They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. The same could be said about food: one man’s nightmare may just be another man’s delicacy. From cow’s tongue and pig’s snout to chicken’s feet, from fried worms and frog’s legs to sautéed snails, the list of weird stuff we eat is endless (and often quite tasty). If you’ve been indulging lately and need a reason to diet, take a read, you may just lose that appetite. Here is the list of the ten strangest foods from around the world.
10. Fried – brain sandwiches
Long before the era of Mad-Cow Disease, a sandwich made from fried calves’ brain, thinly sliced on white bread was a common item on the menus in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. The sandwich is still available in the Ohio River Valley, where the brains are now heavily battered and served on hamburger buns. In El Salvador and Mexico beef brains, lovingly called sesos in Spanish, are used in tacos and burritos. The brains have a mushy texture and very little flavor on their own so the addition of copious amounts of hot sauce definitely helps.
A traditional Scottish dish, haggis is made with the minced heart, liver and lung of a sheep mixed with onion, spices, oatmeal, salt and stock, and boiled in the sheep’s stomach for a few hours. Larousse Gastronomique, a popular encyclopedia of gastronomic delights, claims that haggis has “an excellent nutty texture and delicious savory flavor.” Haggis is available year-round in Scottish supermarkets and made with an artificial casing rather than a sheep’s stomach. In fact some are sold in cans to be heated in a microwave before eating. Similar dishes can be found in other European countries with goat, pork or beef used instead of sheep.
The practice of eating insects for food is called entomophagy and is fairly common in many parts of the world, with the exceptions of Europe and North America (though bugs are apparently a favorite with the television show “Fear Factor”). It is not uncommon to find vendors selling fried grasshoppers, crickets, scorpions, spiders and worms on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand. Insects are high in protein and apparently consist of important fatty acids and vitamins. In fact flour from drying and grinding up mealworm can be and is often used to make chocolate chip cookies. So next time you think there is a fly in your soup, it may actually just be part of the presentation.
7. Rocky Mountain Oysters
What is so strange about oysters? Probably the fact that they’re not the kind you find at the bottom of the ocean, but rather a fancy name given to deep-fried testicles of a buffalo, bull or boar. Rocky Mountain oysters (also called Prairie Oysters) are well-known and regularly enjoyed, in certain parts of the United States and Canada, generally where cattle ranching is prevalent. The testicles are peeled, boiled, rolled in a flour mixture, and fried, then generally served with a nice cocktail sauce.
6. Stuffed Camel
The recipe for a whole stuffed camel kind of reads like a bad joke, with ingredients that include one whole camel, one whole lamb and 20 whole chickens. The Guinness Book of World Records lists the recipe as the largest item on any menu in the world, conveniently leaving out any concrete examples of this dish actually being eaten. Legend has it that that a whole stuffed camel is a traditional Bedouin dish seemingly prepared like a Russian Stacking Doll, where a camel is stuffed with a whole lamb, the lamb stuffed with the chickens and the chickens stuffed with eggs and rice. The entire concoction is then barbecued until cooked and served. Fact or fiction, the shear amount of food created by this dish makes it deserving of a place on the list.
Anthony Bourdain, known for eating some of the strangest foods in the world, claims that hakarl is the most disgusting thing he has ever eaten. Made by gutting a Greenland or Basking shark and then fermenting it for two to four months, hakarl is an Icelandic food that reeks with the smell of ammonia. It is available all year round in Icelandic stores and often served in cubes on toothpicks.
Fugu is the Japanese word for the poisonous puffer fish, filled with enough of the poison tetrodotoxin to be lethal. Only specially-trained chefs, who undergo two to three years of training and have passed an official test, can prepare the fish. Some chefs will choose to leave a minute amount of poison in the fish to cause a tingling sensation on the tongue and lips as fugu can be quite bland. Perhaps the fuss of fugu is more in surviving the experience than the actual taste of the deadly fish.
3. Casu Marzu
Found in the city of Sardinia in Italy, casu marzu is a cheese that is home to live insect larvae. These larvae are deliberately added to the cheese to promote a level of fermentation that is close to decomposition, at which point the cheese’s fats are broken down. The tiny, translucent worms can jump up to half a foot if disturbed, which explains why some people prefer to brush off the insects before enjoying a spoonful of the pungent cheese.
With sashimi and sushi readily available the world over, eating raw seafood is no longer considered a dining adventure. The Korean delicacy sannakji however, is something quite different, as the seafood isn’t quite dead. Live baby octopus are sliced up and seasoned with sesame oil. The tentacles are still squirming when this dish is served and, if not chewed carefully, the tiny suction cups can stick to the mouth and throat. This is not a dish for the fainthearted.
Balut seems to be on every “strange food” list, usually at the top, and for good reason. Though no longer wriggling on the plate like the live octopus in Korea, the fertilized duck or chicken egg with a nearly-developed embryo that is boiled and eaten in the shell is easily one of the strangest foods in the world. Balut is very common in the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam and usually sold by street vendors. It is said balut tastes like egg and duck (or chicken), which is essentially what it is. It is surprising to many that a food that appears so bizarre—often the with the bird’s features clearly developed–can taste so banal. In the end, apparently everything does indeed, just taste like chicken.