One of the most exciting parts of travelling, for me at least, is treating your taste buds to exotic dishes and ingredients from around the world. There is, of course, a flip side to experiencing new cuisines though. Some dishes that are considered to be delicacies in certain parts of the world are seen as absolutely bizarre, or just downright nasty by non-natives (quite rightly in most instances to be fair). We have compiled a list thirty of the strangest delicacies from around the world. Be warned: Finish eating before you read ahead…
30. Deep Fried Tarantula – Cambodia
In all honesty, it looks (and sounds) a lot worse than it actually tastes. Caught up in the midst of an adventurous mood, I tucked into a deep-fried tarantula in Siem Reap and was pleasantly surprised. It tasted like hairy chicken to me! I learned afterwards that I had more than likely eaten a bunch of spider eggs and excrement too though.
29. Sannakji – South Korea
Sannakji has become a must-try dish for any adventurous foodie visiting South Korea, especially while at the bustling Noryangjin Fish Market in Seoul. Sannakji is essentially live octopus. Severed tentacles are served writhing on the plate, often accompanied by a side salad and dipping sauces.
28. Haggis – Scotland
There aren’t many things more Scottish than Haggis; The heart, lungs and liver of a sheep mixed with onions and spices, stuffed inside the animal’s stomach. It sounds offal to me…
27. Century Egg – China
Despite the name, century eggs are not preserved for one hundred years. In reality, the eggs are preserved in a saline solution for a few weeks or months. (Is that any better though?) During the preservation process, the yolk takes on a creamy texture while the whites turn into a dark jelly. I think I’ll stick with scrambled eggs, thanks.
26. Wasp Crackers – Japan
I’m not sure what’s wrong with an ordinary biscuit or cracker, but over in Japan, they thought something was missing, so they added wasps! Imagine dunking one of these in your cup of tea!
25. Escamoles – Mexico
Most people have heard of caviar, the delicacy made from fish eggs, but I’m betting that most won’t have heard of the ant equivalent. Escamoles is a dish made from ant larvae and pupae. And it’s not just any ant either, the larvae are collected from the nests of the velvety tree ant, referred to locally as the ‘farty ant.’ The dish is most commonly prepared by frying the larvae with onion and chili before serving in tacos.
24. Escargots – France
Snails cooked in a garlic, white wine and butter sauce, served in their original shells. Escargots are pretty well known, but that doesn’t mean they’re not weird!
23. Fugu – Japan
There’s adventurous eating and then there’s eating something that can literally kill you. The Japanese delicacy of Fugu, or blowfish, is more poisonous than cyanide and can prove deadly if not properly prepared. As if being a chef wasn’t already stressful enough!
22. Bird’s Nest Soup – China
From a dish that can be deadly for the consumer, to a dish that can be deadly for those collecting the ingredients, bird’s nest soup is an eye-wateringly expensive delicacy in China made from the high-protein nest of the Swiftlet bird. The nests are usually built high up on the face of cliffs and harvesting them is extremely dangerous.
21. Frog’s Legs – France
Frog’s legs, or cuisses de grenouilles, to give them their native name, are to the French as chicken wings are to North Americans. The most basic recipe involves cooking the legs in a butter, garlic and parsley mixture and serving them with fries.
20. Rocky Mountain Oysters – U.S.A
Despite the name, this dish doesn’t come from the ocean. Quite far from it in fact. Rocky Mountain oysters are deep-fried bull’s testicles. You’d have to have some balls to try these…
19. Balut – The Philippines
Balut is probably the most gruesome dish on this entire list. It’s a hard-boiled egg with a partially formed duck fetus inside. The fetus is allowed to grow enough to develop distinct features and body parts before it is hard-boiled and consumed as a quick snack.
18. Dragon in the Flame of Desire – China
It sounds like a low budget martial arts movie, but Dragon in the flame of desire is actually the cooked penis of a yak. Visit Beijing’s Guo-li-zhuang restaurant to find it along with an assortment of other genitalia related dishes.
17. Casu Marzu – Sardinia
I like cheese as much as the next guy, but Casu Marzu is just too much for me. Traditionally made on the island of Sardinia, Casu Marzu is sheep’s milk cheese containing live cheese fly larvae. This cheese is actually classified as illegal. Quite rightly, in my opinion.
