We know you like your food fresh but there is such a thing as too fresh! While most people balk at the idea of eating lobster because it’s cooked alive moments before it’s served, some people actually prefer their dinner to be alive and trying to escape from their mouths between bites.
Eating live food is considered a real delicacy in some parts of the world. Live-food connoisseurs actually believe the meat tastes better if the animal is still alive, partly alive, or taking its final breaths before you eat it. And it doesn’t come cheap either: depending on the dish, and how difficult it is to subdue and prepare your entrée before it’s served, restaurants around the world tend to charge you top dollar to sample these living treats.
Eating live animals is not new for us. Many cultures eat live insects as a staple source of protein in their diets. In fact, scientist believe as the world’s population approaches 8 billion people, we'll likely be eating insects a lot more to meet our growing food needs.
Throughout history humans have eaten dishes containing living animals in Medieval England chefs were constantly trying to outdo each other with the kinds of live animals they could bake into dishes.
These days many countries ban these dishes for ethical reasons — it’s considered animal cruelty or torture to have a chopped-up, but still breathing animal on your plate. Other countries are more relaxed with what’s considered ‘animal cruelty’, particularly Southeast Asia where many of these dishes are seafood related.
In Japan you can eat a fish dish that’s chopped into pieces and arranged on your plate while the fish is still alive and breathing. China does its own version of the dish called yin yang fish where the body of the fish is flash-fried and is served alive and with the head still gasping for air. In Denmark you can still eat live insects, but this time they’re flavored and used in a salad.
Some dishes are only for the truly brave, others just require you to suspend your inner cringe-response to eating a living, moving meal. Read on to see what kinds of animals are eaten alive around the world.
1. Fruit Bat Soup
On the tiny island of Guam, in the western Pacific Ocean, locals like to indulge in a little “kå'kå'du fanihidu fanihi”, a meat dish made with a fox or fruit bat in a coconut milk soup. The still-living bat is nabbed from the wild, rinsed off, and popped into a boiling vat of water, wings, fur, and head intact, and boiled alive before being served up with a dash of coconut milk and vegetables (if you’re lucky). You’re meant to eat everything except the bones and teeth. While the bat is technically dead (or in the final throes of death) when served, the abundant parasites and bacteria it contains are certainly not. There are some serious diseases that can be passed along to humans from this dish so eat it with care, if you choose to eat it at all.
2. Frog Sashimi
This dish takes eating frog legs to an entirely new level. In some eastern countries, mainly China, Vietnam and Japan, you can eat live frogs served up filleted with their hearts still beating (and occasionally while their limbs are still moving). The dish is a delicacy and uses special bullfrogs raised for cooking. There are many ways to make the dish but this is usually how it’s prepared: the frogs are still alive when you order them, then they’re sliced open on a plate and disemboweled while alive. Certain parts are removed and boiled in a broth, the rest is sliced as sashimi and served on the frog. For the record, this is not a meal for the squeamish. It’s all done in front of you while you’re waiting for your meal and you eat the frog complete with beating heart and flailing limbs. The dish has been called out for animal cruelty and it is banned in many countries.
3. Jumping Shrimp
Odori Ebi and Drunken Shrimp are dishes from Japan and China respectively, and both involve eating the sea-animal while parts of it are still alive. Odori Ebi removes the shell of baby shrimp and deep fries the body — it’s traditionally eaten while the legs and antenna are still moving, but if this is a little too disconcerting you can try dipping it in some sake first, the alcohol intoxicates it long enough for you to chew it to death.
4. Chilled Ants
Copenhagen-based restaurant Noma apparently thinks it’s a good idea to put ants in a salad — their patrons seem to agree and are willing fork out $300 for a plate. The ants, dished up with a dollop of crème fraîche, are offered as a crunchy, gluten-free alternative to croutons and taste like ginger, cilantro, and lemongrass. And don’t worry too much about them escaping your plate, they are chilled before serving so they’re a little groggy and move slower.
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