'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

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine