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Born in Stockholm (Sweden), now live in Sapporo (Japan). Hold a Ph.D. in computer science and work with computers during the days, perform magic in a bar during the nights (and weekends, for kids). Also used to teach historical fencing back in Sweden.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Weird or disgusting food series: sparrow on a stick

In Japan it is quite common to eat yakitori, literally grilled chicken. Yakitori are skewers with grilled something, with the basic option being chicken meat. There are many many more variants though, for example: chicken skin, chicken guts, chicken cartilage, and non-chicken options like bacon rolled around asparagus, banana, sausage, mochi (rice cakes) covered in bacon, small eggs, etc.

Something that is not that common is sparrows. When in a nice yakitori resataurant in Asahikawa with two young Japanese girls, I saw "sparrow" on the menu and we ordered that. The staff asked how many we wanted, and since there were only two birds per plate the girls said maybe we should order two plates? I suggested that since it was quite likely disgusting, perhaps two birds would be enough and we could share. A good suggestion as it turned out.

One plate, two sparrows

A side view, which shows of the neck and head better.
Sparrow on a stick is just that. Someone had removed the feathers, but the rest of the bird was all there, claws, beak, eyes, etc. I asked the waitress what parts you are supposed to eat and was told "all of it". "The beak too?" "Yes, all of it." She did mention that I might want to be a bit careful with the feet, since the claws can be sharp and I might cut myself...

I took one sparrow, and ate all of it. The sauce tasted fine. The legs, being pretty much only bone, were very dry. The only part with any meat to speak of is the body, and the taste of the meat there was bad. The beak was fine, but the head was the worst. The skull is a bit crunchy and then you have the soft brain inside, and the combined texture of these were quite disgusting. As was the taste, and the general idea of chewing on skull/brains. The people at the table next to ours also ordered sparrows and exclaimed things like: "Ah, it is so delicious!", so I guess some people like it.

The girls I was there with did not like sparrow. They thought it was horribly disgusting just to look at (true). One of them ate the beak of one sparrow and then gave up. The other ate one leg. So indeed we got by just fine with only one plate of sparrows.

I did however learn some Japanese nuance by eating sparrow. Japanese has lots of onomatopoeia, and these are often hard to understand the nuances of as a foreigner. The dictionary only tells you the general meaning, if they are even present at all. So "pari-pari", "kari-kari", "saku-saku" are all expressions for crunchy food. I learned that the beak of a sparrow is "pari-pari".

Taste: bad (especially the meat and brains, bones were OK)
Texture: bad (at least the skull/brain/head, the rest was OK)
Look: disgusting
Overall impression: best avoided

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