One of the best parts of travelling can be discovering new foods and local cuisines. It’s incredible to go to distant countries and find out what they love to eat, and whether you’ll love it too!
And, of course, there are the foods that are ONLY beloved by locals. Some are weird, with a strange cooking style or texture. Others are just gross. Don’t read this list while eating.
1. Casu Marzu
This cheese from the Italian island of Sardinia is best known for the live maggots that give the cheese its texture and flavor. One reviewer said the cheese “scorches your tongue” with its heavily ammoniated flavor, and the taste will stay with you for hours.
Hakarl is a national dish of Iceland, so it can’t be too bad, right? Well, hakarl is fermented meat of the Greenland Shark left to dry for a couple of months. Greenland Shark meat is actually poisonous when fresh, so to make it “edible” the shark is gutted and buried in a shallow hole and left to ferment for up to 12 weeks.
3. Century Egg
This Chinese delicacy sees a duck egg go through a preservation process that turns the yolk into an acidic green goop. If you can make it through the strong taste of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, this might be for you!
A common street food in the Philippines, balut is a boiled duck embryo still in the shell. It’s becoming less popular there due to Western tastes taking over, but to older Filipinos, eating it is a symbol of manliness. This might be why Fear Factor chose eating it as one of their stunts.
Boodog is a Mongolian dish, consisting of a goat or a marmot cooked from within its abdominal cavity with hot stones. The whole animal is cooked within its own skin…mmmmm!
This Inuit food is critical during the months when food is hard to come by in the Arctic winter, but that doesn’t make it more appealing to the uninitiated. It’s made by sewing up to 500 small auks into a seal skin and letting them ferment in the ground for several months. They are eaten raw–bones, feathers, and all–when fresh meat is impossible to find due to ice cover.
7. Fried Spiders
A delicacy in Cambodia, fried spiders are often sold as street snacks. In the town of Skuon, the spiders are a species of tarantula called a-ping, and are actually bred in small holes and fried in oil.
Some people absolutely love this Southeast Asian fruit, Anthony Bourdain and Jamie Oliver among them. But the smell and taste are often thought of as…acquired, to say the least. Comparisons to sewage, skunk spray, and stale vomit have been made, and its intensely strong odor can be smelled from half a mile away. No wonder it’s banned in many hotels throughout Southeast Asia.
“Finnish blood pancakes” sounds pretty metal, actually. You just have to get past the “whipped blood” part if you want to make it.
It’s basically raw octopus. There’s a little sesame oil splashed on, but that does nothing to stop the tentacles from squirming about on your plate. The octopus tentacles are also a choking hazard, as they can stick to your throat.
Apparently, this Scandinavian food – “lye fish”, the two ingredients of the dish – is getting less smelly with modern processing methods. It comes from either Sweden or Norway, at a time when meat during winter was hard to come by. But with grocery stores and preservatives, lutefisk is not as popular or necessary as it once was.
12. Fried Brain Sandwich
Sliced cow brain on a bun is still fairly popular throughout the Midwest United States, and beloved by many! Beef brains are less common because of mad cow disease, so the pig brains are the meat of choice. Alton Brown didn’t like it, but said its appeal might be connected to the heritage. That might describe just about everything on this list.
Boil the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep in its own stomach; add salt, spices, etc. for flavor and enjoy Scotland’s national dish!