I consider myself an adventurous eater, BUT…

I have to draw the line somewhere.

The dish in front of me is grey and shiny.

“Russian dog,” says my waitress Nancy.

“Big dog,” I reply.

“Yes,” she says. “Big dog’s penis…”

We are in a cosy restaurant in a dark street in Beijing but my appetite seems to have gone for a stroll outside.

Nancy has brought out a whole selection of delicacies.

They are draped awkwardly across a huge platter, with a crocodile carved out of a carrot as the centrepiece.

Nestling beside the dog’s penis are its clammy testicles, and beside that a giant salami-shaped object.

“Donkey,” says Nancy. “Good for the skin…”

I’m sorry, but butchering random animals, sometimes endangered animals, for the purpose of consuming arbitrary small bits of their anatomy because of a perceived magical benefit…no, thanks. Besides, if driving a big car is a sign of a tiny penis, I suspect anyone caught needing to consume a tiger’s erectile organ is deeply inadequate, not just in the crotch, but the brain as well.


  1. valhar2000 says

    PARTICULARLY in the brain; I just hope their inadequate in the crotch as well and don’t reproduce…

  2. says

    So does this mean you’re not going to investigate the medicinal benefits of Cordyceps sinensis (“vegetable caterpillar”), or antimalaria medicines made out of ground Gigantopithecus teeth and fossil brachiopods?

  3. Ginger Yellow says

    There’s something I never thought I’d see in a photo caption: “Bull’s perineum is also a delicacy”

  4. jeffw says

    “So does this mean you’re not going to investigate the medicinal benefits of Cordyceps sinensis (“vegetable caterpillar”)”

    Hey, cordyceps works for me! Actually, its a fungus (or fungi?).

  5. says

    A friend of mine grew up in Hong Kong and he says that dog is really tasty. Personally, I’d just as happily eat dog as cow. By the way, crocodile is one of the tastiest meats I have ever tried.

  6. says

    Yeah, kind of. Its a weird cross between chicken and fish, hard to describe really. Very tasty though. I had it in Kenya, along with Gno, Impala, Zebra (excellent steaks) and various other exotic meats. All in the same evening!

  7. Stogoe says

    The last time I had crocodile, it was deep fried and unbearably chewy. Kind of like calamari in that respect. Elk is good, though, and buffalo is really tasty. I could give up cow in favor of buffalo if the prices were closer.

  8. Brian says

    Reminds me of one of my favorite Pratchett quotes –

    “He was aware that a wise man should always respect the folkways of others, to use Carrot’s happy phrase, but Vimes often had difficulty with this idea. For one thing, there were people in the world whose folkways consisted of gutting other people like clams [or an unhealthy appetite for tiger penis] and this was not a procedure that commanded, in Vimes, any kind of respect at all.” – The Fifth Elephant

  9. Erasmus says

    ghastly is in the eye of the beholder. first time i ever noticed cordyceps was while collecting macroinverts from a stream and there were all kinds of dead trichoptera plastered to the underside of overhanging rocks, with tiny little fruiting bodies. truly spectacular. never knew what they were until i got a copy of ‘Mushrooms Demystified’ and saw a picture. wouldn’t eat it though.

  10. says

    Yes, as Brian notes, there are some people whose folkways consisted of gutting other people like clams. Those in power always get to decide what’s to be on the menu. I imagine someday there will be a restaurant in some faraway land when fortunes change, featuring human testicles fresh-caught in the United States. The menu will say –smaller than those brazen brash louts bragged, but quite filling with a side of American brain, which is smaller still.

  11. jbark says

    “Personally, I’d just as happily eat dog as cow”

    Not me, and I’m not troubled by that particular distinction. The fact that I eat pig, however, makes me a big fat hypocrite I think. Those buggers are pretty smart.

    I’m an equal opportunity penis avoider though.

  12. says

    I got the impression that anything that moved was liable to be cooked and eaten. Small birds, rats, and more. But we were told that the government was discouraging consumption of dog (at least where foreigners could observe) in an effort to put on a more sophisticated air.

  13. D says

    SteveF – he’s right. Dog does taste very nice. Dog penis? I’ve never had that. Mind you, I can’t see why it is that much more disconcerting as a meal than pig buttocks are.

