Monkey brains displayed at Tao Heung Museum of Food Culture
Monkey brains are a controversial foodstuff, often attributed to Chinese cuisine, but also found in that of certain other countries. The practice of eating monkey brains has led to over-hunting in Indonesia, especially due to the belief that eating the monkeys' brain can cure erectile dysfunction.
In western popular culture, the consumption of monkey brains is repeatedly portrayed and debated, often in the context of portraying exotic cultures as exceptionally cruel, callous, and strange. It is often portrayed as follows:
- The brain is eaten cooked.
- The brain is eaten raw (occasionally directly out of the dead monkey's skull).
The Anyang tribe of Cameroon practices a tradition in which a new tribal chief would consume the brain of a hunted gorilla while another senior member of the tribe would eat the heart.
While they have been eaten in the wild, and were served at the Manchu Han Imperial Feast, it is unclear whether monkey brains have ever been served in a restaurant. In 1998, Apple Daily in Hong Kong printed pictures allegedly showing the practice; it is the only newspaper ever to have done so.
It is not only humans who eat the brains of monkeys. Both extant species of chimpanzee are known to eat the brains of monkeys which provide fat in their diet.
Consuming the brain and other nerve tissue of animals may be hazardous to health. Brain consumption can result in contracting fatal transmissible spongiform encephalopathies such as Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and other prion diseases in humans.
In popular culture 
That the eating of the brains from living monkeys is part of some restaurants' menus is one well-known example of an urban legend.
- Maxine Hong Kingston's book The Woman Warrior also contains a description of a monkey feast, including the special table.
- The Attic: Memoir of a Chinese Landlord's Son is a 1998 memoir of life in Communist China by Guanlong Cao, in which the author describes the eating of live monkey brains.
- In Tama Janowitz's collection of stories, Slaves of New York, a character describes a dinner experience in which his fellow diners ate fresh monkey brains whilst on a business trip.
- In a Calvin and Hobbes strip, when Calvin complains about the smell of his mother's cooking, saying "Whatever it is, I'm not eating it!", his mother tells him that the stuffed bell peppers she is preparing are actually "monkey heads". While Calvin's mother succeeds in making him eager to eat the peppers, his father is disgusted by her description and reacts with the same words that Calvin had used beforehand.
- Serving live monkey brains was staged in the 1978 mondo film Faces of Death, in which a scene shows a group of people eating the dish in this manner.
- Il Paese del sesso selvaggio directed by Umberto Lenzi (1972, also known as The Man from the Deep River) is an Italian cannibal film set in Burma that has a monkey brain scene.
- In Cannibal Holocaust (1980), a tribesman slices off a monkey's face and proceeds to eat the brains.
- In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), chilled monkey brains are served as a dessert in a scene set in India.
- In the 1985 film Clue dinner guests are served monkey brains, but they are not revealed as such until the end of the film. This provides a clue towards who killed the cook.
- In the 1995 Hong Kong film Jin Yu Man Tang (The Chinese Feast) featuring Leslie Cheung, monkey brain is the last cuisine that two best Chinese chefs are competing with.
- Elsewhereless (1998) is a contemporary opera set in Africa that features a live monkey brain scene.
See also