A dead rat floats in a bowl in front of me. «The locals eat everything, brain, liver, tongue, heart and skin”, the waitress informs before starting to dissect and arrange the intestines on the plate. Unfortunately, it was not a rat. My philosophy to always try local delicacies should be put on it’s toughest test in Palau. 

Palau March 13, 2014 (PICTURE OF ARRANGED PLATE AT THE BOTTOM) 

Diving brought me to Palau, a small island nation in the Pacific Ocean, which is considered the world’s best diving destination. After several wonderful days in Neptune’s kingdom I was curious what the local cuisine could offer.

A local delicacy stood out, namely coconut crab. It lives of coconuts which gives the meat a distinctive coconut flavor, like parmesan adds flavor to the parma ham. Brilliant!

Local snake whisky in North-Korea. Really an acquired taste

Local snake whisky in North-Korea. Really an acquired taste

We’re sold out of coconut crab, but …
Later in the evening I was standing outside the restaurant Dragon Tei, recommended by locals. An old building decorated with red banners with Japanese letters on and christmas lights in the ceiling. Fortunately, the impression improved on the inside, which resembled a busy sushi restaurant in Roppongi, Tokyo.

Japanese and Western groups had occupied several long tables and in corners some couples sat. A good sign.

My waiter for the evening was Philippine Aflor, a friendly and knowledgeable lady, who had moved here eight years ago.

– We are unfortunately sold out of coconut crabs, informed Aflor. But we have another local delicacy, which the locals eat every holiday. We have bats, said Aflor smiling. After some thinking, I manned up and ordered fruit bat pie and a Budweiser. I had eaten bats before and it was surprisingly good.

Bat in curry ala the Seychelles. Amazing!

Bat in curry ala the Seychelles. Amazing!

At the Seychelles the chef had skinned, cleaned and cut up a large fruit bat, before it was cooked to perfection in an Indian inspired curry. Amazing!

Is this a a bad joke
An hour later, a smiling Aflor came with a bowl, which was carefully placed in front of me. It was covered by a thin bread dough, which prevented visual access .

To make the experience even more memorable Aflor brought a raw bat from the kitchen and put it next to the bowl in honor of the guest. It measured approx. 35-40 cm from wing tip to wing tip . Then she removes the bread layer and the main course glittered in all its glory .

– Is this a bad joke, was the first thing that struck me. In front of me was something resembling a drowned rat in a bowl of washing water. Black, hairy critter with white fangs and lots of skin. Huge amount of skin .

The bat was still whole and intact, the skin did not seem to have been affected by the heat and the over-cooked root vegetables floating randomly in the yellow broth did not make it more appetizing .

Macabre memories from the childhood biology courses
– The locals eat normally everything, brain, liver, tongue, heart and skin. But the skin can taste a little strange because of all the hair, says Aflor and says that the bat is cooked whole over low heat, with skin, hair and entrails .

Guinea pig in Peru. Mild and tender and resembles suckling pig. Actually an amazing ingredient

Guinea pig in Peru. Mild and tender and resembles suckling pig. Actually an amazing ingredient

While she smalltalks she starts to dissect the animal, removes wings, skin and bones, separates the meat and scatters the entrails nicely on the plate. The heart, brain, liver, kidneys, tongue and skin.

Memories from biology class in early childhood came creeping, where we massacred frogs. It was biology and not home economics.

Things to NOT think about
After the massacre Aflor leaves the crime scene and I sat bewildered and considered my options. «Should I stay or should I go» would have been nice background music. After a while I make a decision.  This will NOT be the first time I back out of a meal.

I had, after all, eaten juicy caterpillars and lemon ants in the Amazon, scorpions and cockroaches in Thailand, toxic Japanese blow fish (fugu), guinea pig in Peru, live octopus in Korea, camel hump, crocodile and all I had come across on my travels. But the temptation had never been greater.

Juicy caterpillar in Amazonas. Not recommended raw, but roasted they taste almost like bacon.

Juicy caterpillar in Amazonas. Not recommended raw, but roasted they taste almost like bacon.

I tried, without success, to not think about if the bat had a full rectum when he ended his days, or if those flying rats normally have ticks.