16. Cuy – Peru
One man’s pet is another man’s dinner. That’s the case with guinea pigs in Peru, anyway. The little critters are farmed for meat and served in a variety of ways, including roasted whole.
15. Shirako – Japan
Shirako is a Japanese delicacy comprised of a fish’s, sperm sac, usually that of a cod fish. The creamy sac can be served fried, or lightly grilled as a topping for sushi. Seriously, who came up with this? And why?! 14. The Heart of a Cobra – Vietnam I’ve witnessed this being prepared and consumed, and I can tell you that it’s even worse than it sounds. A live cobra is cut open with a knife. Its heart is extracted and placed in a shot glass full of the poor creature’s blood. The gruesome shot is then downed in one as the heart continues to beat.
13. Yin-Yang Fish – China
Ok, maybe I was wrong about the Balut. Yin-yang fish might take the crown of most gruesome dish to appear on this list (or anywhere for that matter.) A wet cloth is placed around a fish’s to keep it alive while it’s body is cooked. The tortured animal often writhes on the plate as it is consumed. This dish has come under heavy scrutiny by animal activist groups in recent years, and it’s not hard to see why.
12. Airag – Mongolia
Time to break up the list of weird foods with a weird drink. Airag is a traditional Mongolian beverage made by mixing fermented horse milk in a cow skin bag. Oh, and it’s ever so slightly alcoholic too! Win, win.
11. Tuna Eyeballs – Japan
There’s really not much to say. They’re the eyeballs of tuna fish cut out and packaged like any other kind of meat and I’m staying well away from them.
10. Chicken’s Feet – Asia, South America and the Caribbean
I used to work in a pet shop that sold chicken’s feet as a treat for dogs. It wasn’t until I started travelling that I realized they’re a tasty little treat for people all over the world too.
9. Black Pudding – The UK
The name is misleading, as it’s not a pudding at all. Black pudding, or blood sausage, is made by mixing blood, fat and oatmeal, before stuffing it into a sausage-like casing and frying it. No full English breakfast is complete without black pudding, if you ask me.
8. Fried Rat – Various Countries in Asia
If you’re buying skewered meat from a street vendor in countries such as Laos or China, make sure to confirm what meat you’re actually about to consume. I learned that fried rat skewers look a lot like chicken meat skewers the hard way.
7. Stinkheads – Alaska
Stinkheads is the nickname of a traditional Alaskan dish, which involves cutting the heads off of fish and burying them in the ground along with their guts until they’re deemed ready to eat. Which would be never for me, thanks.
6. Smalahove – Norway
Forget Turkey with all the trimmings on Christmas day, how does a whole roasted sheep’s head sound? Smalahove is served on Christmas day in Norway and it’s recommended that you eat the eyes first, while they’re still warm.
5. Hákarl – Iceland
Ever wondered what fermented, rotting shark tastes like? Like urine. Wanna try it? Then head over to Iceland. They use Greenland sharks, whose flesh is actually poisonous, but don’t worry, the toxins seep out during the fermenting process.
4. Kopi Luwak – Southeast Asia
If you thought that the hipster ordering a venti soy quadruple shot latte with no foam was a little over the top, then get a load of this; Kopi Luwak is made from coffee beans that have been eaten, digested and excreted by palm civet cats. Oh, did I mention that it’s the world’s most expensive coffee too? You’ll have to splash out USD$100 for a mere pound of it.
3. Khash – Armenia
During the cold winter months, many Armenians turn to Khash for a heartwarming meal. The dish can be prepared to individual tastes and recipes but the key ingredients, boiled cow’s or sheep’s head and feet, are a must.
2. Witchetty Grub – Australia
If you ever find yourself in the Australian outback and fancy a quick snack, indulge in some traditional ‘bushtucker’ cuisine and knock back some juicy witchetty grubs, otherwise known as the larvae of moths.
1. Marmite – The UK
‘Love it or hate it’, is the official slogan of Marmite, and it certainly divides opinion. The brown, gooey spread is made with yeast leftover from brewing beer and has a very pungent smell. I’m in the ‘hate it’ camp.