Anthony Bourdain is widely regarded as one of the most influential American chefs around the globe. Along with his successful career as a restauranteur, Bourdain found fame as a television personality travelling to international, and at times dangerous, cities to sample their unique dishes and culture. Throughout his journeys Bourdain has proved that he has a stomach of steel, never backing down from a taste test challenge. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top ten times when Anthony Bourdain ate exotic food!
10. Super Soup
Now becoming well known as an affordable and exciting tourist destination, Thailand was featured in Bourdain’s show Parts Unknown, when Bourdain travelled to a small Thai town to rub shoulders with the locals and test some interesting food staples. At a popular village restaurant where all animal products are featured heavily on the menu, Bourdain settled down with a friend to get some grub. Not one to shy away from anything, Bourdain quickly amped things up by ordering the pig blood soup, consisting of raw pig’s blood combined with lemongrass, mincemeat, and pieces of animals innards. Upon seeing the soup for the first time, Bourdain couldn’t disguise his shock, stating “You’re not kidding, that’s like a horribly, like, CSI soup!” However, after trying his first bite he warmed up to the creation, calling it completely delicious. Apparently Bourdain and his friend were impressed by the flavour profile of the soup, explaining to viewers that it didn’t actually taste like blood, but was in fact sweet with a bit of spice to it. To follow up the soup the men were then brought the second part of pig product that they would be tasting with the soup – this time pig brains. While it may seem like a disastrous meal to viewers back home, Bourdain thoroughly enjoyed the brains as well, digging in and dubbing it the best meal he’d ever had in Thailand.
9. Meat Slushi
Singapore has a lot of popular namesakes in the Western culinary world, from Singapore noodles sold at every Asian restaurant to Singapore Slings made in every bar. What’s not so common in North America is the concept of a “meat slushi”. Bourdain found this out for himself when he travelled to Singapore for his series No Reservations. One of his first stops was a food court, but instead of hosting generic fast food restaurants it had a vast array of exotic meals and snacks. Naturally Bourdain couldn’t be contented with his first, more normal choice of chicken and rice. When out and about the next day he revisited a food court and went a little wilder, opting for the “sup tulang” otherwise known as bone soup or a meat slushi. Brilliant red and chunky, or as Bourdain himself described it, it’s “an eerie, unearthly, doesn’t-really-occur-in-nature bright red.” While this may not sound particularly appetizing to the average person, Bourdain excitedly added that it has “all of his favourite things.” Well, to each their own! This wasn’t a typical soup that Bourdain could spoon up, but he instead had to grab each bone individually to suck out chilli-infused marrow. In the end he even had to stick a straw into the bones to properly suck out all the food. Maybe not the best food for a first date!
8. Living Food
It may seem like Bourdain spends all his time exploring foreign countries, but he took a break from jet setting to pay a visit to Queens to try some unexpectedly exotic and dangerous food. Bourdain stopped in at Sik Gaek, a barbecue and seafood restaurant that seemed ordinary but was in fact the opposite. Not only did the restaurant specialize in seafood, but it also specialized in serving seafood that was still alive! A plate of live octopus was delivered to Bourdain and a friend, with tentacles still flailing around and shifting all across the platter. Of course, being the brave taste tester that he is, Bourdain fearlessly grasped the wriggling tendrils of octopus with his chopsticks and swallowed it down without any hesitation. He enjoyed both the food and the overall experience, calling it “delightful!” However, mid chew Bourdain ran into a problem when a tentacle grabbed onto the inside of one of his cheeks, not ready to be eaten just yet. It turns out that eating live octopus can be a risky business, because the suckers can latch onto your throat and cause you to suffocate mid-meal. Luckily Bourdain taught the tentacle who was boss and finished devouring it, but some diners have actually died from this squirmy dish in the past. Who knew food could fight back?
7. Breakfast Porridge
A bowl of oatmeal isn’t an unusual thing to sit down to in the mornings, but watch what’s in your porridge if you ever find yourself in Brazil. Bourdain loves food markets, and decided to tour around one during his visit to Brazil. He quickly made a new friend when a local boy tagged along, sharing his soda and meal with the boy and his friends. Bourdain started off easy with some grilled meats and rice before delving into the stranger foods. At the next stall he visited, Bourdain tried beef broth porridge, a thick yellow paste. It consisted of beef scraps and broth, and then thickened into a porridge with flour. On top of the porridge Bourdain sprinkled some salsa, definitely defying porridge norms. He used the strange porridge as a palate cleanser for the second act of the meal, a plate of random meat chunks. Bourdain couldn’t even distinguish what exactly the meats where from, but that didn’t stop him from digging in with enthusiasm. While some people may cringe at the thought of eating unidentifiable meats, Bourdain simply said, “I pity the fool who doesn’t like this.” Harsh words! Bourdain got especially excited when he caught a hint of organ meat to his dish, describing it as wonderful and complimenting the owner of the stall for a great meal.
