Asia has always been home to the most diverse and delectable variety of seafood. With Japanese sushi and Thai soups entering mainstream consciousness, we have embraced Asian seafood as a staple of our diets.
Some, however, aren't quite as appetising as others. Welcome to the secret world of Asia’s aquatic eating habits.
It’s a private matter
You may have seen certain celebrities chewing on kangaroo testicles in the Australian outback, but this takes things to a whole other level.
Shirako, a popular winter delicacy in Japan, may look like intestines but its real composition is even more shocking.
This tasty treat is the reproductive gland of a male fish which is harvested from a variety of fish such as monkfish, cod and anglerfish.
A food literally melts in your mouth like butter, with a slight sweetness in its taste, shirako is served in most sushi bars and restaurants but you can even buy it in your local supermarket.
If your taste buds fancy something with a tad more consistency, Japan also offers Taboyaki.
A firm favourite at many national festivals, these battered balls are a mouth-watering fusion of ginger, fish shavings and octopus.
Initially made popular in Osaka in the 1930s, you can catch these spherical beauties at any street stall or supermarket.
The Tale of the Futile Fugu
Eating raw shrimps, as the people of Shanghai do, may cause paragonimiasis but the Japanese fugu might as well be a knock on the door from the reaper.
Fugu, the Japanese word for blowfish, is one of the most poisonous fish in the world. With its skin and liver containing high levels of tetododoxin, any consumer is at risk of muscle paralysis and asphyxiation.
Only professionally-trained fugu chefs can serve this lethal killer, as all organ traces must be removed.
Osaka is the spot to eat this slightly chewy delicacy, so if you like to live a bit on the edge, futile fugu could be a way to pass the time.
Spare Parts and Pieces
If you are not content with eating entire fishes, then there are plenty of seafood meals in Asia that are made from spare parts.
Sharks may have had the privilege of roaming the earth for over 450 million years but they have now fallen victim to the human gut.
Shark fins used to be given as gifts to emperors, whilst the shark fin soup that was cooked would only be available at weddings and fancy banquets.
Today, shark fin soup is much cheaper and is eaten by around 100 million people every year in China.
Despite animal rights campaigners fighting the delicacy, shark fin soup remains a very popular dish in China and Hong Kong.
Similarly, tuna eyes have become all the rage across Asia. You will have to look your food, ahem, in the eye, but its fatty and jelly-like texture keeps people coming back for more.
The eyes can either be eaten raw, steamed or fried with soy sauce. Served nearly everywhere for under a pound, you simply cannot afford to miss out on this tasty treat.
Asia has always been a source of fantastic seafood. Spanning across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, it is not surprising that you can encounter some maritime marvels here.
But to capture the full cultural experience in the region, a bite into some fish, a sea cucumber or pickled raw fish may be just what you need.
You’ll come back home with many a tail to tell.