Labeling food as unusual often depends on your point of view and place of origin. Foods that are weird or even off-putting in one country are delicacies in another. Most of these foods may seem downright strange to North American palates, but that doesn’t mean that they taste bad. Adventurous travelers have been gulping them down for decades, if not centuries, with few if any ill-effects. In fact, while you read through this list of unusual foods from around the world, you may find yourself craving something you never knew you wanted to try.
Sashimi is any dish of raw meat sliced very thin. It usually refers to fish sliced for sushi, but in recent years more exotic sashimi meals have come into fashion in Japan. A quick glance at some of the more modern Tokyo restaurants reveals horse, kangaroo, and squid sashimi all going for a premium.
Feng zhao is a Cantonese dish made from chicken feet simmered in a sweet sauce. Many cultures around the world use chicken feet in their cuisine, but the name of this dish – it means “claws of the Phoenix” – deserves special mention.
Beondegi are a popular snack food in Korea. They’re crunchy, salty, plentiful, and much better for you than chips or popcorn. So what’s the catch? They just happen to be made from the fried pupa of the silkworm.
The name “casu marzu” translates to “rotten cheese,” a name which does not inspire confidence. This Sardinian soft cheese is deliberately infested with live insect larvae, which, as it turns out, are none too happy about being eaten. The larvae can jump up to six inches out of the cheese.
Fugu has the dubious honor of being the only food on the list that might kill you if you eat it. The raw flesh of the poisonous blowfish is perfectly safe to eat, as long as the chef doesn’t accidently cut into the fish’s venom sack while preparing it, contaminating the meat. But what are the chances of that happening? Just for future reference, there is no known antidote to fugu poisoning.
Akutaq also goes by the name Eskimo Ice Cream, and it really does have a texture similar to the frozen treat. However, milk is scarce on the tundra, so in order to get the perfect consistency, Akutaq is made from whipped reindeer fat mixed with berries and sugar.
Not technically a food, but this Vietnamese beverage deserves a place on the list. An entire snake is infused in a jug of rice wine for several months. Medicinal herbs are then added to mask the dead animal taste, and it is enjoyed as both a refreshing drink and a traditional medicine.
Norway, Sweden, and Denmark all claim this dish as their own. Lutefisk is made from white fish fillets that are preserved in lye. The resulting meal is extremely pungent, which is foodie way of saying it stinks really bad.
In Mongolia, many herder families still buy their meat one whole live animal at a time. While most of the meat from the freshly killed sheep or goat can be preserved for weeks or months, the internal organs go bad fast. Giddis is the traditional first meal eaten after killing a herd animal. The liver, lungs, intestines, heart, and other internal organs are boiled in a large pot, then everyone in attendance is given a knife to carve off their favorite bits.
Deep fried scorpions are part of the cuisine of Shangdon, China. The scorpions are served as street food, deep fried on sticks while you wait. The meat is white, and slightly rubbery, a little reminiscent of fried clams.
Escamol is made from the larvae of ants, which are harvested from the roots of the mescal plant. When boiled, they have a similar consistency to cottage cheese, and are a popular taco filling in some regions of Mexico. Escamol are so tasty they have earned the nickname “ant caviar.”
Cibreo is an Italian cream sauce with an oddly specific main ingredient. The sauce is made from sautéing cockscombs, the fleshy crests that grow on the top of roosters’ heads.
Rocky Mountain Oysters
The United States has also produced its share of weird foods over the years. Rocky Mountain oysters may have an innocent sounding name, but the ingredients seem more like something you’d eat on a dare. These deep fried bull testicles are enjoyed throughout much of the American West.
Black Ivory coffee
A cup of tasty coffee is the perfect end to many fine meals. However, an unusual meal calls for an unusual cup of coffee, like this gourmet roast from Thailand. The coffee beans are first fed to elephants, who inevitably pass them out the other end. The beans, which have been refined by the acid in the elephant’s stomach, are picked out of the dung and then pressed.
Lauren Hill is a contributing writer for MenuShoppe.com.