Monkey brains (cuisine)

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Simulated Monkey brains displayed at Tao Heung Museum of Food Culture, Hong Kong, as part of a Manchu Han Imperial Feast

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.[1]

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.[2] It is often portrayed as follows:


In Africa, 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.[3]

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.[4] In 1998, Apple Daily in Hong Kong printed pictures allegedly showing the practice; it is the only newspaper ever to have done so.[5]

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.[6]


Consuming the brain and other nerve tissue of animals may be hazardous to health.[7] Brain consumption can result in contracting fatal transmissible spongiform encephalopathies such as Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and other prion diseases in humans.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

That the eating of the brains from living monkeys is part of some restaurants' menus is one well-known example of an urban legend.[9][10]


  1. ^ "Monkey brains on the menu (Indonesia)". United Nations Development Programme Viet Nam Country Office. 2003-03-03. Archived from the original on 2005-03-13. Retrieved 2007-07-03. 
  2. ^ "Taboo Table Offerings - The Intricacies of Intercultural Menu Planning". 
  3. ^ Meder, Angela. "Gorillas in African Culture and Medicine". Gorilla Journal. Retrieved 14 October 2005. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Article October 21, 1998.
  6. ^ Clarke, Bella (2005). "Review of The Madness of Adam and Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity". Human Given magazine. Retrieved 2006-11-04. 
  7. ^ Dorfman, Kelly. "Nutritional Summary: Notes Taken From a Recent Autism Society Meeting". Diet and Autism. Retrieved 14 October 2005. 
  8. ^ Collinge, John (2001). "Prion diseases of humans and animals: their causes and molecular basis". Annual Review of Neuroscience 24: 519–50. doi:10.1146/annurev.neuro.24.1.519. PMID 11283320. 
  9. ^ Debunking strange Asian myths: Part II | The Japan Times Online
  10. ^ Live Monkey Brains
  11. ^ Kingston, Maxine Hong (1989). The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. New York, NY: Vintage Books. pp. 90–92. ISBN 978-0679721888. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  12. ^ Watterson, Bill (2011-08-14). "Calvin and Hobbes". GoComics. Universal Uclick. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  13. ^ "Trivia for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom". IMDb. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  14. ^ [1]