5 Lethal Asian Foods… People Actually Eat

Posted on March 27, 2010

To many Westerners, some of the most popular foods in Asia can seem kinda strange (remember grilled lamb caramels?). But some of the most popular foods in Asia can also prove dangerous to human health. If you are planning to travel abroad, be careful if you choose to try any of these local specialties.

1. Durian

Durian is a fruit that grows throughout southeast Asia, including Indonesia and Malaysia. The fruit has a distinctive odor that has been compared to a strong cheese, almonds, or manure. Because of this, some public transportation systems in Asia have forbidden passengers to carry the durian.

The soft flesh of the durian is encased in a hard, thorny covering, and if one of these fruits was to fall on your head, you could be seriously hurt. But the durian can also prove deadly in combination with alcohol. According to researchers at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, Durian contains a sulphur-like compound that, when ingested, makes it hard for the liver to break down alcohol.

So if you’ve been drinking to excess and snacking on Durian, you may be at risk for liver damage or even severe alcohol poisoning that could prove fatal.

2. Monkey Brains

Long considered a delicacy in China, eating monkey brains can cause a disease similar to mad cow, known as Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

What does that mean for you? Well, basically, your brain could turn into something with as many holes as a slice of Swiss cheese.

3. Cassava/Yuca

Cassava is used to make snacks, as well as tapioca (which is what the “bubbles” in bubble tea are made from). However, if it is prepared incorrectly, cassava can contains dangerous levels of cyanide.

Cassava poisoning, also known as “Konzo”, can lead to paralysis or even death.

4. Thai Bat Soup/Grilled Chinese Rat

Both of these dishes are on the list for the same reason: the meat used to prepare these local specialities can contain dangerous parasites or pathogens.

If improperly cooked, the meat from these creatures can cause serious illness, or even death in very extreme cases.

5. Fugu

Fugu, aka pufferfish, is completely safe to eat when properly prepared. However, the liver is extremely toxic, and only licensed Japanese chefs are allowed to prepare fugu. If a plate of fugu has been incorrectly prepared, a person may consume dangerous amounts of tetrodotoxin.

This leads to numbness, then pain, and finally a paralysis so complete that even the muscles of the diaphragm stop working, essentially smothering you to death.

Sources: 1 2 3 4

TuckerSCummings
Tucker is a freelance writer based in New England. She writes for numerous websites, and is the co-host of T & T's Bad Booze Review.
TuckerSCummings

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30 thoughts on “5 Lethal Asian Foods… People Actually Eat

  1. Nipponich

    Monkey brain looks yum. Have you tried cow brain? Is my favorite offal after sweetbread.

    Have you ever asked what they put into your Big Mac? I rather have a rat (at least I know is real meat).

    Reply
  2. ECM

    The big question for me is: in a lot of these cases, who discovered that these were fatal and, after that fact, who was the next guy to say “nah, it’s fine!”

    Reply
  3. @iquanyin

    so how's this different from eating pork? or any meat improperly cooked? the disease you reference for moneky brains is aka "mad cow disease," remember? people get salmonella, parasites, and food poisoning here, mostly from mishandled food but also from sick animals. just like anywhere.

    Reply
    1. Wayne Charbonneau

      well Fugu is generally served raw so extra care needs to be taken because unlike westren food where we try to kill pathogens through heating . Plus I'm unsure if heating would even nutralize the poisin so even that method would be ineffective if prepared incorrectly.

      Reply
    2. Li Tai Fang

      Most of the disease agents that cause "mad cow disease" are actually accumulated in the brains. It is a very rare disease and is carefully watched by health ministries around the world. However, if an animal has that disease, the brain is the most dangerous part.

      Reply
  4. Karoliina

    Monkey brains? are you serious….That's pretty lame…
    Well I do think eating meat is lame, because I'm vegetarian, but eating a monkey!? =S

    Reply
  5. jay

    I never knew that Durian mixed with alcohol could be deadly! Durian is one of my favorite fruits despite its smell.

    Reply
    1. foodexpert

      It may not apply to all as it also depending on an individual liver health state. Just don't over do it and it shall be alright. Most of the time people died caused by food it is due to high dosage of foreign toxic chemical accumulated in the body as they over eat. It's either you wasted the food by throwing it into the bin or yourself end up wasted own life back into the soil.

      Reply
  6. Danny

    A licensed Fugu chef is a sight to see if you watch them prepare it. It's almost like surgery. Every incision and cut is very delicate. It's quite a show.

    Reply
  7. Li Tai Fang

    There was an indigenous tribe in Australia who used to eat their deceased relatives as a ritual.
    Kuru, a lethal disease in the same class as mad cow disease used to spread among them.

    Reply
  8. LSV

    I don’t really like durian but I can eat it without puking. I didn’t know that durian and alcohol together can be harmful. But, the Malays are mostly Muslim so they don’t even drink alcohol which explains why I have never heard of anyone hospitalized or dying from eating durian in Malaysia.

    Reply
  9. Alecmino

    Durian is good well i’ll keep in mind not to drink and eat it at the same time….phew~

    and monkey brain??!! WTFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF im asian and even i think thats crazy

    Reply
  10. nyc3650

    It may not apply to all as it also depending on an individual liver health state. Just don't over do it and it shall be alright. Most of the time people died caused by food it is due to high dosage of foreign toxic chemical accumulated in the body as they over eating the same food all over again. It's either you wasted the food by throwing it into the bin or yourself end up wasted own life back into the soil.

    Reply
  11. King of fruit

    Durian!?…. i love durian i just had some LOL… but i don't drink beer good for me hooray for durian need more and more suck for you if you don't like them it meant more me yeah!!!!!!

    Reply

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