Feel like a snack? How about some puffin hearts, maggot-filled cheese or fleshy growth from the top of a chicken’s head?
They may sound like your worst culinary nightmare, but these are among the bizarre foods enjoyed and considered delicacies in some parts of the world.
One of the great things about travel is experiencing everything the world has to offer, so why not step outside your comfort zone the next time you jet off and taste the world’s specialties? Here’s a few ideas to get you started…
Century Egg, China
It might not be a century old, but it looks and smells like it. The eggs are covered in a mixture of clay, salt and ash for a few months, making the yolk turn dark green and the white a dark brown, translucent jelly. While you’ll have to contend with a pungent ammonia-like odor, the egg is said to be surprisingly creamy, velvety and succulent.
Fugu is Japanese for “pufferfish” and has been called the gastronomic equivalent of playing Russian roulette. Made famous by The Simpsons, fugu is lethal if the toxic parts are not removed. Because of this, Japanese law controls its preparation in restaurants, with only highly trained chefs allowed to handle the fish.
Balut, South-East Asia
A common street food, balut is a fertilized duck egg that’s boiled and eaten from the shell. With its partly developed embryo inside, get ready to crunch on what tastes like a normal egg with bits of feathers and bones. I tried this in Cambodia and lived to tell the tale.
This is the fleshy growth found on the head of birds such as turkeys, pheasants and domestic chickens. In Italian cuisine, combs are an important ingredient in the famous sauce called Cibreo. In France, they have been used as garnishes for dishes as well as ground up and combined with sauces.
Bird’s Nest Soup, South-East Asia
This plate of soup is made from the nest of the swiftlet bird who builds it out of its own saliva, which later hardens. Edible bird’s nests are often called the “Caviar of the East” and are one of the most expensive food products in the world, with nests retailing for up to $10,000 a kilogram. The nests are supposedly very high in protein, and the soup is commonly found in high-end restaurants in China.
Puffin Heart, Iceland
There’s no denying puffins are adorable, but unfortunately this dish is pretty brutal. The puffin inhabits the northern hemisphere and its heart is considered a delicacy in Iceland. Hunters who go “sky-fishing” for puffins (catching the birds in a big net) break their necks, skin them and then eat the heart raw. In 2008, TV chef Gordon Ramsey sparked a furore when he ate a puffin heart on his show.
Casu Marzu, Italy
Also charmingly known as ‘maggot cheese’, this traditional Sardinian dish is sheep’s milk cheese crawling with live insect larvae. It’s essentially Pecorino cheese which has gone very, very bad. The larvae of flies are added to the cheese and when the eggs hatch, the larvae eat through the cheese breaking down the fats, softening the hard middle and enhancing the flavor. You can eat the cheese with or without the maggots. Your choice.
Jellied Moose Nose, Canada
The nose of a moose doesn’t exactly sound appetizing, but in Canada it’s boiled with herbs and spices and sometimes vegetables, cooled overnight and then set into a jelly. During the boiling process you’ll need to pull out all the hairs, which according to this recipe “will have been loosened by the boiling and should come out easily (like plucking a duck)”.
Typically eaten in Iceland, this is buried, rotten, fermented and dried shark meat. It’s put into a shallow grave for a few months to ferment in its own fluids before it’s cut into strips and hung up to dry. It’s said to have a putrid smell similar to rotten cheese mixed with ammonia. Chef Anthony Bourdain of the Travel Channel famously described it as “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he had ever eaten.
Rocky Mountain Oysters/Prairie Oysters, US & Canada
These definitely ain’t no oysters. They might look like your average deep-fried snack but they’re actually bull testes. The dish is often found at festivals like Canada’s famous Calgary Stampede.
Black Ivory Coffee, Thailand
Said to be the world’s rarest and most expensive coffee, it comes from beans which are consumed by elephants in northern Thailand and then pooped out. According to the Black Ivory Coffee website, the beans are “naturally refined” by street rescued elephants at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation in Chiang Saen. The coffee costs $1,100 per kilogram, or about $50 a cup.
Snake Wine, South-East Asia
This isn’t your usual chardonnay or merlot. Snake wine is rice wine featuring notes of an entire venomous snake, such as a cobra. The snake is left there to steep for several months, but it can also include other creepy crawlies like scorpions. The wine is believed to have restorative or medicinal purposes, like treating back pain. It can be found across South-East Asia and is easy to spot at roadside stalls and in shopping centres.
Have you tried any of these delicacies while traveling? If you’ve eaten anything weird while on the road, let us know in the comments section below. If you enjoyed this story, please share via the social media buttons.