Strange Places and Things

Strange Foods from Around the World

So you think you’ve got a strong stomach? You might reconsider once you challenge your palate with strange foods from around the globe. Earth is full of bizarre, pungent, and even scary foods that their natives actually deem as delicious. When you travel, there’s nothing like that feeling of excitement and thrill with a little bit fear of the unknown – but one of the best and most exciting thing to explore in this world is food. 

Here are some of the weirdest, most bizarre and intriguing eats you can find all over the globe.

A-ping (Crispy tarantulas), Cambodia

Fried tarantulas served on a plate as appetizer

For many people, spiders are scary – especially tarantulas. But for Cambodians, tarantulas are considered a delicacy, and even a specialty in the town of Skuon, Cambodia. History states that these creepy crawlies were first eaten by Cambodians who were starving due to food shortages under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Bizarrely, after Pol Pat was ousted, Cambodians stuck around to eating the spiders and now served them as a deep-fried snack. The tarantulas are deep fried in garlic oil until they are crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. They say it tastes a bit like crab. This snack is full of protein and a perfect match to rice wine or beer. If you can get past the fact that you have a hairy, giant spider hanging from your mouth, then you may enjoy this delicacy.

Balut, Philippines

The inside of a balut egg

Eggs are commonly eaten around the world, but in the Philippines, there’s a common egg variety that looks icky for many people. Balut, a partly developed duck embryo boiled alive while still in the shell, is eaten as a snack. You’re supposed to tap a hole in the top part of the egg shell, sip the savory liquid (preferably, season it with salt first). Then, remove the egg shell and eat all the contents of the embryo, including the visible wings, feathers, bones and all. It’s typically eaten with a little seasoning of chili, salt and vinegar. This is a common street food and is often chased down with a cold beer.

Escamoles, Mexico

Escamoles served on plate with nopales, avoicado, onion and tortilla

Escamoles may look like a grain salad, but this dish is actually made up of ant larvae. It’s considered to be a delicacy in Mexican cuisine and it has been eaten since the Aztec civilization. These ant larvae are harvested from the root systems of the agave and maguey plants, and these can be eaten in tacos, omelets or even on their own. It’s sometimes referred to as “insect caviar.” A lot of people who tried it said that it was surprisingly pleasant, as it was crisped up with butter or deep-fried to have a slightly nutty taste.

Sannakji, South Korea

Sannakji served on a plate topped with sesame seeds

You may have been aware that there are any raw dishes from the East, but this one is served VERY raw. As in literally – the octopus is still alive. This dish called Sannakji is a South Korean delicacy served raw and usually only with a splash of sesame oil. The chef dismembers a small octopus in front of you and seasons it with oil, but sometimes the chef doesn’t hit them all because they are moving. Many times, they are still moving in your plate as you reach for them with your chopsticks. And when trying to eat this dish, you have to be careful, as the suckers from the octopus can attach themselves inside the mouth, tongue or throat, which presents a choking hazard. Several deaths are reported every year after eating this dish. The actual octopus is mildly flavored, but trying to swallow down the live animal is your experience to remember.

Hakarl, Iceland

Dead sharks hang out to dry to be made as hakarl

Typically eaten in Iceland, this fermented rotting shark is an acquired taste. Yes, rotting shark sounds disgusting, but if the Greenland shark was eaten fresh, it would be poisonous. So, the Icelandic people would let the shark ferment through a special process that includes burying the fish meat and hanging it out to dry for around five months. For many first time eaters, it’s hard to get past the ammonia smell and the fetid fishy taste that can make them involuntarily gag. However, for Icelanders, they can eat it all year round, and the fish is stocked and vacuum packed in regular supermarkets.

Fugu, Japan

Thin pufferfish strips served on a plate and garnished with greens

Dining is usually a pleasurable experience, but with fugu, you may need to consider the possibility of death. Fugu is a Japanese word for “pufferfish,” and in case you don’t know it, it’s poisonous. One pufferfish contains enough poison to kill 30 people. So, Japanese law strictly controls the preparation of this expensive delicacy. The chefs who are allowed to prepare it must be highly trained and have undergone years of training, as any small mistake in preparing this delicacy could mean an untimely death to the diner. These are so dangerous that domestic preparation has been reported to cause accidental death. Fugu is served grill, in a stew or as paper-thin sashimi.

Bird’s nest soup, China

Bird’s nest soup in a bowl

While we’re on the subject of expensive foods, bird’s nest soup is one of the most expensive meals ever. This soup is made up of edible solidified saliva from the swiftlets nest, and can only be found on the menu of some high-end Chinese restaurants. The main ingredient, which is the nest, costs anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 per kilogram, and eating a single bowl can set you back anywhere from $40 to $100. The high price tag of this delicacy comes from the dangerous retrieval process of the nests, and the extensive cleaning they go through to make it safe for consumption.

Casu Marzu, Italy

Casu marzu served on a table

Italians love cheese, so much that they also eat the rotten ones with maggots. Casu marzu is Sardinia’s “rotten cheese” made from Pecorino that has gone really bad. This cheese is made by allowing flies to lay eggs on the surface of a Pecorino cheese with the top part cut to allow easy access. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eats through the cheese, breaks down the fats and softens the usually hard middle. The maggots and the really pungent smell is sure to put off most people except the most adventurous eaters. The result is a strong, rich, tongue-burning flavor with an aftertaste that lasts for hours. 

Haggis, Scotland

Haggis, turnips and mashed potato served on a plate

Considered as Scotland’s national dish, haggis is a combination of sheep’s heart, liver, lungs that has been formed to a sort of crumbly sausage, and added with spices, onion, oatmeal and suet. It’s traditionally cooked and boiled in a sheep’s stomach for about three hours, but in modern times, a synthetic casing is used. The taste is not that bad actually – it’s comparable to a patty made of meat scraps – but it’s the process of cooking, the sheep parts and the unlikely mixture of ingredients that make it strange. This dish is traditionally served with mashed potatoes and turnips, and is chowed down with Scotch whiskey.

Fried brain sandwiches, USA

Fried brain sandwiches on a restaurant

USA is the land where hamburgers, French fries and sandwiches abound, but fried brain sandwiches? Yes, they exist in some areas of USA, particularly in the Ohio River Valley. This dish was brought over by immigrants from Germany and Holland who like to eliminate any sort of waste. This sandwich is made from sliced calves or pig brains that were heavily battered and deep fried. Most of the flavor comes from the batter, since the brains have a mild taste and a custardy texture. Fried brain sandwiches used to be popular in the Central USA, until mad cow disease became a concern.

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