Top Culinary Achievements Of 2014 + Photos & Videos

2014 has been a fun-filled and food-filled year but not one without it’s share of trials and tribulations (case in point getting locked up abroad for 16 days and eventually deported because of a tweet). But through it all I’ve kept on the hunt for more tasty foods to try, whether strange or taboo or just something new.

This year saw two repeats from years past, but the differences in preparation or countries is enough to justify mentioning these dishes again. So without further ado, here we go!

Bull Penis

  Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Let’s start with the big one first (no pun intended). This dish is easily the most taboo thing I’ve eaten all year. Thankfully the penis came diced because had it been served whole I am not sure that I would have been able to go through with it.

Enjoying sop torpedo -- otherwise known as bull penis soup For those eager to try this delicious dish, it is known as Sop Torpedo (torpedo soup).

How did I find it?   I heard from a local friend about this neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur known for two things: penis soup and trannies. After tweeting this I learned that my good buddy Graham (the man behind the amazing blog Inside Other Places) was only a few hundred metres away from me. Needless to say we quickly met up and embarked on this culinary endeavor together. Unfortunately it was late on a Sunday night and everywhere was closed. We returned the following night and after asking a few locals where to go, finally managed to find penis alley.

How did it taste? The actual meat was somewhat bland however the soup broth was quite delicious. Some pieces of the penis were were soft and chewy, like cartilage or chunks of fat, but other pieces were surprisingly hard. I tried not to think about which sections of the penis I was eating while chewing.

I apologize for the rough audio, none of my other videos are like this.


  Hanoi, Vietnam & Solo, Indonesia

For those keeping score at home, yes, dog topped my list of 2013 culinary achievements. But that was in Indonesia and quite frankly, the dog wasn’t that good. However this year saw me consume dog again both in Vietnam and once more in Indonesia — this time at a well-known restaurant which only serves dog. Delicious dog, at that.

Eating dog in Vietnam Some people eat dog satay on the streets but other people purchase whole sections of the dog to take home

How did it taste? In Vietnam it was definitely scrumptious! Say what you will but Vietnamese people can cook a mean dog. Apparently many Vietnamese also consider it good luck to consume dog during the last half of March, which quickly becomes obvious when you see trucks overflowing with canines driving down the street and whole neighborhoods packed full of street vendors selling nothing but thousands of dogs.

It was so good I went back for more the next day and brought a random backpacker with me. His reaction? “This is so delicious! If I didn’t know what it is I would be eating it every day!”

Dog satay for sale in Hanoi, Vietnam The satay is very well seasoned and cooked to perfection — still juicy and delicious, not overcooked or charred.

As far as the restaurant in Indonesia where I dined on dog, it was also good. Much better than my first dog experience in 2013 but not near as good as in Vietnam. If you are visiting the city of Solo, located in Java, simply ask a local “Dimana Hugjo’s?” (where is Hugjo’s?)

  For more taboo foods check out Graham’s article on the Tomohon meat market in northern Sulawesi, Indonesia.


  Manila, Philippines & Hanoi, Vietnam

I’ve traveled to the Philippines repeatedly over the last six years yet never had I been willing to try balut until this last trip back in January. What is balut you ask? It is a fermented duck embryo that is then boiled and served as a popular street food throughout the country. Little five year old girls have repeatedly asked me, “Why you not eat balut, it’s sooooooo good!” My response has always been, “Sorry, I like my ducks full grown and baked.”

To eat it you slam the fat end of the shell against the table to crack it and then proceed to slurp out the innards as you peel back the shell fragments — feathers, partially formed bones, bill, and this unknown liquid that is also contained within the egg shell. Often each bite is dipped in either salt or vinegar, depending on the preference of the person eating it.

How did it taste? Not that good but not near as bad as I was expecting. The salt and vinegar dip (used separately) did make it easier to consume. However I nearly gagged once, as you will notice at the 1:30 mark in the video below. That gag perfectly sums it up.

