In last night's Bizarre Foods season 4 opener, Andrew Zimmern traveled to Isan in northeastern Thailand to sample some rural Thai cuisine. And by "rural Thai cuisine," I mean "stuff that made me feel queasy for hours after the episode ended."
I've been watching Bizarre Foods for years, and I've never seen Andrew struggle with the foods as much as he did during this episode. Just how crazy was it? Let's take a look at the more unusual things Andrew did - and didn't - eat 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. BAMBOO RAT
"I was excited to eat it, until it split open and the smell of its entrails flooded the marketplace," Andrew lamented, as he picked up the rodent and held it in front of his nose.
Now, I've seen Andrew struggle to get food down in the past, but I've never seen him look like death would be a better alternative than actually swallowing another bite of something. Unfortunately for Andrew, that's precisely the effect this bamboo rat had on him. "As I inhaled, all of the aroma from the entrails just went right into my mouth," he said, looking more revolted than Ina Garten after eating a cookie made with "bad vanilla."
2. DUNG BEETLES
Andrew had a much more difficult time eating the giant horned beetle, because it had body filled with "grassy, soft, pussy mucous that tasted like swamp mud." Mmm! Who's hungry!
(Note: If you're still reading this recap, congratulations. You must have a stomach lined with more metal than Robert Downey's Iron Man costume.)
3. RAW, WARM MEAT FROM A FRESHLY KILLED CALF
Andrew was then offered something which he straight up refused to even try: the prized, partially digested contents of the cow's stomach. "I wish I could, but I can't drink your tap water and I can't eat the raw stomach. It has too many bacteria that my body's not used to." That's right! Andrew played the oft-neglected "bacteria" card. Nicely done, my friend. Nicely done.
Just when I thought things couldn't possibly get any worse for Andrew on this E. Coli inducing bar-b-q trip from hell, someone yanked out the animal's gall bladder, spilled the contents of its bile sac into a bowl of spices, and told him to dip raw pieces of liver into it and eat it. Whatchu talkin' bout, Willis!?
After only one hideous bite, Andrew and his translator instantly turned whiter than Paula Deen's front teeth. "The raw bile is the kind of bitter flavor that won't leave your mouth for a week. I can still feel the whole back of my throat closed," Andrew said. Wow. And I thought my mom's meatloaf was bad.
4. RICE FIELD RATS
Andrew said the grilled rat was "delicious," but wasn't too fond of the minced rat stir fry because it contained "little gristly bits of skin." Things went from bad to worse when he bit down on a piece of tail, which he likened to a "pencil dipped in liquid rubber." And in that moment, I vowed to never playfully bite the end of a pencil ever again.
5. FRIED SPARROWS & ROTTEN FISH
Sadly, the fish that had been salted and fermented and left to rot at room temperature for 3 days didn't fare much better. Andrew called the taste "ferocious," and compared the smell to "Hulk Hogan's gym socks." I'm not sure how Andrew knows what those smell like, nor am I sure I want to know. Some mysteries are better left unsolved.
Andrew finished things up at the carnival with a simple seafood pizza. How bad could that be!
Well, as it turns out, pretty darn horrible. So horrible, in fact, that Andrew spit his bite out into a napkin and threw his hands up in disgust. "It's the fake cheese, fake seafood, and fake hot dog," he explained. "Too much gag reflex. Can't do it."
I understand the gag reflex issue, because I was struggling to keep mine in check while watching last night. Was it just me, Serious Eats, or was the Thailand episode really difficult to get through? I understand cuisines vary greatly across our great planet, and I'm as into shock value on television as anyone, but you've got to draw the culinary line in the sand somewhere - and I'm thinking "raw entrails stuffed with animal feces" just might be it.