"Maybe it's just me, but I don't like my food to look like a "before" photo at an orthodontist's office."
From dump trucks filled with animal carcasses outside the capital city of Ulaanbaatar to intestine-wrapped goat organs in the Gobi desert, Andrew Zimmern's trip to Mongolia was filled with sights that made me squirm in my seat (and seriously consider vegetarianism!).
Let's take a look at the more unusual things Andrew ate on this week's episode of Bizarre Foods in a little segment we'll call...
Warning: Some readers may find the following images and text upsetting or disturbing, so please proceed at your own risk.
1. WHOLE SHEEP'S HEAD
I understand a whole sheep's head is considered a prized delicacy in Mongolia, but back here in the States, the sight of that thing is enough to give me nightmares for the next three weeks. Those teeth are terrifying! Maybe it's just me, but I don't like my food to look like a "before" photo at an orthodontist's office. In all fairness, I must say that the circular slice of onion on its head was an especially nice touch, though.
The sheep's head is placed in a pot with root vegetables and is simmered for hours, which supposedly makes the meat soft and very tender. Andrew said the tongue "melted in his mouth." No word if it melted in his hands.
Andrew's translator explained that in Mongolia, the tradition is that one person has to eat BOTH of the eyeballs. Since this is television, they threw caution to the wind and each ate an eyeball. "That's a chewer's dish," Andrew exclaimed. Which somehow reminds me, I have a tradition, too, and it's called "avoid eating eyeballs unless there's a gun pointed at your head."
2. HEAD CHEESE
Next, Andrew headed to an outdoor meat market to sample a lovely plate of head cheese. It's basically boiled and jellied sheep's head, with salt, vegetables, and leftover animal hair thrown in for good measure. Wow. And you thought granny's fruitcake was tough to get down! Andrew took one bite, but quickly dismissed the dish as being too "barnyard-y." He washed it down with a pickle before stumbling to the next tent to find...
3. STOMACH BUTTER
At first glance, I thought I was staring at a delicious twice-baked potato. My delight quickly turned to horror when Andrew's translator told us it was, in fact, BUTTER LEFT TO INTENTIONALLY ROT INSIDE A COW'S STOMACH. Guys, I don't even think Paula Deen would touch that stuff with a ten foot pole.
The smell alone was so off-putting that Andrew could only stomach the tiniest lick of it. "Imagine the most violently rotten food you've ever smelled, and double it," he said. "That's really unpleasant."
4. FRIED MILK CURDS
Next, Andrew traveled south to the Gobi desert to experience the life of the traveling nomads. Within moments of his arrival, his friendly hosts presented him with fermented mare's milk, freshly made cheese, and ridiculously hard pieces of milk curds that had been fried in their own fat. Andrew said they "looked like brown rocks" and "tasted like scorched milk." I don't know. Sounds like breakfast at Denny's, if you ask me.
Andrew was very polite, and ate everything that was put in front of him. He then joined the family in a friendly little game of ANKLE BONE...which, yes, is in fact played with real goat ankle bones (you know, just in case that aforementioned sheep's head with the onion doily wasn't nightmare inducing enough).
5. GOAT COOKED FROM THE INSIDE OUT
The nomads planned a special lunch in Andrew's honor: a goat feast, something which they typically only get to enjoy once every few years. They quickly dispatched a goat, removed its organs and bones, and stuffed the carcass with innards and hot rocks so the animal would cook from the inside out. While it was cooking, they scorched the external hair off with a blowtorch.
First, Andrew tasted "the soup," which was really just a gigantic bowl of animal fluids left over from the cooking process. "It tastes charred, like the outside of a burnt lamb chop," Andrew said. He then moved on to the meat, which he deemed "fatty and really nice" (which, ironically, sounds a lot like my high school boyfriend).
6. A SMORGASBORD OF GOAT ORGANS
Finally, Andrew sampled goat organs that were wrapped in fat and tied up with intestines. And just when I thought he had gone an entire episode without saying something was "gamey," there it was: "The liver is very tinny; the intestines are a little gamey though. You know what you're eating when you eat those." Actually I don't, Andrew, but I'll take your word for it!
What did you think of the episode, Serious Eaters? Were you as traumatized by that goat head as I was?