Crocodile tempura

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During my trip to Japan it turned out that my Tokyo hotel was really close to a restaurant called “Rice and Circus”. It specializes in game meat from all over the world, served in a Japanese style. This was a heavenly coincidence for me, on which a few more entries will follow. First up, croc. Crocodile is one of those unusual cuts of meat that is actually more common than one might think. It’s not at all the difficult to get a hold of in the States, or for examples South Africa, yet it was new to me. I guess in Europe we don’t really eat much of it.

I had heard most people say before that crocodile tastes just like chicken, with a few people claiming it to taste a little fishy. I’m not the biggest fish lover, but I thought I could handle it. The croc here was served tempura style, meaning it was battered and fried. I did think it similar to chicken, not because it tasted similar, but because both don’t have much of a flavor to begin with. Chicken breast that is. There was no distinct flavor here, certainly not fishy. What was a little different was the texture. Although similar to chicken, it was a little chewier. Not exactly tough, but with a bit of a bite. Crocodile with a bite, go figure.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 8

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Spaghetti burger

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Spaghetti and meatballs have been known to go together. They might not think so in Italy, but go together they do. Make a big enough meatball and you have a hamburger. Why not then mix the two and make a spaghetti topped hamburger. That’s exactly what I got at a local American diner here in Lanzhou.

The burger itself was a nice and thick beef burger that you would get in any decent diner. It was topped with a mount of spaghetti Bolognese. I found the two definitely go together, and they blend quite nicely into one. My only qualm was that there could have been, should have been, more spaghetti on top. As the burger was so thick it took over most of the taste.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Reindeer sausage

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On my way back to China I had to change plains at Helsinki Airport and had a few bucks left to spend. I had already bought a few drinks when I noticed there was a 40% off sticker on a pack of reindeer sausages. I had just enough money left and so the sausages came to China with me.

I had expected a coarse sausage, but in fact these reindeer sausages had a completely smooth consistency like hot dogs. The casings give it a similar snap, and it reminded me mostly of the smoked sausages we eat in Holland. The only difference was that these reindeer sausages had that slight sour taste that I described in an earlier post. After all this I should go to Finland and try some real Finnish food.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Goose breast

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Only recently did I try goose for the first time. It was served sliced cold at breakfasts in Poland. Little did I know that just a few days later I would have my second serving. This time I ordered fried goose breast at restaurant De Sjuuteaendj in Holland. This restaurant was voted the greenest and most organic restaurant in The Netherlands and is only a stone’s throw away from my parents’ house.

The duck breast came sliced and was perched on an autumnal barley risotto with mushrooms and a beer gel. The risotto was just perfect even though I couldn’t taste any beer. The star of the show, however, was the goose and not the barley. Unlike in Krakow the fat was rendered and the skin beautifully crisp, making it a lot more appetizing to eat. The meat was left pink which left it juicy and tender. This was a vast improvement on the previous serving, although I did like that at the time.

Fear Factor 0 / Taste Test – 8

Reindeer salami

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On my way to Amsterdam I had already picked up some reindeer meat that I found was a bit sour tasting. On the way home I stopped by the airport store again and had a few euros left to spend. I traded them in for a set of reindeer salami. I got three thin salami sticks in an edible casing.

For the most part it tasted just like any other mild salami, as it wasn’t seasoned that heavily. There was, however, an after note of that sourness I referred to earlier. In this case it was not overpowering leaving me to nibble on the rest of the salami sticks without hesitation.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Ox tail stuffed zucchini flowers

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When in Rome, do as the Romans. One of the most iconic Roman vegetables is the zucchini flower. It is often stuffed with a creamy cheese or deep fried in a batter. When I tried them last July they were also battered, but stuffed with another traditional Roman dish, stewed ox tail, which I tasted at a different restaurant before.

When the dish came out I didn’t think they were our zucchini flowers, as there was no shape to it but a big lump. They must have used a lot of batter, because it looked nothing like what I know from TV. On biting into one I was immediately underwhelmed by the batter. It was soft and soggy, not what I was expecting at all. The stuffing was very nice though. There were plenty of pieces of tender tasty ox tail enveloped in its own gravy.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 7

Beef cheek pierogi

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I had tried beef cheeks before in London and loved it, so when I went to Poland and there were beef cheek filled pierogi on the menu, I knew exactly what to order. This was at a old Jewish restaurant in Krakow called Starka, where I shared a couple of dishes with my friends.

The dumplings looked a bit anemic, boiled and without any sauce, but they made up for it in taste. The dumplings were stuffed with strand upon strand of beef cheek. Any more and they would burst. The cheeks were cooked until they were super soft and tender. There didn’t seem to be much added flavor to it, but I didn’t think the dish needed it as the beef was so strong tasting on its own.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 9

Stewed ox tail

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I remember eating ox tail soup as a kid on special occasions such as Christmas dinner, and I always loved it. To this day it’s one of my favorite soups. You can imagine that when I went to Rome recently and I found a classical Roman dish of stewed ox tail I was quite excited. The only thing holding me back was that it was served on the bone, and I’ve never been good at picking meat of bones.

The dish arrived with four big chunks of ox tail covered in a tomato sauce – anything “alla Romana” usually had tomato sauce. Like I was afraid of, the meat was difficult to get off the bones. It had been cooked till very tender, but it wasn’t exactly falling of the bone either, so you really had to pry at it. The meat that I did manage to get off was just like I remember from the soups, mild in flavor and super tender. Just a shame I couldn’t get much meat off of it.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 7

Cold smoked reindeer

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I was looking forward to trying some reindeer at the airport in Finland during my stopover, however, I didn’t have enough time to go to a restaurant as we were behind on schedule. In one of the shops they did sell packages of cold smoked reindeer, and I bought some to go.

They were slices of deli meat that you can put on a sandwich reminiscent of an Italian bresaola. It’s quite chewy when eaten in chunks, so it’s usually sliced paper thin. Then it pulls apart in strings if you tear it. In Holland we also have this made of beef or horse and it’s a nice thing to put on some bread, maybe with a bid of pesto or tapenade.

This version of smoked reindeer was in texture quite familiar, but not in flavor. The taste was very acidic, almost as if it was a little off. It actually was nice to just eat on its own without bread, but I don’t think I would have finished the package if I hadn’t been with friends and family to share it with.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

Cold goose breast

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Looking for a place to have breakfast in Krakow, I ended up at chocolatier E. Wedel where you can buy everything chocolate. I had a breakfast set that included a really tasty cake with chocolate spread as well as some goose breast. That was great for me as I had never tried goose before.

The goose was served cold and sliced thickly with the rind still on. It looked a little like duck ham, though the meat itself was more like turkey in both texture and flavor. It had thick strands of meat just like chicken or turkey, and the flavor was quite mild. That would have been great with some herbs. I didn’t like the skin though, as the fat wasn’t rendered out.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7