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Most exotic cuisine

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What is the most exotic cuisine you have ever had? For me it's Ethiopian.

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  1. Depends on what you mean by exotic. But I guess I'd have to say that the most esoteric cuisine I've eaten was Afghan food at a restaurant in Manhattan. I think the resto was called Pamir. Excellent food.

    1. For an American, I think Korean food is the most unusual. First off, they bring you about 12 dishes you didn't even order, and most of them are unidentifiable and pickled.

      I love it now, and I can't possibly count all the Korean meals I've had. But it really threw me for a loop the first time I stumbled into a place.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Steve

        Ethiopian food has flavors and textures are definitely pretty far removed from typical North American stuff. And if you sit on the floor and eat with your hands, the exotic factor goes up even more.

        And there are plenty of individual dishes from around the world that would raise eyebrows among the unadventurous. Offal in its many wonderful (and not-so-wonderful: no more spleen for me, please) forms, heads and feet and their constiutent parts, insects and their larvae, fruits that look (rambutan) or smell (durian) frightening. And then there's the one thing I just can't imagine trying - balut.

        But for a cuisine as a whole I have to agree with Steve and give the nod to Korean food. Never mind the pickled unidentifiable stuff, one of the banchan that's readily identified and not pickled is often a dish of whole small dried fish. Crunchy skulls, slightly bitter guts ... yep, Korean food is definitely up there.

        1. re: alanbarnes

          I stick with bulgogi.

          1. re: alanbarnes

            Toasted anchovies.
            Add the candied squid strips, and various other dried, toasted, candied, steamed, braised, or sauteed sea critters.

        2. It would have to be food from the Aztecs. I was at a conference in Monterrey and the organization flew in some famous chef from Mexico City who specialized in truly Aztec cuisine. The ingredients and flavors were truly a mystery to me - I never was able to figure out what some of the courses were. Fortunately, the tequila was flowing as well.

          1. There is a Tibetan restaurant in the neighborhood where I used to work, Manhattan's EV, and we stopped in for dinner one night. The food was an amazing amalgam of Indian style curries, dal and paratha, and Asian style noodle and momo dishes, all with a subtle Tibetan twist. Hijiki was on the menu as well.

            I have to say it opened my eyes, because to that point I was very limited in my understanding of Tibetan cuisine.

            I read recently that the Dalai Lama eats there when he visits the city, which was just about a week ago.

            3 Replies
            1. re: bushwickgirl

              Exoticism is somewhat subjective. We grew up regularly eating lamb brains, goat meat and bone marrow so my bar for exotic/strange is up there. Bland casseroles like macaroni and cheese would probably qualify as exotic to my family and heaven knows I was obssessed with soul food when I first encountered it because of how different it was, but if we are to stick with mainstream definitions, I think Tibetan is likely one of the rarer cuisines I've tried, though I wouldn't qualify it as "strange" or even new since it comes across as a mild amalgamation of Indian and Nepali. I've also had food from Xi'an province in China which has more in common with Central Asian food than it does with the more familiar mainstays of American Cantonese cooking. Fusion cuisines like Thai-Filipino or Pan-Latin-Indian are probably more exotic since they are more original creations.

              1. re: JungMann

                Do you mean Xinjiang province? Xi'an is a city in Shaanxi province.

                I agree on the subjectiveness of "exotic." A few days ago I commented on the CHOW story describing how to eat the "exotic artichoke." I grow them in my backyard and I live in the most populous state in the U.S.

                1. re: 512window

                  I apparently was combining the two in my head. I meant Xinjiang for the comparison I was making, although I've also had food from Shaanxi at a restaurant named Xi'an as well.

            2. some of the french dishes are so exotic for me. once i had a lunch at an upscale french restaurant where everything was written in french. i did not know what to order so i just pointed at the prix fixed lunch. i liked the first and maybe the second dishes but when it comes to the main course, i was like ??. it looked like a cutlet but so white and soft. i did not like the taste so i only ate maybe the half of it. then after a while when i took a french class, the teacher told us that it is common to eat brains in french!! she told that texture was a bit like tofu. then i realized that the strange food was a brain! i was shocked! but soon i thought if you kill the animals, you have to be thankful for them and should eat everything to show some respect. haha. but i do not want to eat brain again to be honest.

              1. The first time I went to a sushi bar was definitely the most exotic for me. Eveything was SO different fro what I was used to.

                1. I would have to say that the cuisines of Burma (Myanmar) are collectively the most "out there" for me. I have written about it, and once wrote that it was like eating Chinese, Indian, Thai and Indonesian food ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Tripeler

                    Dinner in Myanmar? I don't think even the Salahi's can crash that party....probably second to N. Korea for inaccessibility.

                    1. re: Tripeler

                      A friend of ours from Burma makes delicious food!!

                      1. re: BamiaWruz

                        A good place to be FROM.

                    2. Depends on definition of "exotic".

                      To a large extent, I think my answer is "American". Whenever I visit the States, I'm always surprised at some of the flavour combinations that are clearly very commonplace to American tastes but are so very different to what I'm used to in Europe. On the one hand, it's the way sweet is often used with savoury. On the other hand, it's what to me seems the mixing of cuisines or styles on the plate.

                      1. I used to travel to the Far East a lot on business. One trip found me in Taipei, Taiwan just before the Chinese New Year holiday and I was asked to attend a holiday 'banquet' for the workers at a small garment factory I used for some production. As a "VIP" I was given the choice of either eating the meal with the workers or toasting each one along with the factory management. I really love all kinds of Chinese cuisine...... BUT opted for the toasting when I saw that the meal was local, suburban Taipei food, and included (as is normal there) all the bones, organs, fins, heads and other parts of the fish and other animals served.

                        On reflection, it's possible I should have just tried to tough out the meal because the manager and I were required to toast with local beer (bottoms up, of course) when the workers were mostly younger women and were drinking a citrus drink. Later than night and the next day were not pleasant. ;o)))

                        1. Definitely American even though I was born and raised in the US. I grew up eating Chinese food in almost every meal. When i went to public school, I was shocked at how exotic the food was: raw vegetables, pizza, Sloppy Joes, Salisbury steak, cubed turkey and gravy, chocolate milk, cornbread, grilled cheese sandwiches, spaghetti and meatballs, mayonnaise, and rocky road ice cream.

                          Back then, I thought these dishes were far more exotic than shark fin soup, dim sum, duck feet, abalone, and chow mein.