** WARNING ** This is NOT for the faint-of-heart-or-stomach, but it is very interesting!!!
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Newcomers to Taiwan have plenty of strange food to sample: stinky tofu, chicken feet, squid on a stick… But leave Taipei, and the world of food will leave an even more bizarre flavor in your mouth.
In small self-sufficient Aboriginal settlements the surrounding environment largely dictated the menu. Thus local species of birds, wild plants and even monkeys became regional delicacies.
Since aboriginal cuisine evolved without fridges or gas stoves, the cooks had to be creative with their pantries. Traditionally, meat is patiently roasted on a bamboo spit. Game is preserved in salt or millet wine, or smoked. Snared mountain rats have their hair burnt off (with the modern addition of a blowtorch) before being grilled or fried in a wok. These are reportedly huge crowd-pleasers at potlucks.
In Bunan tribes, hunting and cooking comprise important social gatherings. To prove they have grown up into men, young warriors bring down a wild boar with a hunting knife as their only weapon. To cook the beast the whole village turns out and helps with the carving. Nothing is wasted: the innards end up in a delicious soup and boar skin can be served as an iced treat.
Around Taiwan, a number of restaurants with aboriginal menus are doing brisk business. Adventurous diners can order betel nut flower salad, fried hornet larvae and wild dove and deer meat. And don’t worry about promoting hunting – deer and rats are often sourced from specialized farmers.
Some of the dishes have been adapted for a wider appeal. For example, a Paiwan dish made from fermented millet and pork receives a lighter fermentation that’s further masked with a spicy dipping sauce. Yet some true delicacies are still off the menu. If you want to try raw pickled flying squirrel intestines, you’ll just have to travel to the heart of an aboriginal village and follow your nose!