What The Monkey Brains In Indiana Jones Were Really Made Of

Perhaps one of the most memorable scenes in modern movie history is the dinner scene from the 1984 movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (via IMDb). When Indy and his friends arrive at Pankot Palace, they are presented with a stomach-churning feast of bugs, eyeball soup, baby snakes, and the pièce de résistance of chilled monkey brains, served straight from the skull. But the scene was only added as a way to keep the viewers entertained while information that was central to the plot was explained to the audience, according to People. Without the unappetizing meal to keep people's eyes glued to the screen, Spielberg feared they would zone out during the drawn-out explanation of the human-sacrifice cult.

While the scene certainly accomplished its goal of holding the audience's attention, the movie later received criticism because neither the monkey brains, nor any of the other dishes, were representative of authentic traditional Indian cuisine, according to Teaching South Asia.

What the 'dinner' props really were

Historically, monkey brains were a dish that was served at the Manchu Han Imperial banquet during China's Qing Empire, according to Broadcast China, but even in the 17th century, they were a rare meal. Wildlife protection laws have made the consumption of monkey brains illegal in China, so they are not often consumed anywhere these days, and those who serve it risk getting into trouble with the law (via International Business Times). 

On the set of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Harrison Ford and his costars did not actually have to eat real monkey brains during filming. In fact, the entire dining scene was made up of props. Per the Prop Gallery, the beetles were plastic, with a detachable body that was stuffed with an edible filling. The eyeballs in the soup were also fake, and the monkey brains were really just custard mixed with raspberry sauce, according to Screenrant. While the Primate Parfait might have looked repulsive, the cast really was enjoying a sweet-tasting dessert inside the monkey skull.