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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. schanerfarms@aol.com

      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.

                          2. Latin Chef in Pacific Beach serves anticuchos, (grilled beef heart), if that would be considered strange for you. It has generally gotten favorable reviews on the board, although I have not made it there.

                            1. El Tejate (or their swap meet stall) in Escondido can come up with some nice grasshoppers (chapulines). Very tasty, and their other dishes are, too.

                              1. Strange can be such a wide range however going along with the Sushi trend, one of the most eye catching things i've seen was the "lobster surprise" at Surfside Sushi in PB (though I doubt it's uncommon at other places as Surfside isn't exactly setting precedence for new foods). In short...the Lobster Surprise (as best I could figure out) is Live lobster, i which you eat the fresh meat from the Tail (the lobster is in fact alive on the plate).

                                I thought it intriguing and I'd imagine a 13 year old would find it "strange".

                                For most 13 year olds might find Duck taco's strange (Sammy's woodfired Grill) though for your son this may simply be run of the mill...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: csils

                                  I had something similar in Japan, only it was a live shrimp not a lobster. My cousins had taken us out to a resort whose various restaurants competed to serve the freshest seafood. How much fresher can you get than alive? One of the offerings was a single shrimp per person, served intact because it was, yes, still alive. I couldn't decline without insulting my hosts so I had to pick the creature up, peel it as it flapped madly to get away (shrimp are surprisingly strong), then eat it, which took several bites because it was a very large shrimp. Live meat twitches as you chew it; I don't know whether that counts as "strange" or "disturbed."

                                2. Escamoles are ant larva and they are a traditional food in Southern Mexico plus there is even a restaurant serving them, Cien Anos, in TJ. Tacos El Gordo serves all types of tacos traditionally served in Mexico but which are not normally found this side of the border; things like cow's eyeball, cow cheek, cow's tongue, etc... Some of them are actually pretty good too.

                                  Some of the more authentic Thai restaurants might also sell things like fried grasshoppers or scorpinians but I've only had that in Thailand and not in the US.

                                  1. I have to jump on the "what do you mean by strange" boat....

                                    Do you mean just different from what the typical American eats?
                                    Or stuff like Sannakji - live octopus?
                                    Which you can get at Walmido
                                    You can get Bondegi - silkworm pupae in a soup at Korean Homestyle Restaurant.

                                    Intestines cooked in various ways can be found all over San Diego.
                                    Raw beef in various forms as well.
                                    Huitlacoche...."corn smut" is served at El Borrego.
                                    There's lots of good, interesting, perhaps strange to some eats in San Diego.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: KirkK

                                      Good point. Heck, I don't think I'd tried tendon (at least not in such large chunks) before I tried Bò Kho, and that dish is now one of my favorites.

                                      1. re: KirkK

                                        "Raw beef in various forms as well."

                                        Where do you recommend?

                                        1. re: stevewag23

                                          I really enjoy the Koi Soi (Koi Nua) at Sab E Lee and thought the Kitfo at Asmara was good, though on the rich side.


                                          1. re: KirkK

                                            I'll second the Koi Soi at SEL, but watch out if you order it Issan style, it almost melted my socks off!

                                            Sup Kirk? I recall you mentioning you did not think it was all that incendiary, but as I know all too well, your mouth, esophogus, and stomach are lined with asbestos.

                                            1. re: Captain Jack

                                              Hey CJ - The spiciest item I had at Sab E Lee was the Naked Shrimp......hmmm...I guess being raw shrimp it's kinda strange. I went for lunch with some friends who are Lao, so everything was Lao Spicy. If Spinal Tap's amp went to 11 these were a twelve.

                                              If you want a combination of raw beef with offal, you can get the Raw Beef "Dip" from Sang Dao. They still refuse to make it spicy for me though.

                                              The responses to this post has just confimed that there's a hidden thirteen year old in each of us.

                                            2. re: KirkK

                                              Third to the koi soi - order it at a 10 and you'll be glad you did!

                                        2. 2nd Marisco's truck, always excellent. How about a bison burger at Cowboy Star. Nice to see a young person flexing their taste buds.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: cstr

                                            Thanks for all the great suggestions. My son is reading all the replies to this post & wants to try them ALL!

                                            My sister's a vegetarian &, while I consider myself an adventurous eater, the grasshoppers & pupae are definitely not on my agenda (& maybe not the fermented squid either.) We are definitely going to try as many as we can. The little foodie is looking forward to bragging rights with all his friends.

                                            1. re: pgsmama

                                              I'd stay away from the grasshoppers. Often they are smuggled across the border and contain lead.

                                              1. re: pgsmama

                                                Yeah, if he hits a few of these he will be undisputed champ of the school.

                                                1. re: stevewag23

                                                  Get some of that Firecracker Candy from Chuao Chocolatier. THey carry it at Extraordinary Desserts downtown as well as thier regular locations. It's chocolate with poprocks mixed in, spicy too. Weird, interesting and fun!

                                            2. Another place you might consider is Noodle Town in Kearny Mesa. They do a baby octopus bulgogi that's really tasty, and looks really freaky. The octopus heads pop when you bite into them.

                                              Here's a pic:

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Josh

                                                That looks REALLY yummy! Is it spicy?

                                                1. re: pgsmama

                                                  I didn't find it to be that spicy.

                                              2. I was just at BullTaco in the san elijo camp ground in cardiff. I had bull testicles, frog legs, and chicken heart tacos. All were great but I wasn't a fan of the texture of the bull testicles.

