Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fish Out of Water Rule #5 Part One: Be Wary of Locals Advice

I’ve traveled around enough to not be shy about asking the locals for advice. Sometimes with my limited vocabulary, I may have to fill in the missing words with hand signs and the occasional sketch. But I’m pretty good at getting my message across. I enjoy finding spots that are a bit off the beaten path. Whether it’s a hidden church or temple, or a restaurant that features unusual cuisine, I’ve found some amazing places by asking the locals to divulge their favorite spots.

But here’s a word of caution. This strategy is not without risks. You may be led to places you’d rather not know existed and encouraged to eat things that probably should not enter your digestive system.  Most of the time I don’t regret following a locals advice, but here’s an example of a time I wished I’d been a bit more discriminating.

On a sticky summer night in Tokyo, I should have known better than to brag to a Japanese local that I was an adventurous eater. The Japanese eat more unusual things than raw fish. But when the cute guy with a big smile said in broken English, “I know place interesting food,” 

I nodded my head in anticipation. In hindsight, I probably should have been a bit more leery of the word “interesting”. 

Following the map the guy drew for me; I walked down the twists and turns of the streets in downtown Shibuya, until I came to a tiny hole-in-the-wall. The front of the restaurant, only the size of a storage shed, looked like it could hold barely twenty people. There was something charming about the brick clad facade with a large green door. Overhead hung a beat up wooden sign with a green grasshopper sitting proudly on a large leaf. The aroma of roasted meat tickled my nostrils as I opened the door. I sat down at a large bar similar to one you find at a sushi restaurant, and breathed deep. I was starving and the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen almost made me drool.

One of the chefs came over and asked me for my order. With my limited Japanese, I said, “Can I have the house special.” 

The man next to me raised his eyebrows, and said in broken English, “You like very much.”

I watched as my fellow diners enjoyed large plates of noodles with unusual shaped garnish that looked like it was moving.  Had the summer heat finally gotten to me? My diner companions seemed unfazed as they slurped up their noodles enjoying every bite.  The chef worked feverishly behind the counter arranging a group of small brown pod like objects on top of a mound of noodles. 

He presented my dinner with a big flourish and said, “Itadakimasu, dig in!”  

My mouth dropped open when I looked down at the “house special”.  The wonderful roasted aroma I had been salivating over all night was roasted beetles!     

 Moral of the story; be sure to follow Fish Out of Water Rule#5, Be Wary of Advice From Locals.  You may end up with a beetle in your mouth. Part two coming soon. : )  


  1. Eeeeewwwwww! Dying to know if you ate it!

  2. Yes I did!!!!! The beetles tasted like chicken. lol Actually they were really good tasted a bit like popcorn only a bit squishy!

  3. eeehhhh, kudos to you for tryint that!! Sharon V. Rex didn't know how to sign this right I guess...

  4. Couldn't help recalling my trip to the market today. the checker held up an artichoke and said "This is a papaya, right?"

    What would she say if I plunked down a bag of beetles? Probably not much. She'd have rung up crawfish, squiggly creatures they eat around here.

    I was expecting them to be serving monkeys. Did you ever eat monkey stew?

    Petal...who'd eat anything! Except dogs who should be walked nor wok-ed!

  5. What an adventurous spirit! Don't think I could've done that. Always good advice, here, and entertaining. Can't wait to see what Rule #6 will be.