You ate what? Kuta, Bali, 1987

I’m not the most adventurous culinary explorer. I’ll cringe at deep fried tarantula, chilli cockroaches on skewers, or jellied eels. I’ll smell anything dairy or poultry, relying on my freakish senses to convey any hint of something amiss. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Shane Warne, carting around a slab of baked beans and vegemite everywhere I go. Let’s face it, I wouldn’t cart vegemite anywhere…

Still, I have managed to eat crocodile stew in the Top End, camel burger in Morocco, reindeer in Finland, and a “Coat of Arms Pie” – emu and kangaroo – at some fancy winery in Northern Victoria.

In each of those cases I went in with my eyes wide open, ordered off the menu and was assured that everything would be well cooked (and would probably taste like chicken anyway).

There was a time once though, when I wasn’t so lucky.

If the number of patrons in this upstairs establishment on Kuta’s main strip wasn’t enough of a warning (see pic below), then the worried look my waiter gave me when I ordered “Chicken and chips” should have been.

emptySoon after, a dubious looking dish was heading towards my table, the waiter holding it aloft with triumph.

My chicken was drowning in chips, or at the very least, was well camouflaged. The chips were tasty enough, and I ripped off a drumstick which, although a tad gamey for my liking, wasn’t bad.

It was when I uncovered a third drumstick that the alarm bells starting going off. Chickens don’t have more than two drumsticks…! Quickly swatting away the remaining chips, I uncovered not three, but four drumsticks (OK three would have just been too weird).

Unencumbered by its potato accompaniments, the hero of my dish was certainly no bird. Dog? Too long in the body. Turtle? Not flat enough. No, there was only one creature on the menu that night. Plentiful throughout Asia and Bali in particular.

Go on, dare to think the worst thought you can think.

Yes my friends, I’d just eaten fried Monkey. I instantly felt ill. What kind of diseases could it have? What if it was a pet – maybe the kitchen mascot – taking one for the team on that single fateful day when they ran out of fowl? Was I now, in some sort of twisted way, a cannibal? Repulsed and literally reeling, I didn’t stay to dwell on these, or other grim thoughts.

At least I can honestly say it tasted like chicken.

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