                                                1. Any suggestions for places to go for game?

                                                  1. Try Mad Dogs Cafe a new place in Pacific Beach just by the Boardwalk a couple of doors from the (yucky) Hennessy's) Not really to strange but a different way of doing the old Hot Dog. They bake the bread daily and instead of splitting the bun they impale it on a hot spike which toasts it from the inside. Then you select one of several freshly grilled real sausages and slide it into the whole with your choice of sauces--try the spicy Mad Dogs sauce. So you eat a hot dog with one hand like a burrito. Take it for a walk on the Boardwalk. They also have fresh made potato chips, gelato, real lemonade. Not really gourmet but great beach food.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: exbrit1

                                                      sounds good to me, I love hot dogs & sausages

                                                    2. In case you and your spouse want to eat...and are not crazy about insect life as a meal...take the kid to a ball game at Petco park. Menu ranges from the usual burgers and dogs to sushi and (for the grown ups) a respectable margarita.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: gleewms

                                                        Padres are definitely on the agenda. No spouse, only me & my sister (who is a vegetarian). While I will not indulge in the insect meals, most of the other stuff you guys are coming up with sounds great to me! I'm really looking forward to trying as many as we can.

                                                      2. The Linkery has Kentucky Fried Buches (chicken necks) now. http://thelinkery.com/blog/kentucky-f...

                                                        1. Thanks so much for all the great suggestions. My boy is so thrilled with all of these amazing options! We're counding the days now till August 25th. Here's what we're planning on doing:

                                                          - Little Italy farmers market for uni (& maybe ostrich eggs) & also Hillcrest market
                                                          - Aqui Es Texcoco for lamb's head WITH eyeballs & brains please & huitlacoche (This is his TOP CHOICE)
                                                          - Marisocs German taco truck
                                                          - Sab E Lee (so many great sounding dishes)
                                                          - banh mi (maybe K Sandwich, maybe other) - if we can't manage a visit we'll get sandwiches for the plane trip home
                                                          - Sammy's Woodfire Grill for duck tacos
                                                          - Chuao Chocolatier for firecracker candy
                                                          - The Linkery (for whatever oddities he may find)
                                                          - Viva Pops in Normal Heights for paletas
                                                          - Mad Dogs Cafe for the great sounding beach food
                                                          - Pomegranate (any suggestions for odd things there?)

                                                          He's also got to go back to Crazy Burger cause he wants to try the alligator, ostrich, venison & crab burgers. We don't have time to visit them so many times. Does anyone know if they have a selection of sliders?

                                                          Where is Walmido (live octopus?)

                                                          Also, we're going to be in Escondido for an afternoon at the Mingei & I found a Vallarta Supermarket which sounds great & has lots of options for lunch. Any other suggestions in Escondido?

                                                          How is the restaurant at Torrey Pines glider port? Is it worth having lunch there or should we bring a picnic? I want to relax & watch the paragliders jump off the cliff & see the sun go down.

                                                          My son would absolutely LOVE to try Kaito in Encinitas but I don't think we'll be able to get there this time. Also not likely to get to Izakaya Sakura although he's very anxious to try the fermented squid guts. Likewise for the baby octopus bulgogi @ Noodle Town which looked delicious. Guess we'll have to save some of these for next year.

                                                          I drew the line at the insect life. He wanted to try the grasshoppers, scorpions & silk worm pupae, but that kind of grosses me out.

                                                          Any other suggestions will be greatly appreciated. We'll let you know how much we enjoyed all these great places once we've tried them.

                                                          My sister (the vegetarian) thinks we're going to do nothing but eat this week!

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: pgsmama

                                                            It has been a few years since I've lived near Escondido, but I still mourn not having a supermarket as great as El Tigre near me. Next door to it is my favorite paleta maker ever with all sorts of strange and wonderful flavors. Here's a post that briefly mentions them and a Oaxacan bakery

                                                            1. re: pgsmama

                                                              One caveat: make sure you get to Aqui es Texcoco EARLY if you want the head. That sells out really quickly. I believe we went at 10am to make sure we got it.

                                                              1. re: Josh

                                                                Cocina de Maria on Mission in Escondido is a great little Mexican place. Nothing strange I don't think, but darn good food.

                                                                La Cocina De Maria
                                                                168 W Mission Ave, Escondido, CA 92025

                                                                1. re: Josh

                                                                  Thanks for that heads up! We don't want to miss that.

                                                              2. How is your stay going?
                                                                We'd like to hear what your son has enjoyed, preferably in his own words.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Tripeler

                                                                  hi, we're having a fabulous time & eating in as many places as we can. Briefly, we've been to Noodle Town in Kearney Mesa for the spicy baby octopus bulgogi, sab e lee last night (WOW that was great!), mariscos tacos, having lots of Viva popsicles. Really hoping to get to Aqui es Texcoco...does anyone know if they're open on Mondays? Crazy Burger is on the agenda to the boy can get his for his gator or ostrich or other burger fix. Tonight might be the Russian place (Pomegranate). We'll have to see what else we can squeeze in. My sister's being great about this food adventure, she just watched us eat at Noodle Town & had a fruit salad when we got home. Today we're off to Belmont Park with 4 13-year olds, so don't know what we'll find there.

                                                                  We'll be sure to check back in & give you more details. We've also been taking pictures of everything too, so the memories will linger on.

                                                                  1. re: pgsmama

                                                                    Aqui es Texcoco is open daily.