I began to taste the broth, then the meat before the taste buds explored the heart, liver, brain, tongue and so on. Fully understand if women define me un-kissable from now on and to eternity.

You eat a meal three times
Heston Blumenthal, one of the world’s top chefs and leading expert in molecular gastronomy, used to serve his legendary seafood dishes on a bed of seaweed and dry ice to the sound of the murmur of the sea in the background at The Fat Duck, previously ranked as the world’s best restaurant. The perfect interaction between all the senses.

It is said in those circles that you eat a meal three times, with your eyes, nose and mouth.

Everything does not taste like chicken
Culinary amateurs claim that all strange meat taste like chicken, like alligator, frogs, guinea pigs and…….bats. I don’t want to know where they buy their chicken.

Live octopus in Korea. Chew quickly because a tentacle the wrong place and suffocate you. Not recommended!

Live octopus in Korea. Chew quickly because a tentacle the wrong place and suffocate you. Not recommended!

The intestines tasted somewhat similar to those of poultry. The tongue tasted surprisingly similar to tongue of cattle. The meat had a strong game flavor, a slight cod oil taste that you typically find in some grouse or hare. Had the meat been served as game, I would have reacted to the game flavor, politely thanked for the meal and probably not order it again.

The bat was cooked with carrots, celery and onions, so it smelled like a mediocre vegetable broth. Gordon Ramsey would have cried scandal, but for the rest of us mortals, it was pretty harmless in other words.

Unfortunately, one sense remained
It is tempting to stop here and still encourage to always try local delicacies, but sometimes the lie is too great to bear. One sense remains. One poor little sense .

A regular camera has 12 megapixels , while the human eye is equipped with 576 megapixels . What looked like a drowned rat in a bowl of dishwashing water burned into the retina. It was impossible to distance the view from the other senses. A dissected bat with the entrails scattered on the plate did not either give the eyes something to rest on .

Bat itself can evoke particular associations, but the way it was cooked and served made the ordeal macabre. Despite having pursued good, bad and bizarre dishes in approximately 100 countries so far, the judgment was crystal clear: It is the least appetizing dish I’ve ever seen or eaten. My strongest candidate as the world’s most disgusting dish and that says a lot .

The only thing I see that could compete for the title is Kiviaq (hundreds of birds stuffed inside a sealed sealskin and fermented for 18 months, Greenland) and Casu Marzu (pecorino cheese fermented so long that it becomes a nest full of maggots.  A specialty of Sardinia, but now illegal in Italy)

The bat ready for dissection and the wings are nicely placed under the body. Delicate!

The bat ready for dissection and the wings are nicely placed under the body. Delicate!

A teenager’s confession gives food for thoughts
After complementing Alfor for a great service and tipping generously in case I had not managed to disguise my fear and disgust during the meal, I wandered out into the darkness .

In my wildest imagination I could not understand how the locals could enjoy this or if it was a cruel joke they pulled tourists. Aflor and her colleagues were probably on the floor squirming in laughter now.

Norwegian smalahove aka burned mutton head

Norwegian smalahove aka burned mutton head

At the petrol station I got into conversation with a local. He was a young boy of 15-16 years and I described my dinner. «Ah, that’s so incredibly good and the skin is best,» he said with dreamy eyes and despite the darkness, I’m sure he got water in his mouth.

His physiological reaction sat the meal in a different perspective. As I wandered on I start to philosophize about how foreigns react to smalahove or lutfisk . Or Norwegians in the 70s if served sushi, different raw fish scattered around in a black, salty bean sauce with green hartshorn dough.

Back at the hotel I felt more like a pioneer. Then I remembered something the Chinese divers told the day before. Outside the hills in Guangzhou, China’s culinary capital, lived mountain rats. Not dirty city rats, but big, juicy mountain rats. They were considered a delicacy and often served grilled with black beans. 1.4 billion Chinese can be wrong ?

Bon Appetite!

Arranged bat and entrails BEFORE the meal starts. The picture is not blurred, the bat has a lot of gel mass and fat

Arranged bat and entrails BEFORE the meal starts. The picture is not blurry, the bat has a lot of gel and fat