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Jul 5, 2009 07:58 AM

my 13 year old seeks STRANGE FOOD

I'll be in San Diego between August 25-Sept. 1 & staying in Normal Heights at my sister's place. Aside from being a foodie & loving just about all types of food, I will have my 13-year along. He thinks he's seen & done it all in San Diego & his theme for this trip is STRANGE FOODS. Last trip he tried a kangaroo burger at Crazy Burger so this is a serious endevor.

I've been loking for festivals that involve food, taco trucks & other mobile food vendors. I'm planning on visiting several of the farmer's markets, they're always fun. So far, the Mariscos taco truck (which is very close to our home base) seems to be the best one around. Any other suggestions?

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  1. This post is on the wrong board and will get moved to the California board.

    How weird is weird. The mariscos taco truck seems to indicate that some Mexican food is exotic ... are we talking octopus at the truck? Has he had tacos from eyes. Beef soup with a cow hoof in it? Is menudo too tame?

    Near the wild animal farm in Escondido, there are a lot of ostrich farms. The stand closest to the park sells ostrich eggs, but you would need to make them at your sister's place. If you search Chowhound there are threads about cooking ostrich eggs.

    Here's an older thread discussing the ostrich eggs. Don't know if Fudruckers still make ostrich burgers as metioned.

    Don't know if it is still there, but if you get up to Escondido there is a great paleta shop that has Mexican popsicles in flavors unsusal to some.

    1. The Schaner family at the Little Italy Farmer's Market on Sat. sometime brings odd eggs-- we got a giant ostrick or emu egg (can't remember which) but you'd have to email ahead to see what they're bringing.

      3 Replies
      1. re: pickypicky

        How about sushi? Real sushi, not Americanized rolls. Uni (sea urchin), anago (sea eel) and its fried spinal column (ala Kaito-san), and ikura (salmon roe) are weird. Good, but weird.

        1. re: SDgirl

          If you go to Kaito, try Firefly Squid which he's been serving for a while now. Hotaur Ika or Firefly squid or Sparkling Enope squid are from the seas north of Japan and actually glow blue when alive ie bioluminescent. Unfortunately, they no longer glow when eaten (I think they're blanched in boiling water briefly), but they are darn tasty.

          1. re: thirtyeyes

            Agree about the Firefly squid - different and amazing and tasty.

            For pictures of the critters, see my post at KirkK's blog:


      2. Sounds like a cool kid.

        Let him have some fresh uni from little italy's farmers market.

        1. I for one would endorse sushi. Kaito is very good and has exotic stuff (though in Encinitas) but even Izakaya Sakura would have some good things he probably has never encountered.

          Also Ba Ren has authentic Sichuan cuisine; some items fiery, but also authentic and unusual stuff like sliced pig ears. Again, food like this is unavailable in much of the country.

          Has he had banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches)? Good and very different. Or bun bo hue - spicy beef noodle soup with pork hock and pork blood. In general, SD has a lot of authentic (and affordable) Vietnamese.

          Or Sab E Lee for real Thai or Sang Dao or Asia Cafe for Lao cuisine.

          I would suggest that you look through some of the entries at KirkK's blog - - which has a generally good focus on Asian and other cuisines in SD.

          26 Replies
          1. re: Ed Dibble

            >>Or Sab E Lee for real Thai or Sang Dao or Asia Cafe for Lao cuisine.

            "Sab E Lee" is actually a Lao phrase for "really delicious" or "really tasty"...the Thai phrase is "Arroy Mak". =) So Sab E Lee is actually a restaurant that specializes in Lao (aka Issan) cuisine.

            Anyway I don't live in San Diego anymore, but for real Thai cuisine they should look for restaurants that don't offer dishes from northern and northeastern regions of Thailand. Real Thai cuisine tends to refer to the mixture of dishes from the central Thai region, which I believe is highly influenced by Chinese, Malay, and Khmer cuisine. Since Sab E Lee is geared towards Lao cuisine, do you have any other suggestions for real Thai cuisine? I can't really suggest anything for the OP because I don't live in San Diego.

            1. re: yummyrice

              I stand corrected.

