When we venture to a new part of the world, most of us want to get in touch with the culture, and that can include eating foods you wouldn’t normally encounter. Presented with one of these ten dishes, however, and you’ll quickly assume the role of a close-minded tourist. And before you start calling us ethnocentric, bear in mind that many of these dishes are outlawed- even in their native areas.
Here are ten examples.
1. Casu Marzu
Native to the Italian island of Sardinia, Casu Marzu- which in English translates to ‘rotten cheese’- certainly puts a new spin on the word ‘rotten.’ In fact, this food is so disgusting live maggots inhabit the cheese. The reason being is because the worms promote advanced levels of fermentation and break down the cheese’s fats, giving the dish a fluid texture. When served, the maggots, which can be up to 0.3 inches long, have been known to jump as high as 6 inches!
It should come as little surprise then that this food is banned in its homeland to adhere to EU hygiene laws, but fans of this food can still find it on the black market, where it often goes for double the price of a traditional block of pecorino cheese.
Because of its infamous reputation, Casu Marzu has long been the source of fascination among food buffs and was featured on the US TV show Bizzare Foods with Andrew Zimmerman.Describing the taste, Zimmerman said the cheese was “so ammoniated it actually scorches your tongue a little bit.”
2. Monkey Brains
Predominately enjoyed by Chinese and Indonesians, monkey brains are thought to cure impotence. Resultantly, monkeys native to the respective countries have become prized commodities, leading to a rapid fall in their numbers. Cooked or served raw, some have even been known to consume the food straight out of a monkey’s skull…. while it’s still alive.
3. Fruit Bat Soup
A delicacy in the tiny island of Palau, this dish is the stuff of culinary nightmares. For starters (no pun intended), the process of cooking this meal is far from ethical. The poor bat is chucked into a pot of boiling milk while still alive before shortly being mashed into a paste then served in its final form as a ‘soup.’ Whether the circling soup encasing the bat is nice is for you to find out (we’re okay for now), but what we’re sure of is the high risk that eating the remnants of an animal known for possessing many diseases carries.
For those who don’t like slimy things that move, then you may want to skip this one. Popular in Korea, ‘sannakji’, is a raw octopus that has been chopped alive before immediately being served with a variety of spices. As the dish is served straight after the killing, the nerve endings on the octopus are still active, meaning the tentacles can still be seen moving around the plate.
If you’re wondering what the contents of this dish are, then kudos if you guessed it was the genitalia of male fish. Containing sperm, this delicacy is popular to many parts of the world. In Russia, herring milt is pickled, while in Italy, tuna milt is used as a sauce for the Sicilian pasta dish Lattume.
Chinese people eating unusual animals is nothing new, but having a penchant for the fallopian tubes of frogs isn’t a food consumed by many. At first, the tubes are dried and then later rehydrated so that they swell about 10-15 times before they are finally double-boiled in rock sugar. With sugar, this chewy meal may just be edible to outsiders, but for the billion + who reside in China, it is widely considered a luxury, with some of the most exclusive restaurants in Hong Kong regularly serving it.
It may look like your average egg, but once broken a fetal duck appears. As a delicacy in both Vietnam and the Phillippines, the food is sold on various street markets and is often enjoyed by dousing the eggs content with lemon or salt. While many remove the bird and only consume the juices, it is not unusual for others to eat the whole thing.
8. Caterpillar Fungus
Exotic cuisine usually involves a plethora of sprawling maggots, insects, and other creepy-crawlies, and fungus dishes are also widely consumed in certain parts of the world. In this case, caterpillar fungus is a dish popular in certain Tibetian and Chinese regions. Admittedly, it looks more like the remains of human fingers, but the result is formed from a caterpillar munching on some fungus, getting infected by the fungus and thereby getting mummified from it while still attached. In the end, you have a fungus that grew roots. Or in other words: a horror show.
9. Black Pudding
Black pudding is simply dried pigs blood soaked in oatmeal. A favourite food in Britain, black pudding is a traditional ingredient in a ‘Full-English’ breakfast, which usually consists of bacon, sausage, beans, and toast.
10. Kopi Luwak
Priced upwards of $100, this Vietnamese coffee is famous for its unusual ingredients. In fact, the local civet cats are encouraged to consume the Luwak coffee beans to allow their excrement to be collected and then distilled into coffee. Of course, coffee aficionados will tell you the final process isn’t as simple as that, but there’s no getting away from the fact that this coffee is, in no other words: pooped out coffee.