Local eateries where Andrew Zimmern-wannabes go to satisfy their strange food cravings and put their culinary ‘fear factor’ threshold to the acid test.

FROGS and snails but not puppy dogs’ tails are some of the more unusual stuff I’ve eaten in the past 12 years as a food writer. Despite the passage of time, I find it hard to forget the distinct tastes and textures of weird food such as sweetbreads (calves’ thymus glands), hasma (snow frogs’ovaries), eel’s liver and cow’s brains.

Still those are relatively tame compared to exotica such as bees, larvae, crocodile meat and fried insects that prolific food blogger Sidney Kan of BigBoysOven.com had devoured on some of his more bizarre food adventures.

Brain there, drunk that

According to Kan, he first tried deep-fried bees’ larvae at Restoran Lek Lek. He said the tiny grubs tasted like har mai (dried shrimps).

Lek Lek first started as a no-frills tai chow (big fry) stall dishing up reasonably priced, hearty Chinese dishes such as sweet and sour pork, braised pork knuckle, Hokkien mee and fried rice with petai (stink beans) but has since morphed into a double-storey air-conditioned eatery.

Goat’s tongue and oocyte come in a heavily spiced broth.

For my maiden visit, Kan managed to cajole Lek Lek’s resident chef into rustling up a Mad Hatter’s menu of pigs brains steamed in egg custard, double-boiled soup of seahorses, sea dragons, frogs, legs and Chinese herbs, braised terrapin’s paw, deep-fried teen gai or edible frogs’ skin, baked local escargots with cheese and red tilapia sashimi for dinner.

The curtain-raiser of pigs’ brains was custardy soft but the grey matter’s feral odour left me a tad queasy. Luckily, the red tilapia sashimi was more palatable; its firm, subtly crunchy texture was markedly different from the smooth succulence of other types of raw fish that I was more accustomed to.

In traditional Chinese medicine, dried seahorses and sea dragons double-boiled with Chinese herbs is an age-old medicinal tonic for liver detoxification and blood-cleansing. We sampled a similar broth at Lek Lek, except that it also had frogs’ legs in it. Despite my initial apprehension, the dark, murky brew’s herbal bitterness was muted by the frogs’ inherent sweetness. The seahorse tasted like a brittle, hollow twig with a chalky aftertaste.

Remaining parts of the frogs were then put to good use by the chef. Deep-fried and served with a scattering of chopped scallion, chilli and garlic dices, the skin could have passed off as crunchy fish crackers. The other boney parts were also deep-fried and doused in a treacle-black, caramelised sauce. Not exactly your everyday run-of-the-mill fare, but both dishes were surprisingly scrumptious.

Having undergone hours of braising, the imported, farm-bred terrapin was meltingly tender and deeply imbued with the piquant sauce that it was served in. You’d be fooled into thinking it was chicken if not for the thick, gelatinous skin on top that’s reminiscent of sea cucumber.

Chewier than their imported counterparts and stuffed with a heady mixture of minced garlic, shallots, chilli and cream, the local escargots hardly raised any eyebrows but we found them delicious nonetheless. If you’re game to try these offbeat specialities, do notify the restaurant in advance.


Double Boiled Seahorse and Sea dragon with Frogs Legs and Chinese Herbs.

Restoran Lek Lek, 12 Jalan PSK4, Pusat Perdagangan SK, Seri Kembangan, Selangor. Tel: 03-8941 3404

Crocodile rocks

After seeing photos of some fearsome crocodile dishes in her blog PureGlutton.com, I asked passionate food blogger Chris Wan for her take on this exotic meat.

Wan said, “I discovered that crocodile actually boasts a wide spectrum of textures and flavours. It all depends on the cooking methods and which part of the croc you’re eating. Personally, I found the stir-fried crocodile meat tasted remarkably like chicken fillet with a mild ‘crabby’ nuance. The braised crocodile claw’s slippery and spongy texture reminded me of chicken feet, whilst the chewy deep-fried crocodile tongue exuded a faint fishy flavour when you bite into it.”

She admitted that the croc is not something she would go out of her way to eat, but a novelty food item that she can now cross off from her must-try list.

Krocies, 40 Jalan SS2/10, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Tel: 03-7877 3229

In the soup

Come dusk, many urbanites will make a beeline for their fix of comforting chicken, beef and mutton soup for the soul at Sup Haji Abu Bakar. This open-air, sidewalk stall also doles out heavily spiced broths with a choice of ox’s and goat’s tongues, innards, tendons, oxtail, quail or oocyte (unfertilised egg). We were hoping to find sup torpedo (bull’s penis soup) on our visit, but apparently it is only available upon advance order.

In the end, we settled for the stall’s international soup; a generous bowl of soup with assorted chewy, gristly ‘spare parts’ that gave our jaws a good workout.

Sup Haji Abu Bakar, Jalan Doraisamy, Kuala Lumpur

Skin show

Apart from home-style Teochew fare such as red stewed duck, kuay chap (flat rice noodle squares in soya sauce-based gravy), omelette with chai poh (preserved vegetable) and sweet potato porridge, this little family-run restaurant serves some unusual gems that will leave you doing a double-take. These include garoupa skin that’s deep-fried to crisp perfection. Lightly dusted with salt and black pepper and best eaten with a tart, garlicky dip, you’d be addicted to the crunchy pieces in no time. The braised version has the slippery smooth slivers drenched in a thick, dark toffee-coloured sauce and is served sizzling hot in a cast-iron plate.

Traditionalists will be “ears-tatic” to know they can also satisfy their cravings for braised pig’s ears and intestines here.

Teochew Lao Er, 6 Jalan Brunei, Off Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-2141 5822

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