Are you a bad enough dude to put these five things into your mouth?
If you consider yourself an adventurous eater, then you’ve probably already eaten some of Japan’s most bizarre foods. Horse meat? Please, that’s beginner level. Fermented soybeans that look like snot? Eat ’em for breakfast.
So what’s left to test your taste buds? Depending on how deep you’ve gone into Japanese cuisine, there may still be a couple challenges; it all depends on how far you’re willing to push the limits of your mouth.
That’s why today we’re counting down the top five biggest Japanese food challenges. The items on this list are here for different reasons: some have an intimidating appearance, some may make your stomach come up as you swallow it down, and others may literally kill you.
So let’s get to it! Starting off with…
Honorable Mention: Raw liver
Ah, liver. Who doesn’t love that earthy, irony taste that makes it seem like you’re chewing on solid blood?
Well, the Japanese government for one, considering they’ve banned raw liver from being served in restaurants!
Raw cow liver was banned back in 2012 after five people contracted E. coli and died from consuming raw beef served at a Korean-style barbeque restaurant named Ebisu. Raw pork liver was then subsequently banned from restaurants in 2015.
So eating raw liver is truly one of the greatest food challenges in Japan; you’re taking your life into your hands with every raw bite. The only thing keeping this from being higher on the list is that it’s technically illegal, so it’s kind of hard to find. Sure, you could buy the liver yourself at a grocery store and then just eat it raw, but that kind of takes away the excitement of being served something that could kill you.
What better way to wash down a hearty food challenge than with yet another challenge: a cup of habushu – Okinawan snake wine. Habu are incredibly poisonous Okinawan snakes, and shu means “wine/sake.”
Having lived in Okinawa for several years, I can personally attest to the legendary status of this stuff. Just walking through the capital city Naha you can see habushu for sale in the windows of tons of shops, and every alcohol store has a whole section devoted to bottles of awamori (Okinawan rice wine) with snakes inside glaring back at you. It’s not something people drink often, but for special manly-man get-togethers you can bet the habushu will be making an appearance.
The intimidation factor is high for habushu. Usually our first instinct is to run away from poisonous snakes, not drink liquid from bottles they’re inside of. Habushu is safe to drink though, since the alcohol dissolves away all of the venom. However, that being said, there was one case in China where the snake was still alive even after being in the bottle for three months and bit a woman….
Still, habushu is said to have a positive effect on the male sex drive (due to habu snakes mating for up to 26 hours straight), so many are willing to brave the snake face and chug some down. Be sure to drink directly from the snake-bottle for maximum badass points.
#4. Raw egg
古賀 美麗 (@CMcmQ93EWtfadtN) January 05, 2017
The best food challenges all have some sort of fear involved, and what’s a better fear than possibly contracting salmonella poisoning?
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of being properly acquainted with salmonella, it’s basically several days of stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. It can even lead to death in extreme cases, and one of the causes of salmonella is consuming raw eggs.
Even though the risk of salmonella poisoning through raw egg is very low, it’s still there, though it depends on what kind of raw eggs you’re eating. If you’re getting a raw egg in your hot tsukimi udon (“moon-watching udon”) or on top of hot rice, then the heat will probably cook the eggs enough to kill any bacteria.
▼ So something like this is on the low end of the challenge.
天ぷら月見うどん♡ . ﾌｰﾌｰﾊﾌﾊﾌｽﾞﾙｽﾞﾙ〜(๑❛ڡ❛๑)ｵｲﾁｨ♡ https://t.co/QxEnqhRlai—
✿ひな✿ (@HinaPurine) January 28, 2017
However, consuming raw eggs that haven’t been heated up, such as dipping something into the raw egg (ie: noodles or meat), increases the risk. Dipping sukiyaki meat into a personal bowl of raw egg is a favorite food pastime of many Japanese people, but also comes with the fear of a lottery ticket to salmonella city with every bite.
▼ Mmm… deliciously dangerous.
I remember the first time I had sukiyaki in Japan, I dipped my meat into a bowl of raw egg, and even though it was tasty at the time, I ended up with one of the worst stomach pains of my life for the next two days. Of course I can’t say for sure it was the raw eggs that did it, but I haven’t touched them ever since, and I haven’t had a similar bout yet.