              I guess what I meant about Sab E Lee is that it often presents a different approach than many standard Thai restaurants, and some dishes there would certainly qualify as strange. My guess is that an adventurous 13 year old would already have had more standard Thai food. Plus, I wouldn't know which other Thai place to recommend.

              1. re: yummyrice

                yummyrice, there is no better Thai in SD at the moment, so Sab E Lee it is, regardless of whether it's Northern or Central. Even if you want to debate the "authenticity" of Sab E Lee's Thai food, what they do, they do very well and without the oversweeteness, unbalanced spiciness and/or Americanized versions of all the other Thai places in town.

                1. re: daantaat

                  I don't live in SD so I'll just take your word for it that the Thai restaurants in SD aren't as good as other Thai places in other cities. Anyway, the reason why Sab E Lee is not overly sweet like other Thai restaurants is because the cuisine is not actually Thai cuisine. There's some overlap between Lao cuisine and Thai cuisine especially when dealing with dishes of Chinese and Indian origins. The Thai versions of those dishes tend to be overly sweet, whereas the Lao versions are less sweet. Since "Sab E Lee" is a Lao phrase and a restaurant that serves Lao/Issan dishes, it makes sense why the dishes there don't have the typical "oversweetness" that's common at many Thai restaurants.

                  I just thought it would make more sense to use a different Thai restaurant in your area as an example.of real Thai food, because Sab E Lee is obviously not authentic Thai food...or even Thai at all especially based on the name of the restaurant. For a real Thai restaurant, I would expect the restaurant to be named "Arroy Mak" (Thai phrase), not "Sab E Lee" (Lao phrase). =)

                  I was just informing ED in case he wanted to suggest a different restaurant that was more representative of "real" Thai food.

                    1. re: yummyrice

                      so all your comments are based on the name of the place, but not actually the food?

                      1. re: dongstadden

                        Those of us that follow yummyrice's posts know that she/he doest knoweth of which they speaketh. (did I just type that out loud?)

                        1. re: dongstadden

                          LOL! Well I'm just using common sense. Referring to "Sab E Lee" as an authentic Thai restaurant is like referring to a restaurant called "Hen Hao Chi" or "Ho Sek" as an authentic Japanese restaurant. Why?

                          Because "Hen Hao Chi" or "Ho Sek" means delicious in Chinese (mandarin/cantonese), not Japanese. "Sab E Lee" or "Sab Lai Lai" means really/very delicious in Lao, whereas "Arroy Mak" means very delicious in Thai. So I highly doubt that a restaurant named "Sab E Lee" (Lao phrase) would be an authentic Thai restaurant. Similarly, that's like referring to a restaurant called "Sarap" (Filipino for delicious) as an authentic Lao restaurant. There's just no connection there. Besides, from what I've read so far the dishes at Sab E Lee are neither overly sweet nor heavy on coconut milk, which is typical of Lao (Issan) cuisine.

                          Just so you don't think I'm making this stuff up as far as the name is concerned, I just did a quick google search and found this site:

                          Different ways to say delicious in SE Asia:

                          -"Saep", "Sab", "Zaap" are different transliterations of the same Lao word for delicious.
                          -"Aroi" and "Arroy" are also different transliterations of the same Thai word for delicious.

                          1. re: yummyrice

                            yo seriously, 20 million Lao speakers live in Thailand. To continue your language analogy, it's more like saying the cuisine of Quebec isn't Canadian. The dudes that run this place are Thai, just from a minority group.

                            Much more important than any sort of "authenticity," the food at Sab-e-lee is inexpensive and very good.

                            But thanks for the linguistics lesson.

                  1. re: Ed Dibble

                    Izakaya Sakura is a great call EFY! Tell the little foodie in training that the shiokara, fermented squid guts (also can be read "rotting" squid guts) will bring him to his knees.

                    1. re: Captain Jack

                      I'm just curious...have you tried it, how long ago and how was it? Sake or beer to go with it?

                      1. re: Sampaguita

                        I have indeed, most recently about two months ago. It is salty, mildly bitter, but mildly sweet too, with some other odd flavors that defy description. It is just some real unusual sh*t. It has a super funky, rotten smell as well that put more than one of my dining companions off. The best thing about ordering it at Sakura is it buys a white boy like me serious street cred with the Japanese staff, and clientel. Order it early on, eat it up without hesitation like it's the best damn stuff in the world, and you will be welcomed into the fold as if you were one of their own.