  14. says

    This reminds me of a Great Moment in Television (and jebus knows there aren’t many of those). Several years ago David Letterman had as a guest a Beijing TV news reporter, and she talked about how she loved to sample local cuisine in her travels, especially the weird stuff. Letterman asked for examples, and it went something like this:

    Beijing News Lady: Well, I’ve eaten snake gonads in West Africa, cockroaches in Afghanistan, Leg of Cat in Vietnam, and in Saudi Arabia–tell me, David, have you ever had the hump of a camel?

    Letterman: No, but I must say, when I was younger I was pretty good.

  15. Aris says

    Sheep’s eyes are delicious, the essence of lambness. So are brains, sheep or cow. But we all have limits. No penises for me.

  16. says

    Do you recall the scene in one of the Indiana Jones films in which Ford’s character eats a monkey’s brain?

    My father actually did that in Ethiopia, where the ‘dish’ is considered a delicacy. The monkey is killed and the top of its skull is cut off then replaced. The monkey is brought out and placed at the table. The top of its skull is then removed, and the brain, which is still at body temperature, is eaten with a spoon.

  17. Carlie says

    I fed my students mealworm cookies today, incidentally. Some of them went for it. Next class I’ll be dismantling their strongly held religious beliefs about food prohibitions by pointing out that they can all easily be explained by ecological considerations.

  18. says

    The Chinese to not share PZ’s superstitious food taboos. They do have ideas about quasi-magical, quasi-medical powers in certain foods, though, which might be called superstitious.

    Rhino poaching is supposedly motivated by a middle eastern market, though, not the Chinese-medicine market.

  19. says

    John, besides being used to make Yemeni ceremonial dagger-hilts, rhino horn is used in Chinese medicine, both as an aphrodisiac, and to help treat stomach ache.

  20. Umilik says

    Interesting point, Dr. Myers, what is the difference between butchering “random anmimals” and “non-random animals” ? To the animal the fate would seem the same regardless of its status of randomness. Or do you object to the “eating of arbitrary tiny bits” ? So how many bits make it worthwhile to kill an animal ? Do you eat all the bits of the heifer or the pig ? I rather doubt it. I don’t, alhough I probably eat more of the bits than most. Now if it is the butchering of endangered animals – bushmeat and such – no argument from me on that. Despiccable.
    Oh, and to the person(s) eating brains: in the age of BSE that would seem like a very dangerous thing to do.

  21. says

    When I was in my twenties I ran a weinie stand next to the courthouse and regularly reminded my customers that “you are what you eat.” I wasn’t really cut out for a carreer in the service industry.

    As a Westerner, I was raised on game meat. Stewed moose on rice remains one of my very favorite meals. Except for liver, I’ve never really gone for organ meat.

  22. speedwell says

    I’m a vegetarian; I can’t compete. I do get into adventurous vegetarian cuisine… I LOVE tofu and miso and kimchee, I make mock meats out of wheat gluten, eat Saccharomyces yeast, put yellow mustard and red peppers together with beans and lemon juice to make mock cheese… OK, OK, I’m a wimp. I refuse to eat natto anymore, and I won’t even go into a Mexican restaurant, not even as far as the front door, if they serve huitlacoche (horribly diseased corn smut) or even hint at it.

  23. says

    Stanton, IIRC, quantitatively the Yemenis were more significant than the Chinese.

    In Taiwan I did meet someone who had eaten pangolin, which I think is endangered, at least locally.

    “You are what you eat” — who wants to be a cabbage, anyway? I would love to be a little bird, so I suppose I should eat larks.

    Adventurous vegetarians — Taiwan has a fermented tofu called “stinky tofu”. You can smell the open-air stands a block away. People say it actually is reasonably mild in flavor.

  24. Ginger Yellow says

    “Yeah, kind of. Its a weird cross between chicken and fish, hard to describe really.”

    That’s how I’d describe it. It’s a fairly delicate flavour (when cooked properly) quite like fish, but the texture is more like chicken. So an unaccustomed brain melds the two flavours. There’s an excellent pub in Sydney that does crocodile pizzas.

  25. MJ Memphis says

    Another one for the adventurous vegetarians: durian.

    I have actually had durian- a very fresh one, that had no real odor and had a taste and texture rather like banana custard. However, this is not the norm- usually it is a bit riper when consumed. By ripe, I mean the usual comparisons involve old gym socks full of cheese, rotting onions, or poorly-ventilated outhouses. I don’t recall smelling any on my stays in Thailand, but I have been told that I probably did and just mistook it for a broken sewer main.

    re: crocodile- does it basically taste like alligator? I’ve had fried alligator and also alligator gumbo- both delicious. Has the taste of a land meat but a texture closer to seafood.