Coincidence? Maybe. But this is one challenge that I will personally leave to others!
So you’ve eaten grasshoppers, grubs, and beetles before. No problem, right? But those are all easy, pushover bugs. How about trying a bug that kills humans?
We’ve seen suzumebachi, Japanese killer bees, as the number one spot in the top five creepiest insects, and they certainly earned that high position. With their ability of just a few dozen to take down an entire beehive, and the fact that their stings can be deadly to humans, they’re among the most dangerous insects in the world.
And what better way to challenge yourself than by eating one of those badass bees? Since cooking the bees removes any poison, there’s not a huge amount of danger here, though similar to the habushu snake wine, the intimidation factor is off the charts.
Suzumebachi are, quite understandably, pretty rare in Japanese cuisine. But even so, they come prepared several different ways. Here’s three of them, ranging from least to most challenging:
▼ Vaam energy drink, made out of suzumebachi saliva. Yes this is a thing, because people want the energy of suzumebachi that fly up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) per day.
今日は自宅トレーニング とりあえずお世話になりますVAAMさん https://t.co/ywkYPW1jwZ—
蛇成@前髪は切るもんじゃない。 (@inase25) September 24, 2016
▼ There’s also suzumebachi crackers, which we did a taste-test of.
▼ And for the most intense challenge, you can just eat them as they are,
lightly cooked, like the guy in this video (skip to 2:20 to see everyone going in on them).
Any of the above would make for a good food challenge, but you can really only call yourself the suzumebachi gourmet master if you’ve conquered all three.
One of the most notorious dishes not only in Japan, but the whole world: pufferfish.
▼ “He he he, I’m gonna kill ya.”
🌱のこのこ＠短芝🌱 (@nksb2525) January 22, 2017
The pufferfish has a powerful poison that can induce nausea, paralysis, asphyxiation, and even death if not treated immediately. There is no antidote for the poison, and the only option to save a victim is by draining their stomach, feeding them activated charcoal, and putting them on life support.
So yeah, that’s a food challenge if I ever heard one!
Of course, similar to eating raw egg, the actual risk of getting poisoned is extremely low. Chefs who prepare fugu have to undergo years of training and pass a test to get a license in order to serve it. Most cases of fugu poisoning have come from people who caught their own pufferfish and thought they were cool enough to cook it themselves.
▼ “Enh, I’ll just go by what this book says.
How hard could it be?”
Caitlin See (@caitlin_see) October 30, 2015
But the best part of this food challenge is that many people who have tried fugu say that it doesn’t even have much of a taste to it. So that means when you decide to have some fugu, you’re literally only doing it for the bragging rights, to prove that you survived one of the most intimidating meals in the world.
And the #1 biggest Japanese food challenge is…
Are you manly enough to eat a giant wad of fish sperm?
Shirako has to be the ultimate Japanese food challenge simply due to its incredible gross-out factor. I can get over my fear of snakes and bugs, and I can eat a well-prepared raw egg or fugu, but I cannot envision a universe where I manage to keep down any amount of shirako.
I fully understand that this is kind of strange considering fish eggs (roe) are a delicacy in Japan and the rest of the world too, but there’s just something about fish sperm sacs that just doesn’t sit well with my stomach.
▼ No amount of “but it goes great with sake!”
can make me try one of these shirako sushi.
百瀬阿佐美 (@azami_mms) February 18, 2017
While shirako can come from a number of different fish species, the ones most often on the menu are cod, anglerfish, salmon, squid and pufferfish.
And if you’re starting to think shirako is kind of gross too, don’t worry, even in Japan you’re not alone. Many Japanese people who would happily sample fugu or raw liver would politely decline shirako right along with you.
But if you can manage to take on this challenge and conquer it, then congratulations, you are truly a master of Japanese cuisine.
▼ Skip to 1:50 if you want to see a bunch of people
unknowingly take the shirako challenge for themselves.
So there you have it, the top five biggest Japanese food challenges. Have you ever tried any of the delicacies on this list, or possibly something even worse? Let us know in the comments, and if you’re in the mood to learn some words that you can challenge yourself to use in a conversation, check out the top five Japanese words with cool ancient origin stories.