I also ate balut in Vietnam as part of a hot pot. Thanks to the broth it was a much more enjoyable way to enjoy fermented duck.

Egg Hoppers

  Throughout Sri Lanka

Egg hoppers might not be weird but they are amazingly delicious and definitely one of Sri Lanka’s most-loved breakfast foods. Coconut milk mixed with flour is poured into a stove-top pan and swirled up partway along the edges of the pan, to make it bowl-shaped. Then an egg is cracked open, dropped in the center and cooked in place.

The end result is something that looks like a bowl with thin, flaky edges and a thick coconut milk, flour and egg base. Other ingredients such as veggies, curry and even chicken are then added to the hopper on top of the egg. The sides are folded down to form what resembles a burrito and voilà, your egg hopper is ready for consumption!

Egg hoppers are definitely the best breakfast food in all of Sri Lanka After combining veggies, curry, more eggs (scrambled) and this spicy chili paste to my egg hopper I rolled it up and proceeded to swiftly devour it. Mmmmmmmm

How did it taste? Marvelous! It was my favorite breakfast food during my month in Sri Lanka. They super filling thanks to the base combination of ingredients yet also incredibly versatile enough thanks to all the possible toppings, allowing each egg hopper to be customized to individual taste and preferred level of spiciness. Highly recommended!

Goat Tongue Soup

  Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Another delicacy that Americans might consider taboo but can actually be found in many countries around Asia and yes, even Europe as well, is tongue. After all let there be no part of the animal wasted. However as the place I ate at didn’t have any cow tongue, only goat tongue, any hope of comparing the two side-by-side was lost.

Sop lidah lembu (kambing), otherwise known as goat tongue soup Locally known as Sop Lidah Lembu (kambing)

How did it taste? Tender, juicy and delicious. The goat tongue is diced on a chopping block in front of you and then tossed in a bowl of hot, flavorful broth. Because the tongue is a strong muscle it almost tastes like a good steak and not hard or tough, as some cuts of meat. I will definitely be eating this again in every country I find it.

Mysterious Seafood Dish

  Ninh Binh, Vietnam

I still have not been able to determine what this dangerous dish was. All I know from the taste is that it was some sort of mixed seafood concoction. It was served cold in a pudding-like substance that was blood red and equally disgusting.

This mysterious Vietnamese seafood dish was served ice cold and definitely qualifies as strange food

How did it taste? Horrendous! I don’t mind seafood but when it is served cold and in something that resembles coagulated blood yet tastes like refrigerated vomit, well then I have to throw my hands up and admit defeat. This is one dish I could not even come close to finishing. Even just the first few bites made me gag and caused others in the restaurant to start staring at me.

  UPDATE   According to my Vietnamese friend: “It must be one type of tiết canh – blood soup, i think it’s tiết canh dê – goat blood soup though it needs some basil to complete the dish. It’s a iconic dish of this province but I think this restaurant messed it up. The seafood taste means it wasn’t cooked properly, I hope you were alright cause some people got ill from eating this dish wrong.” Thankfully it did not make me sick, but this is most likely because I did not finish the entire bowl.


  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I’ve eaten octopus before and always hate it. Even so that didn’t keep me from trying it again when I passed a street vendor in Kuala Lumpur selling some.

Boiled octopus satay in Malaysia Octopus is not something that should be eaten off a stick

How did it taste? Hard as rubber or plastic and equally tasteless. Even with the chili dipping sauce it still made me gag. Unable to bite it into multiple pieces, I had to just settle for swallowing the chunk of tentacle whole. Not recommended.

Crocodile Sisig

  Coron Island, Palawan, Philippines

I’ve had crocodile in the past but Filipino crocodile sisig is by far the best way to eat this beast of the reptile kingdom. The meat is diced, boiled, broiled and then finally seasoned and grilled alongside other veggies such as onions, peppers and chilies. The resulting dish is served sizzling hot and goes best with an ice cold beer. (I recommend the magnificent Red Horse.)

