'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

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
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
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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
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

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

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

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform