Help me find weird food [Raleigh, NC]
It seems I can't get enough strange food. Well, not strange, but not typically enjoyed by most Americans. I'm a big fan of sardines and most any tinned fish, limburger cheese and onion sandwiches, blood sausage, beef tongue you name it. By the way, if you haven't had beef tongue, you have no idea what you're missing. If it's pungent or strongly flavored, I'll probably enjoy it.
My problem is that no one else (that I know) seems to have similar tastes. Certainly not my wife, though she has no qualms about what I choose to eat. Anyways, it's difficult to receive recommendations for places for find new foods. On my short list are tripe, haggis, kidneys, lungs, cock's combs, and durian. So, I've come to this forum for recommendations from folks who aren't afraid of a silkworm pupae or chicken foot. Where can I find some good weird food around the triangle?
My friend Kelly is like you. She always gets the weirdest thing on the menu. Bubble tea, beef cheeks, whatever. We had jellyfish dim sum at Grand Asia in Cary (chewy, but surprisingly ok), and there was no shortage of weird stuff and teas to pick from. This is a good way to try lots of different stuff, just keep grabbing small plates off the carts. Always a bonus if you walk in and YOU are the foreigner.
One place you might want to check out is Asian Grill in North Raleigh on Falls of Neuse. I am looking at their menu now contemplating takeout and they have hot and spicy tripe, fish heads casserole, pork knucles, and 2 sea cucumber dishes. They also have a vegetarian dish called "Loofah with gluten" which sounds like some type of bath product to me. Not sure what it is and haven't asked, but may also fulfill the weird food jonesing. I can't vouch for any of those particular dishes, but the more tame Shanghai style dishes that I have tried have been quite good, so far.
The usual suspects as suggested by everyone else are all good ideas... I will also recommend checking out Foodlion, especially stores in areas with large immigrant populations. Foodlion is pretty good as adjusting inventory to match their clientele. The store in my neighborhood has an impressive selection of products from Central and South America, plus lots of offal and harder to find cuts of meat. I'm also seeing more and more things from the Caribbean.
Strange foods, from your post, I'm not exactly sure if you want to cook them or find a restaurant serving them so I will follow the lead of other posters and offer what I know about both.
beef tongue can be excellent. People often don't know but Japanese restaurants often have it on a traditional menu. Yamazushi has a great offering and they are located on Hope Valley Rd. As well, try some of their other items from their japanese menu, particularly if you like pungent and strongly flavored try the natto. It is a fermented soybean and one of my favorites.
In the asian vein, China Gourmet in Carboro will have a variety of new things to try but again to be found on their Chinese menu. The lotus root is delicious but probably not as interesting as the pigs ear. I haven't been in a while but am sure they have other items as well.
As well, Hong Kong House in Durham on Guess Rd has chicken feet in black bean sauce on weekend dim sums.
For Korean, try Vit Goal Tofu near 54 and I-40 towards Apex. They have a nice assortment of soups and dishes and not just tofu. One of their soups is fantastic, especially with the weather cooling. For a different flavor as well, try the traditional Korean wheat tea.
Vietnamese can also having some interesting cuts or dishes. I've enjoyed Kim Son but know their reviews have been various.
More towards north America, most mexican taco trucks or restaurants will have menudo and/or goat. La Vaquita is a stellar one and often has both. Again, following the pungent and strongly flavored theme, I would try a mole(pronounced molay) at some point.
Also, The Pig in Chapel Hill has a nice pork belly sandwich.
In a European vein, Vin Rouge usually has an offal offering of some sort on the menu, perhaps always. I know their sweetbreads have been some of my favorite in the area.
As well, Bonne Soiree, albeit a different level of dining, often has pigs foot, sweetbreads, and other offal items and always has a pate on offer.
If you are open to limburger, have you tried an epoisses? If not, find one at Southern Season or WF that has some age on it and is becoming really soft in the middle. They are delish! Pair with a nice little burgundy and a baguette for a real treat. Other older cheese might also fit the bill.