Crocodile sisig served with rice and Red Horse -- a meal fit for a king. Coron Island, Palawan, Philippines

How did it taste? Absolutely divine! It is chewy, tasty and leaves you wanting more. Luckily there is plenty of meat on crocodiles. However the taste does not really stand apart from other meats. In other words you might not even realize that you are eating crocodile had you not seen it being prepared. Highly recommended!

  All these food videos and many many more are part of my new weekly YouTube series, Derek Eats That!, so be sure to join me on YouTube!

On The List For 2015


Back in 2013 I tried to procure monkey brains while traveling through Indonesia but failed. I was informed by local friends that it is frowned upon to kill monkeys for food, which needless to say made my task more difficult. Based upon the recommendations of one friend who shall remain nameless, I went out to this particular region and attempted to find a hunter willing to go out in the jungle for a few hours to procure me a monkey. However in the end I failed, probably for the best.

Beyond monkey brain there are other animals whose brains are consumed in various locations around the world, such as lamb brain in Dubai. Although I visited Dubai twice this year, I had no luck in finding any restaurant that still serves this macabre dish. However I will keep checking both fancy restaurants and dark alleys others overlook in my zombie-like quest.

Cow brain is also eaten in parts of Indonesia, most notably the island of Sumatra. However it is apparently very difficult to cook properly. (Of course by ‘properly’ I mean deliciously and not anything regarding the safety of the person eating it.)


Sometimes the places that serve penis also serve testicle but unfortunately this was not the case in Chow Kit. I have since been informed of a place in Jakarta that will proudly dish out all the bull testies you can eat, so it’s safe to say that my long-awaited return to Indonesia will be a ball.

It is also possible to find goat and lamb testicles in other countries, so wherever 2015 takes me I’m quite sure I’ll finally get this one checked off my list.

What Other Strange, Obscure Or Taboo Foods Should I Eat?

Anything else that you have tried or heard of that you would recommend for me? Or maybe something you have been wanting to try but haven’t found…or found the willpower to consume? Share your thoughts below!

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

14 thoughts on “Top Culinary Achievements Of 2014 + Photos & Videos”

  1. wow, you tried so many weird dishes xD despite being Vietnamese, I really hate dog meat, I don’t like the taste and the idea of eating something that someone keeps as pet is quite guilty ; ;
    how did you eat the balut in Vietnam? if you eat it with broth, julienne ginger and herbs it’ll taste better.
    there are some food i think you should try, duck blood soup, Ninh Binh raw meat with pork skin, lòng – boiled pig small intestine, dồi – boiled large intestine with pig blood, peanut and herb, fried pupa is quite popular too, there are also mice and cat meat served in the countryside. shrimp sauce is not taboo but it’s quite hard to eat too.

  2. Yeah, dog was a mixed one for me as well Eau de Nil. I ate the balut as part of a hot pot with several other friends…but there was only one piece of balut in the whole thing and no one else wanted it, so I had to eat it 🙂 I did try one horrible dish in Vietnam I forgot about….maybe you can help identify it. It was various types of seafood in a blood red pudding that was served cold. Found it in Minh Binh. Will be on the lookout for those other dishes when I return to Vietnam next year — thanks for the tips!

  3. Eau de Nil here is a blurry cellphone photo of the menu — I feel like it was #15 but I could be wrong. Can you help me in identifying this mystery dish once and for all? I am updating the article to include it now… thanks again 🙂

  4. oh, it’s must be one type of tiết canh – blood soup, i think it’s tiết canh dê – goat blood soup though it needs some basil to complete the dish. it’s a iconic dish of this province but I think this restaurant messed it up, the seafood taste means it wasn’t cooked properly, i hope you were alright cause some people got ill from eating this dish wrong

  5. Yes, you are right Eau de Nil — that was a typo from my fat fingers rushing across the keyboard hahaha. Awesome, thanks for the info. I have updated the post to include this dish and added your explanation to it 😀 Guess I have tried one type of Vietnamese blood soup already…but hope next time it is cooked right so it tastes better. I didn’t get sick off of it but that could be because I couldn’t finish it…the taste just did not agree with my stomach. Is blood soup always served cold?

