Every backpacker has a tale about that local ‘delicacy’ which made them gasp/gag in horror. From scorpion vendors on Khao San road to barbecued dog in Vietnam, weird foods are a rite of passage when you’re travelling.
We’ve all read those budget guidebooks that scream ‘eat what the locals do, it’s cheaper!’ so it’s usually pretty often we backpacking types find ourselves with a very suspicious-looking specialty halfway to our mouths.
There are some things, though, that we really can’t face the thought of – even if it means missing out on an amazing cultural experience (or even going hungry).
So here it is, our top ten most questionable dishes from around the world.
1. Casu Marzu
A traditional Sardinian cheese made from sheep milk, Casu Marzu is fermented to the stage of decomposition. Anything that comes with a warning to wear eye-protection when eating for fear of larvae launching themselves at your face really shouldn’t be touched in our book. But it’s considered such a delicacy by some that it sells for around $100 per lb – luckily out of reach of the budget traveler. The hefty price tag is likely down to the fact that in Italy it’s now sold on the black market. Yes, Italy has outlawed this cheese for being so dangerous…
This stomach-churning snack is popular in the Philippines. Basically, it’s an egg with a dead chick inside. Specifically, the undeveloped embryo of a an unborn duck. Enough said.
Almost famous amongst backpackers in Japan for its gross-out cheesy smell and stringy appearance, Natto is a traditional dish that’s often eaten at breakfast for its nutritious qualities. Made from fermented soybeans, it’s not one for the uninitiated.
Shark meat may be eaten across the world but over in Iceland they ferment it first for five months or so until it has an ‘ammonia-rich’ taste and smell, kind of like a cleaning product. Although it’s available all year round, Hakarl is notably part of the traditional national dish Thorramatur which is served at midwinter festivals.
5. Starfish on a Stick
It’s hard to pick a favorite from the legendary Beijing night markets as they’re stuffed so full of ‘unusual’ delicacies. But amongst the goat testicles, grasshoppers, seahorses and silk-worms, something stands out – it’s a fried starfish on a stick, like a lollipop. Surely that’s not right?
Unique to Brunei, ambuyat is a glue-like substance that’s made from the Sago palm tree. The trunk is planed into sawdust, boiled and then eaten like spaghetti and dipped into peanut sauce as it’s completely tasteless on its own. Be sure to eat it hot, though – before it dries into something resembling rubber cement.
7. The Pie Floater
Sounding like something very dodgy indeed and looking possibly worse, this combination of a meat pie and thick pea soup has (slightly randomly) been recognized by the National Trust of Australia as an official ‘heritage icon’ from Adelaide.
We like sushi as much as the next gourmet, but eating raw fish off a naked model really just sounds wrong. Originally a Japanese custom, it’s a craze that has also begun to sweep through America, Germany and the UK. Apparently, the benefit is that the sushi warms up to body temperature, allowing the diner to concentrate fully on its taste and texture…while there’s a naked person lying in front of them. Hmmm.
9. Spotted Dick
No, this isn’t what the name suggests. It’s actually a traditional English suet pudding with raisins. Not the greatest tasting dessert in the world, but made far worse by the inexplicable name. Can you imagine asking for “spotted dick, please” in a restaurant?
America’s contribution to our inedible foods list is this mush of fried hog offal cooled into a gel. It’s pretty much just the waste products of other meats. When it gets to this point, maybe it’s best to throw those left-overs away…
So there it is, your comprehensive breakdown of what is in the weirdest foods in the world. Whether you want to use this information for good or evil (getting your travel buddies to sample maggot cheese might be a laugh?) the choice is yours. Be careful out there.
Thanks to kris krug, shankar.s, JD, Imgur, Audrey, Ryan McFarland, Reedz Malik, Amanda Slater, Edith Soto, Tracy and stu_spivack for the images from Flickr. Please note, all Flickr images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting.