Tomato flavored seaweed snack


A common snack in China and other parts of East Asia is dried seaweed. Not the kind you roll your sushi in, but similar. This seaweed snack is a little crispier, which is always a good attribute to any snack. They come in small packs, and are so light there are hardly any calories in it. Finally a healthy snacks to nibble on.

Instead of going for a plain pack of seaweed I opted for a tomato flavored one, adding to the oddity. The texture if the seaweed changed as I was eating it. It started out crunchy, but soon turned chewy in my mouth which made for an interesting play in textures. At first there was indeed some tomato flavor, but that unfortunately soon faded. I think I would have preferred plain ones anyway.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 7


Dried squid snack


They sure love their dried fish here in China. In the supermarkets you can find whole isles full. I’m not the biggest fish eater, but I do like squid, so instead of some dried fish I bought a bag of dried squid. People here eat it as a snack, so I sat down for some TV with my bag of dried squid.

On opening the bag, something definitely smelled fishy. That alone out me off a little, but hey don’t mock it till you try it. The first thing I noticed when I was eating was be texture. It was chewy, almost rubbery, and then a fishy taste washed over me. All in all not a very desirable eating experience.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test – 4

Jellyfish salad


I had eaten jellyfish salad once before, and I kind of liked it so my fear factor is quite low. The first time I tried it though, my fear factor would have been much higher. I mean, who eats jellyfish? Well, it turns out quite a lot of people here in China and Japan do. In Osaka I found it on the menu of a yakitori place mixed with sour plum.

It made for a very interesting combination. The jellyfish itself has virtually no flavor. It’s all about texture with this one. It’s chewy, but not hard or rubbery. You can still bite through it easily. I’m not quite sure what to compare this texture with. Maybe seaweed comes close. The flavor was all down to the plum sauce, which was very sour indeed. It was a nice refreshing taste, but I’m glad it was only a small bowl, as I’m not sure I would have wanted to eat much more.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 7

Whale bacon


IMG_7570I know the consumption of whale is frowned upon all over the world, and it was a bit of a struggle to decide whether or not to eat whale. In this case I rely on my moral code: I don’t eat meat of endangered species. I don’t eat meat that’s illegally obtained. I don’t eat meat if the animal is brutally tortured. I don’t eat living animals. The consumption of whale in Japan is legal, and they mainly hunt minke whales, which are not endangered. Therefore it meets my criteria. I do apologize if that offends anyone.

At Rice and Circus bar in Tokyo we asked the waiter for some fried whale, but they were out. Instead we could try some whale bacon. That sounded a bit ominous and what arrived at the table was pure fat, no bacon. It was simply that, slices of whale fat. I tried a piece and it was terrible. I can eat fat if it is rendered out, but this chewy strip of fat was hard to swallow. The last piece was exceptionally large, and I almost couldn’t get it down. If you’re ever in Japan and tempted to eat whale, don’t order whale bacon.

Fear Factor – 5 / Taste Test – 0



Blowfish, known as fugu in Japan, is one of the most famous “unusual” foods to eat in Japan. Everybody has heard of this infamous spiky fish that blow itself up like a balloon in case of danger. The reason it’s so well-known is the fact that this fish is poisonous. It’s not just dangerous, it can kill a man. Luckily only a small part of the fish is inedible. The rest can be eaten, as long as the fish is handled correctly.

Fugu is a very expensive thing to eat, as it needs a trained professional to prepare. I didn’t want to spend too much money on a whole meal, so when I came across some blowfish at the market in Kyoto, I thought it would be safe to try. The salesman heated up the two fillets of fish and poured some sauce over it. It tasted like any other white fish to me. I guess the main reason for people to eat this fish is not the taste, but the danger.

To be honest, I kind of doubt that this was actually blowfish. I feel like the fillets would have been bigger. Also I thought it would have been more expensive. Anyway at the time of eating I was convinced it was indeed blowfish, so the fear factor still holds.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 6

Pickled mackerel sushi


You don’t normally see mackerel on a list of sushi options. Mackerel is a very oily fish and it will go off very quickly when kept raw. In Japan they have found a great solution for this. They pickle the mackerel in salt and vinegar. I grabbed a plate of pickled mackerel sushi when it came round on the conveyor belt.

I was expecting something very sour and acidic, but that was not the case. For the most part it was just about a normal taste of mackerel, and the texture hadn’t changed all that much either. I guess it was only slightly pickled.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 7

Fatty tuna sushi


One of my favorite fish to eat is tuna. Its meat is so red it’s almost like a steak, and you can treat it that way too. I’ve had it cooked rare, grilled, raw and canned. I had not, however, had a piece of fatty tuna. It had always been dark red and lean. Among my sushi set at the famous Endo Sushi in Osaka, was a tori, or fatty tuna, nigiri. This fatty part of the tuna is harvested from the belly end of the fish.

The piece of fish that was presented to me looked more like salmon than tuna. It was a soft pink rather than the usual deep red I was used to. It definitely looked fattier than normal. When I tasted it, it was almost like eating a stick of butter. You start out with a soft, but firm piece, and slow the fat starts to melt in your mouth. The fat was not at all unpleasant to eat, like some other animal fats can be, and it tasted quite rich, but I still like my meaty tuna more.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 7

Sea urchin sushi


A couple of months ago I wrote about an uni taco I tried at a food festival in Shanghai. At the time, I couldn’t really get a good sense of what uni is, so I decided to try it again. On my recent trip to Japan I visited renowned sushi restaurant Endo Sushi in Osaka for breakfast. I chose a set of five pieces of nigiri sushi including uni.

This time it was just rice and uni, so I could get a much better taste of what it’s all about. I didn’t find the taste to be that strong actually. It most certainly didn’t taste fishy, which is a good thing. Once again it was a textural thing, as the uni is quite rich and cream like a ripe avocado. Although I liked it, I wasn’t blown away by it. Uni is an expensive ingredient, so I better save my money for something else.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 6

Grilled dried ray fin


At the game meat restaurant Rice and Circus in Tokyo I ordered a portion of grilled ray fin. I had never seen ray on a menu anywhere, but in hindsight it could have easily been skate, which is a little more common. Still it was unusual in the way it was prepared, as it was dried first.

The ray fin came cut into strips with a side of mayonnaise to dip it in. It definitely needed that, as on it’s own the fish was quite dry. No wonder, of course, as it was a dried piece of fish after all. It wasn’t exactly as dry as beef jerky, you could still chew it without too much effort. It tasted just like any other white fish, which is to say just fine. I might have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been dried.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 6

Vinegar granita


I don’t often write about food that I cooked myself. I don’t think anybody is waiting for another boring vegetable curry recipe or an egg white omelet. I will leave that to my fellow bloggers who are much more capable at that than I am. Every once and a while though I make something that’s a little more unusual, and would fit well on my blog.

For a special occasion recently I went all out and whipped up a multi-course dinner. All the dishes of that night were inspired by the food and ingredients of my home. Last week I already wrote that in Holland we often eat raw herring with onions, and I decided to make a play on that.

I made a sort of pate of herring, and topped it with crispy rye bread crumbs. To highlight the onion part of the dish, I took some brine of a pickled onion jar I had, and made a granita out of that. The vinegar made it really sharp, but the tang was dulled by the iciness, and it worked really well with the other ingredients.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test: 7