6. Have a Heart
During Bourdain’s journey to Vietnam for his show A Cook’s Tour in 2013 he ate some pretty questionable things, from squid soup to pickled snake broth. However, the most extreme food challenge he faced was at a local restaurant well known for it’s dish consisting of a beating cobra’s heart. Bourdain explained that certain foods are supposedly to hold significant powers in Vietnam, and that consuming a cobra heart will increase one’s stamina and overall health. It’s usually a bad sign when even the waiters are afraid of the food that is being served, but that didn’t stop Bourdain as a live cobra was brought out into the restaurant to be prepared as his next meal. After watching the snake hiss and lunge on the floor, Bourdain sat back for the main attraction as the snake was prepared right beside his table. The heart was then dished out to Bourdain, and he swallowed it down, still beating. Reflecting on the dining experience, Bourdain said that he could feel his meal pulsating as it travelled down, and proudly exclaimed that he did feel stronger. Some people may prefer to just hit the gym for a strengthening session, but Bourdain clearly doesn’t have time for that!
5. Bowls of Bile
Bourdain seems to have a knack for finding unusual soups throughout his expeditions, and he managed to do it again when he stopped at a restaurant in Pampanga. Bourdain was dining with a fellow restauranteur who convinced him to order a bowl of bile soup with organs chopped up in it. Bile is extremely bitter and not something that most people want to taste more of, but when in Pampanga one needs to get the full experience, even if it’s not the sweetest. On the plus side, bile is supposed to have amazing healing properties, so maybe consider switching out your chicken noodle soup for some bile next time you get sick! Bourdain was not amused, and in a rare moment admitted that a food was too gross for even him! He had tried it before, and summed up his thoughts by saying, “My bile experiences so far have not been so wonderful.” That’s one way to say it! His restauranteur friend tried to sway him to Team Bile, saying it was just an acquired taste. And maybe he was right, because as soon as Bourdain started in on his soup he was pleasantly surprised. He actually enjoyed the taste, taking spoonful after spoonful and admitting “that’s good!”
4. The Golden Egg
While normally Bourdain is checking out ethnic foods in casual cafes and local restaurants, he decided to treat himself with some fine dining when he went to Portugal. He visited an upscale restaurant which produced modernized Portuguese fares with a twist. Although the food was high end, Bourdain’s oder was a little bizarre. He started off with blood sausage, one of Bourdain’s favourite dishes in the world. This was followed up by pig trotters, otherwise known as pigs feet. Historically eaten as a peasant’s meal due to the cut of meat, this version of pig trotters was upgraded in a creamy kind of stew spread that Bourdain ate with bread. Bourdain loved this treat and called it the perfect blend of textures. But this was nothing compared to the main attraction. Bourdain finally got to engage in a little bit of luxury when he was served a golden egg. Unfortunately the egg wasn’t solid gold, but it was caked in actual gold foil that Bourdain could chomp down on. Now that’s one meal that his viewers can probably get behind!
3. Sealing the Deal
Bourdain grabbed his parka and went up north for one episode of No Reservations, travelling to Quebec to learn about the culture and culinary traditions of Inuits. During his stay Bourdain tags along on a seal hunt, braving freezing conditions in order to secure supper for both himself and his hosts. Thanks is given for the lives of the seals, and then enough meat is gathered to last the families for many meals to come. Every part of the seal is used for specific dishes, and Bourdain is invited to sample all parts of the animal from bits of liver to slivers of kidney. But the most extreme moment came when Bourdain was literally seeing eye to eye with his meal – he was offered one of the seal’s eyeballs to snack on. He later likened it to sucking out a grape, and was thankful for the gift that his hosts had offered him.
2. Talk Show Tasting
Although most of Bourdain’s wild food tales come from his own television shows, reporters and news programs are also eager to see just how far Bourdain will go. On an instalment of CNN, host Piers Morgan sat down with Bourdain and pushed him as far as he could, looking for any sign of Bourdain’s legendary stomach cracking. He presented Bourdain with an entire spread of bizarre dishes, from turkey testicles to steamed pigs feet. Bourdain dominating the challenge, never backing down from any of the samples and often complimenting them after he tasted them! In fact he got so excited after being blindly fed goose intestines that he swore he’d order it at a restaurant if he had the chance, and labelled it “good stuff.” One of the weirdest things that Bourdain was faced with however was balut, which is a bird embryo that is boiled and eaten straight out of its shell. Bourdain immediately recognized it from his travels, and turned the tables on Morgan by grossing him out instead, describing the more disgusting balut dishes that he’d had before. In fact, Bourdain called the balut that Morgan gave him, “Not that bad!” Eventually Bourdain did admit that the taste wasn’t one of his favourite things in the world, but that it was more of an issue with the food’s texture. If Bourdain isn’t even a fan, balut probably won’t be becoming a popular food anytime soon!
1. Mystery Meat
Bourdain will eat pretty much anything when challenged, but he must draw the line somewhere. Or does he? During an episode of No Reservations Bourdain explored the food of Namibia, and received a dining experience that he will never forget. His hosts went hunting and caught a warthog, and then set about preparing it for Bourdain to taste. Of course, as a celebrity guest Bourdain was given the most prized piece of the warthog: the anus. Bourdain politely described it as “the type of amuse-bouche that you’re not expecting.” Watching as the warthog was prepared, Bourdain’s stomach started to squirm and he admitted that he was doomed. He had low expectations for the dining experience, and took a stab at fortune telling by predicting worried phone calls, doctor appointments, and needing heavy medication to bounce back from the warthog. Bourdain’s translator stepped up and taste tested the food before Bourdain, taking a bite and then giving it the lukewarm endorsement of, “It’s alright.” When Bourdain was handed his piece of the meat, he had no choice but to take a bite too. He didn’t say much except for describing the food as chewy and okay – not exactly what you want to hear from a famous chef. Maybe he’ll pass on the warthog next time!