  26. MJ Memphis says

    Oops, that should be “the texture of a land meat and taste closer to seafood”, not the other way around.

  27. Hairhead says

    Mmm. Durian: an interesting taste, but an AMAZING smell, for sheer pungency and penetrating power.

    Best meat ever: Slowly-braised moose. Tender and delicious.

    Yes, the Yemenis are paying to kill all of the rhinos left in the wild. And 1.5 billion anxious Asians pay for all kinds of endangered animals to be slaughtered so they can get their dicks hard. The new-found wealth of China is endangering dozens of species, tiger and shark among them.

  28. JakeB says

    I used to go to a Chinese restaurant that did durian shakes. They vary between benign and appetite-ruining with respect to odor–I suspect it’s merely the luck of the draw. You could also jam an unpeeled durian onto the end of a piece of wood and use it as a mace, if you were so inclined.

  29. Great White Wonder says

    anyone caught needing to consume a tiger’s erectile organ is deeply inadequate

    I like cats but my penis is huge.

  30. JMG3Y says

    The consumption of wild-origin meats from virtually any species by some cultures is a huge problem from a number of perspectives, including ecological impact, reduction of species diversity and transmission of exotic infectious agents out of ecological niches where it is endemic but communicable in-contact humans. HIV AIDS, Ebola and others as well as those transmissible between animals such as foot and mouth disease.

    Bushmeat Crisis Task Force

    Bushmeat on the Menu (Science News)

    The Bushmeat Trade (UK Parliament)

    The cost of bushmeat (BBC)

    “As much as 10 tonnes of African bushmeat may be reaching London every day, according to a British film on the trade. It says the extent of the killing has already left some countries with few animals to poach. The effort to save the great apes, it says, now stands at one second to midnight. Yet corruption, inertia and sheer poverty allow all-out, unsustainable slaughter to continue apace.”

  31. miko says

    Durian is an interesting one… sweet but also the overpowering wave of rich odor stimulation. But once the taste is acquired, it’s hard to resist (especially a nice ripe D24 hybrid from thailand… wah, so nice lah). If you’ve only eaten it in North America, you haven’t had it (no, not even the ones in Toronto’s Chinatown).

    I find it weird that people who will stick a bug hunk of pungent moldy cheese in their mouth and claim it goes great with the pinot noir won’t go near a durian… it seems a bit similar to me. Almost a physical sensation as much as a flavor.

    I guess it’s debatable which is a bigger ethical and/or environmental concern: hunting endangered species or the large-scale meat production industry. But at least the latter involves domesticated animals and is for sustenance, not so an old Chinese man can get a placebo effect boner with a prostitute.

    Anyone had giant fruit bat? The wing membrane is like eating fried chicken that’s all skin… mmmmmmmm.

  32. lo says

    @article: brilliant. That`s religion one on one.

    I knew that believe can make you blow you up, but i didn`t know it can also make you eat penises, probably vaginas too – but in those countries womanhood is to oppressed to have a say in anatomical adaptions of their food.

    It`s actually a brilliant example how much men are still the dominant ones who convey and establish believe systems. Actually quite a tragedy given how women are devalued all around the world by fitting them into believe systems that were designed by and for men. Women still are (and the catholic church is no different) considered a necessity only for maintaining and expanding the power of religion by reproduction (which itself is of course considered a divine act).

  33. MJ Memphis says

    “but i didn`t know it can also make you eat penises, probably vaginas too – but in those countries womanhood is to oppressed to have a say in anatomical adaptions of their food.”

    The local Asian market carries, in the meat section, packages marked as “pig uteries”- I assume uteries is the plural of uterus. It doesn’t look appetizing, but my wife tells me they are pretty good. But she also doesn’t think durian stinks, so YMMV.

  34. says

    The Chinese lose points for eating endangered species, but they gain points for enjoying uteruses, penises, gonads, and organ meats. Being fussy about that stuff because it’s icky is silly. If you try it and don’t happen to like it that’s cool, but there’s no more basis for the American taboo on penises than there is for the Chinese belief that uteruses have medicinal value. It sounds like a late effect of Puritanism.

