For someone interested in throwing all kinds of weird stuff down their throat like I am, the Wildfoods festival in New Zealand’s South Island seemed to be a ‘must visit’. So for 2011 we made the effort, flew to Queenstown for a few days, then drove to Hokitika for the festival on March 12.
One of the first stalls encountered was the huhu grub stall
Huhu grubs are the larval stage of a native beetle. The huhu grubs live in rotting logs, and were being harvested from a wood pile in front of the stall. They were available fresh and alive from the log:
or cooked:The live grubs were a bit leathery and popped when bitten, but the cooked grubs are delicious, crunchy with a sweet nutty flavour.
Seafood next, with a mix of delights in the platter.Kina (sea urchin) roe is an acquired taste which I love, the taste of the ocean, and I really enjoyed the shot.
The poor mans paua (abalone) and sea cucumber both had an oceany taste similar to the kina, but were rubbery.
Smoked eggs were something new to me, so I tried a raw egg shot. Manuka is a NZ tree (where manuka honey comes from) and the smoke imparts a strong, lovely flavour.
The manuka eggs were delicious, one of the highlights of the day.
Next up was pigs braun. I have eaten braun a long time ago, but I think back then it was made from the entire pigs head, this may have just been the brains. No matter, it was nice, maybe just not as dense and with less pork flavour.
Back onto the seafood with a couple of……um…..unusual delicacies?
Paua tit is the stomach of the NZ abalone (paua).
As paua eat only kelp (seaweed) which I like to chew on at the beach, I thought it would be okay, but I guess the digestive juices were doing their work and the taste was quite bitter, very similar to the Kaio which is a NZ sea squirt.
I ate these two one after the other so I’m not sure which one did it, but I had a bad taste in my mouth for some time. But hey, thats why we try these things. Definately the worst things I ate at the festival. I returned to this stall some time later and tried a seagull egg and a paua pattie.
Seagull eggs are bigger than hens eggs, and these were hard boiled. The yolk tasted just like a normal egg, but the white was semi translucent, seemed to be in two layers, and I didn’t much like the texture of it. On the other hand, the paua fritter (and these are very popular in NZ) was spectacular, one of the stars of the festival for me. The nicest paua I have tasted in years.
Next it was into insects.
Scorpions (I had a raw one) had a strong unpleasant chemically flavour, maybe they were imported into NZ in ethanol, or maybe that’s what scorpions taste like.
I didn’t try a raw grasshopper, I can get them at home, but did try a chocolate coated huhu beetle from the crouching grasshopper stall.
They tasted like ….. chocolate, no discernable insect flavour at all, but like the scorpion, left my mouth full of crunchy bits of shell to dispose of.
Worm sushi and worms on toast were nice, but any worm flavour was overpowered by the other ingredients.
Next it was time for a drink and dessert.
Some people may be a bit turned off by the thought of colostrum, but it tastes like watered down milk. The worst part is putting on a silly hat, getting down on your knees and getting the shot squirted into your mouth.
The mastitus mousse was strawberry, and again like light milk, but tasty and refreshing.
There were stalls with more mainstream foods, some of the yummiest pork belly I have ever eaten, a plate of beautiful tuna,
both raw and cooked. And all washed down with a glass of honey mead.
There were a lot of other choices, too many to eat, but one of the best was a West Coast icon, the white bait fritter.
Unlike most fish and chip shop whitebait fritters I have had in recent visits to NZ, these were more whitebait than egg batter. The way they should be, and absolutely delicious.
WARNING. If you have a weak stomach, it might pay to skip through the next part of the story. I wanted to go to Hokitika to challenge myself, eat outside my comfort zone and find out just how far I will go with extreme foods. I think I know now.
No prizes for guessing that these are sheep testicles or mountain oysters. Cooked with onion and pepper they were tender, moist and fairly mild in flavour.
I know they are considered a delicacy in some countries, but testicles are rarely eaten in Australia. I would certainly eat them again.
And the ultimate test of a cast iron stomach?
Yes, for the first time here, shots of horse semen! I heard about them a couple of weeks before the festival, so I had time to get used to the idea.
And thats yours truly shooting horse semen, au natural of course, not the flavoured variety.It surprisingly tasted not unlike milk. So after that, I think I can eat anything! The stallion shot stall was very popular, but I think it was mainly people hanging around waiting for someone willing to try. The festival was a great day out, if you can get there next year, do it. I sure hope to.