Top 10 Unique Foods + Homemade Ice Cream (Without an Ice Cream Maker!) {The Grove: Top 10)

Top 10 lists are so fun! As I mulled over what to make my list about, I kept thinking about the, ahem, unique foods I’ve been able to try over the years. If you’ve even visited another country, you’ve probably tried something your taste buds hadn’t met before. Some foods may make them dance a jig, others will make those little flavor-tasters revolt and force you to get it out. We’ve all been in both places!

(Sorry I can’t find images for all of these–you’ll just have to use your imagination!)

Here are my Top 10 Most Unique Foods:

  1. Cow Hoof—I’ll never forget the day we were invited to the village chief’s home in rural Nigeria to share a meal. He had prepared a feast! Most of it was unidentifiable, but he was quick to point out the cow hoof that we must try. We couldn’t offend him, so we all took a piece of the chewy, stringy hoof. The flavor wasn’t horrible, but the texture was. I think I managed to swallow it, then chased it with a swig of Malta (an awful, awful soda the locals loved).
  1. Popcorn McFlurry—If there is a McDonald’s in your vicinity, I’m sure you would nod your head in agreement when I say Mickey D’s really does like to cater to their local customers. The main staples are still usually there, but there are always some “special” items on the menu we wouldn’t ever even imagine. We were intrigued by the popcorn ice cream, but were immediately disgusted. They just shouldn’t mix. I like salty and sweet, but this wasn’t that. At all. It was only gross. Later, Starbucks rolled out a Caramel Popcorn Frappuccino. What’s with all the popcorn?!
  1. Pea Popsicle—I’m stealing this one from my husband. Before we were married, he was in China on a hot summer day. Before jumping on a bus, he quickly grabbed a popsicle, not paying attention to the flavor(and he couldn’t read characters yet). Yep, peas. He was already on the bus and a bite in before he figured out he was about to get a serving of vegetables in frozen dessert form. And, since he was on the moving bus, there was no option but to finish it! Come visit for other fun flavors like corn, green bean, red bean, or BBQ!
*Image from Google*

The locals sure love their veggies…but in ice cream, too?!

  1. Frog Legs and Stomach—I had just finished teaching my 6 little first graders when their parents asked me to dinner—at their home. It was a bit abrupt, but I accepted the invitation to learn how to make dumplings. Once everything was cooked, we sat down to eat. I noticed a bowl of boiled frogs. The kids were already digging in, using their chopsticks to pop open the belly and extract the purple/black stomach, then gobble it up. I was about to lose the dumplings I had just eaten. Yet, the parents encouraged me to try some. I couldn’t. Not the stomach! I managed, in broken Chinese, trying not to offend, to finagle my way out and settle for just a leg.
  1. Jackfruit—I imagine to some Asians or someone growing up in an Asian culture, this fruit is as common as apples and oranges to us. But for me, it’s crazy! It’s ginormous—on average, 2-3 times the size of a watermelon. And the insides look so interesting! While with some friends were visiting us, I decided it was time to try. A vendor was selling small packages of them (perfect—so I didn’t have to buy the huge, whole fruit!) on the street. The texture was smooth, yet firm. The flavor reminded me of cantaloupe, but in a weird way. It was a bit hard to chew, and in the end, that’s what turned me off. It’s cousin, the stinky durian, however, I can’t bring myself to try. My nose and mouth are too close.

Look at those ginormous things! 

Don’t mind my daughter about to poke her eye out with the mega-long toothpick. She enjoyed the fruit, though!

  1. Mangosteen—Another fruit I had never seen before coming to Asia. Its dark, thick, purple skin protects the fragile white fruit inside. The fruit is arranged just like a clove of garlic. It’s sweet and juicy, and quite refreshing on a hot day! I love introducing this surprising fruit to others.

They look a little weird, right?

But the sweet, soft fruit inside is worth the risk! Also, every time I eat one, I marvel at how amazing God’s creativity is! 

  1. Pig Skin Jelly—Texture-wise, this was a tough one. The skin is boiled with different spices and herbs, then a thick jelly forms and is cut into slices to eat cold. The Chinese believe eating the skin will help our own skin, so they eat it semi-regularly. If it’s at the table, I try to avoid it, but sometimes they nearly force it in your mouth, ya know? My mantra: big bites, and swallow fast. No need to draw out the torture.
*Image from Google*

It’s as wibbly wobbly as it looks!  

  1. Eggs on Rocks—We recently took our visiting family members to a vinegar factory (every province is famous for something…we make vinegar!) After walking through the rooms with decade-old vats of vinegar and burning our nostrils, we were ready for lunch. At the restaurant, our Chinese friend ordered, and surprised us with this dish that came with a presentation. The waitress came to our table with a large pot full of smooth, hot rocks. She then poured raw, whisked eggs into the pot, covered with a lid for 30 seconds, then removed the lid, stirred, and done. The hot rocks cooked the eggs! So random, but pretty tasty.

Fluffy eggs cooked by hot rocks! Who would’ve imagined…

  1. Band-Aid Tofu—Asians love their tofu. Our first year here, we had the same opinion about tofu as most Americans—weird and flavorless. Turns out, we just don’t know how to cook it! Add flavor, add sauce, cook it differently, or process it differently and you’ll actually probably like it. My son’s absolute favorite Chinese dish is band-aid tofu and cucumbers. The tofu is flattened out into thin sheets and resembles the ridges on band-aids. Add some cucumbers, vinegar, salt, and garlic, and it’s delicious!
  1. Lamb Testicles—Yes, for real. Before we were married, I came to visit my husband in Beijing. We did all the touristy things, and one of those included a food street that was made famous for its outlandish things-on-a-stick. We’re talking snakes, squid, baby sharks, eels, scorpions, silkworms, and our choice—lamb testicles. I have no idea why we chose those except maybe they weren’t an entire animal on a stick, so somehow it seemed “better.” It was spiced well and cooked over a fire. The flavor? Just like a hot dog. Scary. So, so scary. (I now only eat all-beef hot dogs!)

So what about your eating adventures? I know we’ve all eaten weird things, good or bad, forced or voluntary. Share them in the comments! I truly enjoy learning about other cultures and the foods they love, and how others have journeyed through other countries’ food culture.


We’re sweltering over here in China. I know it’s been hot in various places in the world, but for our city, it has definitely above average this summer. So, we’re playing outside early in the morning, staying inside as much as possible during the day, then crawling out of our cocoon after dinner for a quick walk. Also, we’re eating lots of ice cream. I’m not a big fan of the ice cream choices we have here. Besides the aforementioned veggie options, their “milk ice” and attempts at normal things just don’t cut it for me (except occasionally when I can find a Magnum bar!) Call me an ice cream snob, maybe. So, today we attempted to make our own! It’s not perfectly smooth like my beloved frozen custard, but the flavor is waaaaayyy better than anything I can buy local! Have you tried making your own ice cream? What are your tricks?

Definitely cover your bowl! It will splatter! I learned the hard way!

I forgot to take other pics, so here’s the finished product! Creamy and delicious!

Pour a little of my homemade chocolate sauce from last month, and you’ve got a date with dessert.

Homemade Ice Cream (No Churn)

Ready in 4 hours

Serves 4

Slightly adapted from The Kitchn

*Note: I started with this recipe, but I think my kitchen was way too hot to help the cream to whip correctly. So, I had to move to plan B.

1/2 14oz can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup milk

dash of vanilla

1/2 cup kosher or rock salt (although, I had neither, and table salt seemed to work in a pinch)

ice cubes

Fill the large bowl about halfway with ice. Stir in 1/2 cup salt. Nestle the smaller bowl in the ice. Try to get almost completely buried in the ice. Fill the smaller bowl halfway with ice cream mix (use at most 1 pint of mix).

Use the hand mixer to beat the mix for 10 minutes. You may find it helpful to half cover the bowl with a towel, to help prevent spattering. The mix should get very cold to the touch, although it will probably not start transforming into actual ice cream. (Note: If you don’t have a hand mixer, then you can use a whisk, but you will need to whisk for at least 15 minutes. Great upper arm workout!)

After you have aerated and chilled the mix for about 10 minutes, cover with a towel and place the entire set of nested bowls — large and small — in the freezer. Freeze for 45 minutes.

Remove the bowls from the freezer. Draw a spoon across the top of the ice cream mix. It’s probably the consistency of loose pudding, especially on top.

Mix again with the hand mixer for 5 minutes.

Remove the small bowl from the large bowl, and cover the top with plastic wrap touching the surface of the ice cream. Freeze for an additional two hours, or overnight, before serving. However, the longer it freezes, the harder it will become. Simply let it sit out for 5-10 minutes if it’s too hard to scoop.

• Remember, as always with homemade ice cream: The more fat in the ice cream, the creamier it will be, regardless of churning method. A custard ice cream with all cream and egg yolks will turn out less icy than a milk-based mix.
• On ice: You need 4-6 standard ice cube trays.



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Here’s our Instagram collection from this week using #VelvetAshesTop10. You can add yours!


  1. Michele July 20, 2017

    In all three Asian countries I’ve lived in, you can also find young jackfruit cooked with spices (varying according to country) and served with rice. I did not recognize it as jackfruit at all the first time I had it. The texture is like meat and it’s really tasty! I’m in the US now and just found some in packets in a grocery store, curried and ready to heat and serve, so I had some tonight, and was trying to explain to my mom what jackfruit looks like, so you pictures were very timely! I admit I am a lover of durian and enjoy all the tropical fruits like mangosteen and rambutan. I’m also a bit grossed out by the organ stuff. In Indonesia I usually give my bits of cow skin to others. I’ve had brain and I’ve sucked the marrow out of goat bones. I’ve had dog- thankfully didn’t know for sure what I’d eaten till the next day, and frog- but not the stomach, thanks! So many things come to mind! I love checking out McD’s and KFC in new countries to see what they’ve come up with to suit the local tastebuds! And how about potato chips? From cuttlefish to masala- so fun to see what’s out there!

    1. Ashley Felder July 22, 2017

      Cooked jackfruit–I’d try that! Did you find the packets in a traditional grocery, or Asian? I’ll have to keep my eyes out for them next year! And chips…don’t even get me started on those! With our family here recently, they couldn’t get over the fact that most of the chip flavors were meat! Ironic, since the locals eat way more veggies than meat.

      1. Michele July 22, 2017

        Not Asian, but it was a little local market with lots of unique and healthy items. This was marketed for Americans with flavors like BBQ and Mexican in addition to curry!

  2. Kristin Tillotson July 20, 2017

    I wrote my top 10 post before reading this one…so funny that we share the same easy ice cream recipe!! Love it…

    1. Ashley Felder July 22, 2017

      Awesome! I need to make it again because the day after I made it, we went out of town for 4 days. When we came back and I walked in the kitchen, there was sticky, smelly goo all over the floor. We had accidentally unplugged the fridge before we left! Nasty! And my precious ice cream was inedible! 🙁

  3. Annalisa July 21, 2017

    Here we have “caldo de pata” which is a broth/soup made from that cow’s hoof. When I first tried it, I was told that people either love it or hate it. I can’t say I loved it, but I will certainly pick it off a menu if I don’t see anything I like better. I think that the general slipperiness of soup with that texture problem. 😉

    1. Annalisa July 21, 2017

      erm….would help with that texture problem

      1. Ashley Felder July 22, 2017

        I could probably handle it in a soup! As long as I don’t have to chew it for an hour. 😉

  4. E M White July 21, 2017

    In Asia : Chicken feet… actually tasty but a bit difficult to eat around the claws. Also chicken blood soup (just what it sounds like,and an interesting pink color) that was also surprisingly tasty.
    Good observation on Micky D! In Asia I also ate an ice cream sundae with peanuts, some green candied chip-like things… And corn! Just regular old corn on Vanilla ice cream. Hmm. They also really liked to have their cones dipped not in chocolate,but a jelly like substance that would semi harden into a sort of jelly Bean flavored goo. Fun!

    1. Ashley Felder July 22, 2017

      I’ve never been brave enough to try chicken feet! And yeah, the blood soups…wha?! We were offered pig’s blood soup at the end of a meal recently. Hm, no thanks!

      1. Michele July 22, 2017

        I totally agree with you on chicken feet… Taste is fine, but too much work for so little meat!

  5. Hadassah Doss July 21, 2017

    I once had the “pleasure” of tasting a piece of conch meat while visiting a friend in Guanaja, an island off the coast of Honduras. Her family said, “Taste this,” and once I put it in my mouth started laughing at me. It’s been years, but I still remember my gut reaction (pun Intended). Yuck!

  6. Ashley Felder July 22, 2017

    I guess I don’t know what conch is. I looked it up, but am still confused. Is it a snail? Regardless, if they were laughing and you weren’t happy, it definitely fits in the “interesting” category!

  7. Kim McDowall July 22, 2017

    Our family lived in Kazakhstan for 8.5 years (now live in Turkey) and we had several interesting things. We ate horse meat, horse sausage, our kids knew the best hot dogs in town were the ones made from horse, and the thing I pushed around on my plate–horse intestine! There is also a drink called Kumis which is fermented mare’s milk. For many years I did not like the vinegary tasting milk, but one day I actually liked it. It’s an acquired taste! There is also shubat which is camel’s milk. A Kazakh traditional meal is called bishparmak (five finger because you eat the meal with your hands). This dish consists of very wide flat noodles that have been boiled from the broth of a sheep. Large round platters have been heaped with piles of noodles, potatoes, horse meat or horse sausage or sometimes lamb. After this dish is served, then steaming bowls of broth are brought out. The broth is from having boiled a sheep’s head. I absolutely detest this oily tasting broth! Then the elder guest at the table (many times was my husband) was served the sheep’s now boiled head on a platter and this is considered a great honor. Hs responsibility is to then “distribute” the parts to others around the table. For example, “I give you the eyeball for you to have better sight; I give you the ear that you might have better hearing, etc.” I have tasted the tongue, chewy cartilage ear, and brain. All parts of the head must be eaten. There are some things one almost never gets used to! However, my husband will eat anything! The Kazakhs also have very yummy round shaped breads, lagman–steaming hot, home made noodles covered in a meat/peppers/onions mixture that is very tasty. Most Kazakh food–our kids (who are now grown) miss eating very much (except for the sheep’s head!!).

    1. Ashley Felder July 23, 2017

      Wow, your list has some tough ones! And, right, why do the locals have to give such WEIRD things (to us) to show honor?!

  8. sarah July 22, 2017

    Fish wombs, fish “wings” cake (think that probably means “fins”), goose feet, pig brain, bird’s nest soup complete with raw egg on top. And yet, still the worst, as someone posted not long ago: pigeon. Lovingly caught and chopped up just for me while I watched by my favorite Indian uncle. It’s amazing the (totally unnecessary) lengths people around the world will go to in order to give us a special meal. 🙂

    1. Ashley Felder July 23, 2017

      Wow…fish womb?!? I don’t even…no, I don’t want to know. 😉 Bravo to all you ladies who get a few bites down, and keep them down, so we don’t offend our hosts! When we have guests over, we try to emphasize that if they think something is totally weird (although, often, I try to cater to their tastes), they don’t have to eat it. Maybe it’s our indirect way to let them know we’d like the same grace extended to us at their meals?!

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