                        1. re: Captain Jack

                          Thank you Cap'n! Fascinating stuff... (btw, i tried to tap on your blog and the address won't show.)

                          1. re: Captain Jack

                            I actually love the shiokara at Sakura. I had had it elsewhere previously, so I wasn't surprised by the weirdness of it; I was surprised by how excellent Sakura's version is. It is made on premises and has an odd pinkish hue, but the complex funkiness and the contrast between the goop and the chewy squid slices is outstanding. For me that dish and tako wasabi (raw octopus with real wasabi bits) are real treats (among many at Sakura).

                            For my street cred, I ordered natto - if you like slimy stuff, have it combined with okra. Now that's weird.

                            1. re: Ed Dibble

                              Excellent description of Sakura's shiokara Ed. I love your statement "complex funkiness," and "contrast between the goop and the chewy squid."

                              Leave it to you to ratchet the street cred ordering factor up a notch. Natto it is from now on lol!

                              1. re: Ed Dibble

                                Ed, have you had Morita-san's natto w/ okra and other goodies at Kaito? The way he makes it, the whole thing is not too slimy. If anything, he adds enough crunchy stuff to offset the sliminess from the natto and raw okra. After I ate it, I've become a believer in natto again!

                                1. re: daantaat

                                  Actually no. So far, Morita-san has served me nothing but sashimi/sushi - but then I've not asked about other dishes. Maybe next time I can get some non-seafood dishes.

                                  Kazu at Sakura always serves me cooked dishes, but then that place is an izakaya.

                                  1. re: Ed Dibble

                                    I'm blanking on the Japanese name for it, but it's a "salad" of natto, sliced okra, gobo root, pickled daikon, sliced octopus and other crunchy stuff. If you describe it to Morita-san, he'll know what you're talking about.

                                    1. re: daantaat

                                      Went to Kaito last night for our second time. Every bit as amazing as the first visit. Remembering your post, we asked him for the natto. He prepared it with the octopus, gobo, tuna, green onion, lemon, and nori.

                                      Kaito has ruined me for other sushi.

                                      1. re: Josh

                                        yes, that's it! What did you think of the natto?

                                        Kaito has ruined us too....

                                        1. re: daantaat

                                          I certainly enjoyed it more than straight natto. I think I'd have liked it more with an appropriate beverage pairing. It's very strong-smelling.

                                          I seriously don't go to sushi any more. It's just not worth it to spend the money and have anything lesser.

                                          1. re: Josh

                                            That and for sustainability reasons? I'd think that with your refusal to eat CAFO meats you'd also set the same standards for seafood which is arguably a worse situation.

                                            1. re: DougOLis

                                              Typically with seafood I do take this approach, actually. Sushi is probably the one exception to the rule, but then I eat it very infrequently. The last time I ate at Kaito was in October of last year. When I buy fish, though, I use a seafood guide to check out what I'm buying. I always ask origins of seafood in restaurants, even though it makes me a pain in the ass. What's funny is that Whole Foods' fish counter is almost entirely bad in that regard. I think the farmed tilapia and trout are the most reliably sustainable options they sell.

                                              1. re: Josh

                                                Good deal and I'm glad to hear that. I really hope seafood does start getting as much attention as the land based foods because we could soon find ourselves in an irrecoverable situation with more and more species extinct (than already have).

                                                1. re: DougOLis

                                                  I recently read a sobering article about just how overfished the oceans are. Depressing.

                                            2. re: Josh

                                              Yes, I definitely liked it better than straight natto, or the natto roll that I choked down nearly 15 years ago!

                        2. Doesn't Aqui es Texcoco serve lamb's head (eyeballs and brains included)? That would certainly fit the bill.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: jmtreg

                            They do indeed, and the huitlacoche tacos are awesome too. Tell the little dude he has not lived until he has tried corn fungus (aka corn smut).

                            1. re: Captain Jack

                              I second the huitlacoche but I had it on their quesodilla.

                              1. re: oerdin

                                Sorry, yes it is the quesadilla, not the taco.