I've noticed a new German brat place on 15/501 just north of I-40. If they are traditional, they should have some blood sausage and other wurst.
For groceries, many of the Asian and Mexican markets will have a variety of items and cuts of meat that should provide some culinary adventure. Grand Asia definitely has a broad range. In this, or at a restaurant, black bean sauce is one of my favorite flavorings. You can do pork, fish, shellfish or vegetables with it, order in a restaurant as well.
Med Deli in Chapel Hill also has a variety of items to stretch the taste buds. Their muhamara is delicious and rich as are other items on the menu. And their rose tea is a great treat as well. they also have a case with some haloumi chees and biryani meat. Both of these are delish and offer some savory richness. The haloumi is great fried in a pan and the bryani on a pita (house made here) or in scrambled eggs is great.
Also, for sausages and Polish items, try Halgo's.
Halgo European Deli & Groceries 4520 South Alston Avenue Durham, NC 27713 (919) 321-2014
So, that is most that I can think of now. Hope they help. Have fun and pass along any new findings.
2107 Allendown Dr Ste 101, Durham, NC 27713
2010 Hillsborough Rd., Durham, NC 27705
Kim Son Restaurant
2425 Guess Rd, Durham, NC 27705
Bonne Soiree Restaurant
431 W Franklin St Ste 10, Chapel Hill, NC 27516
I had a lovely goat ragu over house made pasta last time I was there. First rate. Between that and the Sax Gen Store's goat burger I'm at a point where I'll take goat or lamb over beef from most places.
And, pulling it back to the taco trucks, the borrego (barbequed lamb) that the one in Carrboro at Johnny's on Main St. has on the weekends is amazing. Fatty and drippy and falling apart tender. They put it in tacos, tortas, etc. and also sell "consome de borrego" that smelled great.
Not sure how unusual the cuts will be, but Capital Club 16 in Raleigh will be having game offerings the week of 11/29. Boar, rabbit and venison will be featured in nightly specials.
This doesn't show on their website yet - I'm on the mailing list and received notice.
Canned sardines (which I don't think are weird at all, but I suppose everyone is different) are available all over the place. I know that Trader Joes has something like 4 varieties. I'm guessing Southern Season (In Chapel Hill) can supply you with limburger if WFs doesn't have it. And Cliff's in Carrboro should be able to get at least some of the meat items you've mentioned, and if not, give WFs a call. I've had them special order things like smoked haddock for me in the past, and they've been very helpful. Another idea is to try some of the farmers at the farmers markets - if you ask one week you might just be able to get it then following week. Haven't seen durian around, but you might try Asia Market in Cary.
Funny timing on this thread. I just added salt to the 2 beef tongues that I'm curing, prior to cooking, smoking, and slicing. I bought these at Cliff's the other day.
LulusMom is right about Grand Asia. Go there and prepare to have your mind blown. They sell every cut imaginable. You will not leave disappointed. In general, any large ethnic market will carry items of interest to you. Also, the dim sum place in Morrisville has chicken feet on the menu.
If you like to cook, check out the cookbook, "Nose to Tail Cooking" by Fergus Henderson.
Farmers may not bring the offal to the market regularly. If you contact them ahead of time by email, you'll likely find what you want.
I've tried durian and I am not a convert. The fruit is available a few places in the Triangle. Many Asian market specialize in Southeast Asian foods and the spiky durian are hard to miss.
re: Tom from Raleigh
I was nosing around the freezer at WF in CH (looking for venison w/o success) and saw that they had bone-in goat leg and veal sweetbreads. Have to come up with something for those. And wasn't there a chitterlings thread on the old South board?
Also, there's folks selling Bison meat at C'boro Farmers' Market and they will get you kidneys, livers, tongues (very nice), and "oysters" if that melts your butter. Chicken feet are definitely for sale there too, although I've only used them for stock. I'll leave the prepping of other chicken foot dishes to the pros.