I’ve traveled a lot through countries where “weird” food was the norm. There was the elderly Laotian woman who got on my bus chewing a skewered bat (I only understood what it was when she started flapping her arms for me), the Balinese who claim that dog satay is the best satay ever, and the dead crow and snake liquor prevalent in Vietnam. I haven’t tried all of them, but I have had spicy grasshoppers in Oaxaca, Mexico, durian (the fruit that smells like a latrine) in Thailand, and quail eggs in Tokyo. It all goes down pretty smooth.
But perhaps the most memorable experience was eating the unknown. Curiosity and hunger got the best of my friend Molly and me while we were wandering through the streets of Copacabana in Bolivia. A woman was grilling what looked and smelled to be the tastiest and most savory meat we had seen thus far on the trip. I asked her, “Que es eso?” (What is that?). To which she replied, “Anticucho.” “Que?” Again, her reply, “Anticucho.”
I had no idea what that word was, so I tried asking, through various forms of “What is that?” to have her describe what animal or part of animal it was. Somewhere along the way we figured out it was not a perro (dog), or cuy (guinea pig, very popular in Peru), but was vaca (cow), so we purchased some.
A small, nicely roasted potato was stuck on the end of the stick. The meat was tough and chewy, but had a pleasant, rich flavor.
When we got back to our room, we asked our friend Heather, who can actually speak Spanish, what anticucho was. “You didn’t eat it, did you?” she asked incredulously, which is exactly the question you don’t want to be asked after you’ve eaten “it.”
“It’s beef heart.”
Which, considering what it could have been, didn’t really seem that bad.
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Photo courtesy of Alejandro