As human beings, we all have a lot in common, and when we’re united in a common cause, there’s no challenge we can’t overcome. Unfortunately, we’re easy to divide as well, and the area that creates much of that division is food.
It’s happened to us all at one time or another. You’re sitting there, innocently enjoying a foodstuff of some sort and bothering absolutely no one, when someone interrupts your serenity and says, “How can you eat that?” thereby yucking your yum.
This is especially true when it comes to regional delicacies. There are some countries with foods that the locals love and swear by and can’t get enough of, but no matter how open-minded we like to think we are, we just can’t do it. Although to be fair, someone from a country where scorpions are a delicacy would probably balk at such uniquely American foods as the fried stick of butter, and who could blame them?
Here’s a roundup of some of the most out-there foods in the world, which no intrepid world traveler should pass up. And if you decide these aren’t for you, you are perfectly within your rights to stay firmly in your comfort zone and just eat French Fries.
Do you like to eat eggs? Well, balut is an egg, but the similarities to the familiar scrambled or sunny side up varieties end there. Balut is a popular Filipino food sold on the streets, and it consists of a fertilized duck egg containing a partially developed embryo that’s been boiled.
This snack is popular all over Southeast Asia, although the length of time that the embryo is given to develop varies from country to country. In the Philippines, it’s supposed to develop for 17 days, whereas in Vietnam, it can go for as long as 21 days. Your mileage may vary.
Many tourists want the authentic experience when they travel the world, which means passing up such familiar places as McDonald’s and Starbucks and eating what the locals eat instead. People who want that and travel to Sardinia should try casu marzu while they’re there.
It’s a cheese made from sheep milk that contains hundreds of live maggots, which are introduced into it during the fermentation process. Please be advised that eating this cheese can cause a condition known as pseudomyiasis, and trust us when we say you don’t want it.
Eating insects is taboo in the United States, but in many places in the world, insects are just another source of protein. This is true in the case of chapulines, otherwise known as roasted grasshoppers.
Despite the fact that many Americans would probably pass on this delicacy without even trying it, it’s had some small amount of success here. They were sold at Seattle Mariners baseball games in 2017 for four dollars per four-ounce cup, and they were so popular that the stadium sold 18,000 of them in the first three games of the season
Not every international delicacy contains ingredients that Americans would find distasteful. Durian, for example, is an innocent fruit grows in Southeast Asia, and it contains nothing objectionable to westerners – that is, until you cut it open, at which point it emits an odor so powerful and unpleasant that it’s amazing anyone ever tried to eat it in the first place.
But eat it they did, and they found that the taste was a lot better than the smell, so it remains a popular food in the region. Of course, everything’s not for everybody, especially in the case of French naturalist Henri Mouhot, who said, “On first tasting it I thought it like the flesh of some animal in a state of putrefaction.”
Haggis is a dish that’s as traditionally Scottish as kilts, bagpipes, and the Bay City Rollers. It comes from the offal of sheep, which is cooked inside the animal’s stomach and mixed with the animal’s heart, liver, and lungs, along with oatmeal, onions, suet, seasoning, and spices.
As tempting as that may sound, you’re going to have to travel to Scotland if you want it made the traditional way, as sheep lungs are banned in the United States. Sad!
Hákarl is a traditional Icelandic dish that consists of fermented shark meat. The meat is fermented for nine weeks and then when it’s ready, it’s eaten as is, beef jerky style.
What makes this food unique is its extremely pungent odor, which Travel Food Atlas compared to that of kiviak, an Inuit dish consisting of hundreds of auk birds stuffed inside a seal and fermented for three months. We hope you find that comparison helpful.
There’s nothing that starts a day off better than a good strong cup of coffee. However, sometimes we feel limited by our choices and want to see how else we can get caffeinated by going off the beaten path.
Kopi luwak fits the bill perfectly, as it’s the only coffee made from beans that are eaten by mammals called civets, who then “do their business,” leaving the civet coffee harvester to sift through it and extract the bean residue. That may be unappetizing, but one cup of the stuff in a city like New York or London will set you back $100.
Muktuk is a traditional Inuit and Chukchi food that consists of frozen whale skin and blubber. While it’s frequently eaten raw, it’s not unheard of for it to be cooked, frozen, or pickled for consumption.
If you’re still not convinced to give this dish a try, keep in mind that it’s rich in vitamin D, which your doctor will probably tell you that you need a lot more of after spending 15 months indoors evading the coronavirus.
Natto is a traditional Japanese food that’s normally eaten at breakfast. It’s pretty simple – it’s basically just fermented soybeans. But what makes it an acquired taste is the slimy texture and, perhaps more than that, the very powerful smell. If you can get past those things, you’ll get to eat a delicacy that Japanese people have been enjoying for almost 1,000 years.
Also known as century eggs, pidan is a Chinese dish consisting of duck or chicken eggs that have been fermented in salt for a month. The effect that this process has on the egg turns the white into a brown jelly and turns the yolk black.
Katia Moskvitch of BBC News tried them and said the eggs “are not for the faint-hearted; the flavor of ammonia and sulfur was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before.” We believe it.
Sometimes, foods that may have off-putting names are rechristened with a moniker that’s more acceptable, even if it doesn’t describe the dish accurately (“sweet bread,” we’re looking at you). Then you have foods wherein no effort whatsoever has been made to sugarcoat what the contents are, as in the case of these canned pork brains.
Far from being an exotic delicacy, these can be purchased right here in the United States from Walmart. If you’re of a certain age and build, however, you might want to be sparing in eating them, as they can contain as much as 3,500 milligrams of cholesterol, which is 1,170% of the recommended daily allowance.
Rocky Mountain Oysters
Some things seem so unlikely to be categorized as food that you almost want to hear the origin story of how they got that way. Rocky Mountain Oysters are a perfect example of this.
If you don’t know what they are, they’re not oysters – they’re actually deep fried bull testicles. Anissa Helou said in the Guardian that it’s a shame people are so put off by the idea of eating them, because “if they only knew how delicious the taste is and what a delicate, melting texture testicles have, they wouldn’t be so hasty in their rejection.”
Su Callu Sardu
If you’re in Sardinia and are not feeling up to eating casu marzu, there are other cheeses you can try instead. Take for example su callu sardu, a cheese made by putting a mother goat’s milk into the stomach of a baby goat.
It matures for up to four months, and is generally eaten with bread. According to the Disgusting Food Museum’s Instagram account, the taste is reminiscent of gasoline and ammonia mixed with wax. Shut up and take our money!
Have you ever felt like you’re being watched? If you’re shopping for a fish dinner in Japan, you may feel that way due to the presence of “medama” better known as tuna eyes.
While it would be understandable to think this food dates back thousands of years, the truth is that it really only caught on in the 1990s as a source of omega 3 fatty acids. So eat some tuna eyes – it’s brain food!
Hungry for more?
- 17 deep-fried foods you have to try at least once
- Fast food treats you’ll want to grab before they’re gone