand, those crab legs can be tricky suckers. There’s really no quick and easy way to remove meat from crab legs, but once the work is done (we advise taking the time to remove it all in one fell swoop before eating, as opposed to doing it piecemeal) and the resulting flesh is dunked in butter, it’s one of the most delicious foods on the planet. Now, should you find yourself confronting a bucket of blue crabs, which contain far more meat in the body than in the legs, we suggest you just rip them open and get pickin’.
There’s a food on this planet that is so difficult to eat that it’s almost not worth it. Almost. In order to eat a coconut, you first need to climb a tall tree, often with nothing but your arms and legs to support you, and hack the coconut down with a machete. Then, you need to use that machete to hack and peel away the tough, fibrous outer casing, until you’re left with the coconut itself, which is nearly impenetrable. To get at it, you should first use a hammer and nail to drill a hole into one of its "eyes," drink the (delicious and nutritious) coconut water out if it (if any), then use the hammer to break it open. After that you can scrape the pulp off the inside. Man, that was difficult. But worth it.
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