  6. yes, it’s always served cold. the goat blood soup supposes to taste sweeter than the other types. I asked my father about this dish, he even said if you want he could give you the recipe 😛
    next year when you return I will surely show you more, though honestly I myself don’t have the gut to try most of those

  7. Paying a hunter to illegally go into the jungle and kill a protected species for its brain is not responsible, ethical tourism. Not at all. Please reconsider attempting this.

    • Well as I mentioned this was in 2013, early 2013 at that — nearly two full years ago. And obviously I didn’t go through with it. That is why I have since been searching for goat/lamb brains at restaurants and along dark alleys others avoid rather than out in the jungle.

  8. I think it’s quite a shame that someone like you who commands a large audience make it sound cool to eat dog and try to procure something that is illegal for obvious reasons. As travel bloggers, we have the power to influence and enlighten people to ethical tourism and you are failing miserably. There is so much wrong about this blog post. There is so much wrong in the world because of people like you. I’m out.

    • People like me? Cows are raised from birth to become meat exactly as the dogs I dined on in Vietnam were. What makes one different from another? Or different from chicken, duck, lamb, goat, pig or anything else raised from birth to be nothing more than food for human consumption? Spoiler alert: Absolutely nothing. Keep in mind these dogs are not your pet or your friend’s pet or even street dogs — these are dogs raised from birth solely for their meat. So by people like me do you mean carnivores?

      That monkey story is nearly two years old now (it was in early 2013) and obviously I didn’t go through with it. I also mentioned how I have since been hunting for other animal brains in restaurants and dark alleys others overlook. I’m not out there doing anything illegal, only partaking in local customs for my own understanding. I certainly don’t enjoy everything I see or do in foreign countries (mass animal sacrifices for religious holidays or slaving away with locals for 12 hours to make a paltry $1-2 to buy food) but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try it at least once.

      I’ve said repeatedly that it is this very curiosity which will get me killed sooner rather than later. Plus as any regular reader knows I won’t sugarcoat things like other travel bloggers or leave out the controversial details. For better or worse this fact has what has allowed me to turn this humble blog into a full-fledged career that completely funds all of my global endeavors. If I start taming down my posts or leaving out the controversial details then I will alienate those who have come to enjoy an unfiltered view of how the rest of the world operates or grown accustomed to living vicariously through me. This is a conundrum I have been battling with for a while now. Controversy gained me my initial readership but now as the numbers have grown I’ve hit the tipping point where people expect me to start conforming to some politically-correct dumbed-down version of my former self and I refuse to do it.

      Make no mistake, I do have morals. There are things I won’t eat because of this. Shark fin soup tops the list, namely because the rest of the animal is wasted. That is cruel and creates senseless waste while also horribly disrupting the ecosystem. When an animal is killed for meat then every part of it should be consumed — penis, intestines, brain and all. I ate pigeon brain last year, I don’t see you standing up for the rights of pigeons? So why then dogs? Is it the bond you have formed with them? I have no such bond. Millions of others around the world have no such attachment either. And at the end of the day I am not doing anything which isn’t already being done in numerous parts of the world on a daily basis. The only difference is that I’m not going to hide or deny the truth. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a flight to catch to Penang in 3-1/2 hours and a lot more food to eat once I land.

    • Truthfully it took me seven trips to the Philippines before I finally was brave enough to indulge in balut. I had arranged a meeting of 11 Twitter followers of mine who all happened to live in Manila and while at the restaurant one of them went out to the street corner, bought two balut, and brought them back in for me to try. Did you watch the video?

      Apologize for the rough video quality, it was cellphone footage from one of my friends there. Anyway it took me time to work up to, but after eating so many taboo organs and drinking the blood of three different animals, well, suddenly balut didn’t seem so bad hahaha 😉

      What is the craziest thing you have ever eaten Dani?


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