    Chinese beliefs about the medicinal value of various foods are ethnoscience, ethnomedicine, folk belief, or superstition. These beliefs are often naturalistically expressed and don’t necessarily have any supernatural aspect. The beliefs are not specifically part of any Chinese religious doctrine. I would describe them as unscientific secular beliefs.

  35. SueinNM says

    God. Aren’t there any LIVE-dog afficianados on this board?

    I’m sure as hell glad I don’t know any of you …

  36. j.t.delaney says

    “Bull’s perineum is also a delicacy”

    Say it taint so!

    As far as exotic/unusual protein sources I’ve tried:

    • *Tripe, tendon, and oxtail certainly can be lovely, especially as part of a delicious Vietnamese ‘Phở’.
    • *Guinea pig (a.k.a. ‘cuy’) was not so thrilling. I’m not sure if it was the guinea pig or the roadside Andean beer I drank that night (‘chicha’), but the end result was a wrenching case of “Huayna Capac’s revenge”.
    • *Alpaca on the other hand, was some of the most delicious meat I’ve ever enjoyed, anywhere.
    • *Chicken feet, prepared as an dim sum, were a bit lackluster. There’s not much meat on them, which means you really have to actively work at it (read: suck chicken toes) to get any sort of nutrition out of them.
    • *Seared sweetbreads (sheep’s thymus), served in the classical French way, was truly delicious. So was foie gras. I could definitely see what the fuss is about.
    • *Thus far, the biggest food taboo that I’ve overcome as a transplanted Midwestern American in the Netherlands is chopped raw mammal meat — and I don’t mean fancy-shmancy carpaccio or steak tartar! Here in the Netherland, I’ve really gotten to enjoy something they call “filet Americaine”, which is essentially uncooked hamburger.
    • *Across the border in Germany, I’ve enjoyed “Mett”, which is raw chopped pork. To Midwesterners, these are forbidden things.

    The only thing that I’ve turned my nose up at so far has been horse meat. I know it’s irrational, but I just can’t bring myself to even consider it. I’d be willing to try dog or cat, but not horse.

  37. MJ Memphis says

    “God. Aren’t there any LIVE-dog afficianados on this board?”

    You know, the phrase “live-dog aficianado” sounds like someone who enjoys eating living canines. So, hopefully we have none of those here. I assume you mean dog-owners though, so yeah, there are some of us.

  38. j.t.delaney says

    Oh, i almost forgot:

    • alligator
    • North American Bison
    • ostrich
    • conch
    • brown garden snails (Helix aspersa)
    • jellyfish
    • sea cucumber
    • locusts
    • mangrove land crabs (there was another name in Portugese, but I forgot)
    • Sawagani (tiny, fried whole swamp crabs)
    • dried whole minnows (actually dried anchovies)
    • Dutch raw herring, traditionally served roadside at room temperature from an RV.

    Admittedly, the first three are farm-raised boutique yuppie foods these days, but I figured to be thorough, I’d put them in the list. While raw herring is a staple of Dutch cuisine, eating it brought back wierd memories of the Sparky-the-seal show at the St. Paul Como Zoo.

  39. says

    In my day, I’ve eaten horse, scorpion (fried – surprisingly nice), rat, buffalo, squirrel, rabbit, pigeon, frog, peacock, zebra, kangaroo, alligator, crocodile, elk, reindeer, ostrich, rotted shark liver…

    But for all that, I think my favourite meat is probably lamb.

    God. Aren’t there any LIVE-dog afficianados on this board?
    I’m sure as hell glad I don’t know any of you …

    Never eated dog, or cat, but I’ve got no compunction against doing so. I had a pet dog when I was a child, and consider myself a “dog-lover”. I don’t see a contradiction there.

    A friend of mine has a pet pig. It’s never stopped him eating bacon. And I know a fair few hindus who, while they won’t eat beef themselves, certainly don’t see anything wrong wth others doing so.

  40. says

    Trichinosis is more or less a thing of the past. There are about 10-20 cases a year in the US, and almost all (perhaps all) are from wild bear, wild boar, or free-range domestic swine.

    Chinese eat some foods (chicken feet, tendon, the dns of chicken wings) for the texture. By the pounbd chicken feet were more expensive than other chicken parts, IIRC.

  41. says

    The local Asian market carries, in the meat section, packages marked as “pig uteries”- I assume uteries is the plural of uterus. It doesn’t look appetizing, but my wife tells me they are pretty good.

    They’re very chewy–the uterus is quite a muscular organ.