Alien 4: Mastication

This, from an entry in my hand journal whilst still in Thailand.  It was a writer’s holiday and I like it, so I’m sharing.

15 February, 2009:

This must be the weirdest thing I’ve ever eaten — and and a little Thai girl just coughed on it.  If I saw this alive, I would SHIT myself.  Its topside is sleek, beautiful, sinister, a deep and shiny, unadorned and symmetrical black that hovers in the shape of a mothership, its hard shell popping up in two nearly invisible, evil eyes, slight and pliant gems set amidst the uniform skull.  On the belly is something of a nightmare: after an elegant lip convening in a sharp, central spike, this brown, hairy leather, studded with sectional armor, greets you at the midpoint with twelve violent pincers, all coiled inward and ready to burst your trachea without warning or apology.  This complex system, each leg slender and slippery, finishing as a pair of spikes in opposition to the typically curled, merciful claws of your everyday crab, is further continued inward with a sort of thorny vagina, a deadly beard with which it must beckon its prey like a Calabasas debutante.

Inside, then.  This creature’s flesh is not of sinewy slabs, nor is it a party of mushy oysters contained in innumerable compartments.  No, instead, it consists of thousands of thousans of tiny mustard balls, a sort of dark nest of fish eggs.  If Dippin’ Dots are The Ice Cream of the Future, then these are of The Crustacean of the (Apocalyptic) Future.  Each morsel is the same — no notable organs to mention, or at least not as presented.  They taste and feel like milled pellets of offal, a very subtle, creamy, almost chalky flavor that would be difficult to handle in more concentrated doses.

Here on the beach, the vendor prepares it by stirring in Som Tam, the ubiquitoushai salad of papaya, chili, onion and cardemom (or is it just parsley?).  The bright, crisp, incredibly spicy flavors herein counter the dank flesh well, and if you fish around — no pun allowed — you will actually fing leg meat dangling from the roof of the contraption, offering you a taste of normal crab for you to contrast and compare.

All of this, then, comes spilling out the back in a lively neon yellow soup, and lying the meal right side up when you’re done looks like you’ve just slain a medieval beast, not just scooped out your lunch with a spoon.

This marvelous little animal, all a bit bigger than an extended palm, looks more like the helmet of a Roman Leggionaire than a meal.  This is what nature would look like if Rick Baker were God, and as adventurous an eater as I claim to be, I can’t say that I loved it.  Still, for 130 baht ($4), I enjoyed it and its accompanying story, and that’s worth the price of admission — even if it was a trip into my nightmares.


~ by nearhelsinki on May 21, 2009.

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