'Penis soup is something I'll treasure for ever': Adventurer Simon Reeve reveals the most stomach-churning dishes he's encountered

 

My stomach has endured the full scope of awful foods this planet has to offer Trying adventurous food is a big part of travelling, but India, where I'm travelling through now, has more problems with [food] hygiene than anywhere else in the world. It's a cultural problem, as eating meat is a rarity in rural areas, so they treat it like a vegetable, keeping it in a cupboard. So when the occasional Westerner passes through, by the time it's pulled out, it's been in there for a few months. When travelling across poorer parts of India now, I try to survive off rice and dahl.

Eating penis soup in Madagascar is something I'll treasure for ever I was filming [BBC travel series] Tropic of Capricorn and our guide said he loved eating it: the penis comes from a zebu bull – they're a cattle you see across the tropics. I wanted the crew to think I was adventurous, so I tried it. It was diced and placed in a pretty insipid broth and as I chewed it, it was like chomping on gristle. I won't rush back to it, but it's something I'll tell my son when he's old enough.

Whether it scampers, crawls or flies, people in Laos will eat it In fact, there was one time my driver there sat down at a restaurant and had what looked like a plate of spinach, but when I asked him what it was, he told me it was buffalo poo. Though I think eating that was more a sign of a lack of availability of other foods than it being a local speciality. I had a little try and I wouldn't go there again.

The harvesting of shark fins is one of the world's great obscenities When I was in Mozambique I saw fisherman killing sharks for the Chinese market. The increasing wealth and consumption in China has pushed some endangered species to near extinction. It's enormously destructive for our oceans, our wildlife and our planet. Though the corner has possibly just turned as there is now disapproval coming from the Chinese government and there are some bans on shark-fin soup over there.

I was struck by how Saudi dining culture differs from our own In Christian countries, hosts are taught to share what they have with their guests, but in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, they give everything. When I was visiting, several feasts at which we were honoured guests were Roman in scale: towers of food, an entire sheep killed and roasted for us. I got to eat the eyeball; they popped it out of the socket and into my hand; then I was allowed to crack open the brain to have a nibble on that while the hosts sat and watched.

I went through a decade thinking Britain was cold, wet and crap But having since travelled to over 120 countries, I've been surprised by how much I've realised that I love our little island: my travel has given me an understanding of what life is like for our brothers and sisters in less developed parts of the world, and I can assure you, Britain works spectacularly well.

I failed miserably at the 'Great British Bake-off' last year I was asked to appear on the charity special. I thought, well, it's not like being asked to walk into the jaws of death, so I agreed. I had to cook a show-stopper cake: a big chocolate gateaux. The judges said I'd burnt it, that it tasted heavy and got stuck between their teeth, and I felt rather humiliated by the experience. It's made me realise that baking is not my forte at this stage in my life: perhaps I'll explore it further when I have more time.

My best holiday experiences have been unplanned ones I remember booking an impromptu romantic trip to Sharm El Sheikh, in Egypt, with my then girlfriend.  On a whim we hired a car and drove off into the middle of the desert. It took a daft turn, though, when I drove us into deep sand and got us stuck. I didn't know what to do next, but my girlfriend stood up, stripped down to her bikini, and crawled under the car to let the tyres down [to increase tyre traction against the sand] and we managed to escape. How could I not love her and marry her as a result? Spontaneity can end with a minor mishap, but it tends to be the most memorable thing that happens on a trip.

Simon Reeve, 41, is an explorer, author and presenter of TV shows including the BBC's 'Pilgrimage'. He is lead judge for lastminute.com's search for Britain's most spontaneous traveller. For more: lovelivinglastminute.com

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice