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October 27th, 2004 KELLY CLARKE | Bite Club
 

Close Encounters of an Edible Kind

     
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"Blood pudding," says Harold Nath, reading from a package of Colombian Morcilla Negra sold at Island Foods, his Micronesian and African market. "Beef blood, rice and bread crumbs. It sounds like...blood Jell-O."

Oh, the delicious horror! Last week, while happy little pagans sussed out the perfect pimp and ho costumes and fundamentalist Christians mounted their haunted houses full of abortion scenes, Bite Club embarked on a Halloween search for frightening food.

Now, TV shows like Fear Factor and Iron Chef have helped Betty Crocker diners expand their tastes. Chicken feet start to look appetizing after you've seen balut--that's soft-boiled duck embryo.

But that's kids'-table fodder compared to what delicacies iron-stomached employees of ethnic markets around town labeled as frightening. In global terms, the dish that might turn your stomach could be considered a delish breakfast staple in another time zone.

"Ever tried durian?" Warren Huch asked, pointing to a bin filled with big, green, spiny fruit. "It takes some getting used to." Huch, a jolly food explorer and Cambodian native, is the office manager of Beaverton's practically Costco-sized Uwajimaya Asian market.

Bite Club could stomach the fruit's creamy, mangolike flavor with its garlicky aftertaste. But words like "feral cat ass" come to mind when describing its sweet, fetid odor. Durian's olfactory onslaught is haunting, but what sparks gasps from new shoppers is usually the meat department, where plastic containers of pig's blood jostle for shelf space alongside packages of ears, snouts, tails and hearts. Bite Club was nonplussed until we ran across a tiny label that read "Bile" and learned that digestive acids are an ingredient in Filipino stews.

We continued our gory day trip by venturing into the tiny Dutch American Market. "You want to try the blood and tongue?" asked owner Hans Middelhoven, his voice nearly swallowed by the store's cheerful accordion music. While Bite Club eagerly sampled the vermilion-colored sausage, a rich delight that left a chalky blood aftertaste in our mouth, Hans explained his theory about the psychology of food fear: "It's all in people's heads. If you say you are eating beef, it's good. But if you say horsemeat, it becomes bad."

Even the Bite Club found our limit--and it's spelled N-A-T-T-O. "The stuff smells like dirty old socks," warned WW intern Sho Ikeda, explaining the healthy Japanese breakfast dish made of fermented soybeans. Undaunted, we dug in. A 2-foot trail of spider weblike strings of bacteria clung to our fork as we lifted the utensil from the pile of stinky, slimy beans. And then, with a deep breath, we took a bite.

Folks, Bite Club is here to say that not all Halloween horrors are served up in the movies. Some come in little Styrofoam boxes.


Island Foods, 1463 NE Killingsworth St., 282-2831.

Uwajimaya Asian Market, 10500 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, 643-4512.

Dutch American Market, 12125 SW Canyon Road, 646-1518.

 
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