04/15/2014 09:43 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Southeast Asian Food Competition

We are a family of omnivores and when we travel, we pride ourselves in trying everything local.
Our son Nicholas ate deep fried spiders when he was in Cambodia. Here is his report:

I rarely have a vegetarian's qualms when it comes to seeing a live version of something I plan to eat. Cows and lambs have not developed a very good evolutionary response to slaughter. They are, essentially, walking hamburgers and their cuteness doesn't really stop me from enjoying them. A better strategy might have been for cows to evolve a hairy black eight-legged exterior. I managed to find some fried spiders (they taste like crab) but if they had tasted like filet mignon with mushroom gravy, I still don't think I could bring myself to eat them regularly.
I saw this as a challenge and was determined to meet it.

So I thought I'd ask CNN's Anthony Bourdain for advice when I was having breakfast with him the other day...

Well, not so much with him as at a table across from his. My friends and I watched him leave on his motorcycle with another two-person motorbike in front; one of the guys sitting backwards so Bourdain could be filmed as he rode to his next exotic food adventure.

Being bus bound, we were unable to follow. Actually, we didn't need to follow because he we found this:


However banh mi is in big cities all over the states now, so this wasn't going to compete with fried spider.

I considered Snake Whiskey with cobra and scorpion.


But knowing Nicholas, he would have tried every kind of alcohol, so this wasn't going to make me the front-runner.

Our guide in Thailand was a judge on Iron Chef and the competition's ingredient was bat and dog. Fortunately, neither were ever available to me.

Here he is as a judge on Iron Chef. He does not appear eager for the tastings:


I was getting desperate. Weasel coffee appeared to be the answer. This is coffee made from beans that have gone through a weasel's digestive system. We have an in-residence weasel in our Minnesota cabin so I thought I might go into business if it turned out to be delicious.
Below is a distressed weasel digesting coffee beans.


Unfortunately, weasel coffee is very, very expensive and pretty much unavailable. Fake beans abound. The French introduced coffee to Vietnam, along with baguettes (and that pretty much sums up the good stuff the French did). Vietnamese farmers weren't allowed to take any of the beans from the plantations so they scavenged for the ones the weasels left behind in their droppings. It turns out weasels select the very best of the beans and these beans have a slight chocolaty taste after going through their systems. The coffee from them is thought to be lip-smacking scrumptious.


This is over five years of accumulated digested beans, several thousand dollars worth -- or so I was told.

However, I was still not getting any closer to winning the competition -- until this came along:


Yes. A water bug or water beetle, which looks disturbingly like an enormous cockroach. (However, on the entrepreneurial front, I believe Nicholas has more of these in Harlem than I have weasels in Minnesota.) An essence is drawn from the waterbug's head and put in spicy soups. Just a drop will do it for obvious reasons, not only because it is crazy expensive, but also because it has a breathtaking odor and tastes like green apple shampoo.

So there you go. I win Nicholas! Too bad you didn't know there was a competition.