Traveling is often about trying the unusual and attempting to experience a different culture in the country you’re visiting. One of the best ways to do this is to try the foods locals eat.
They may not be to everyone’s tastes, but the following foods, considered weird and bizarre, or even dangerous to outsiders, are considered delicacies in their countries. Although eating these foods might seem like a form of ‘extreme dining’ to us, they’re tasty everyday or special occasion fare for the people who eat them.
1 – Birds Nest Soup, China
You wouldn’t necessarily think a birds nest would be edible, but the Chinese use Swifts’ nests to make this soup, known as the ‘Caviar of the East’. Right now you’re probably imagining a nest made out of twigs and leaves, but Swiftlets make their nests predominantly out of saliva.“…you’re probably imagining a nest made out of twigs and leaves, but Swiftlets make their nests predominantly out of saliva.”It’s something in the saliva of the bird that makes it have this unique gelatinous, rubbery texture and it’s one of the most expensive animal products consumed by humans. It’s expensive because the swiftlets build the nests during breeding season over a period of 35 days and nests can only be harvested around three times a year. The nests are typically built in coastal caves and collecting them is a treacherous process involving nimble climbing skills, which adds to the hefty price tag.
With an increase in demand for birds nest soup, manmade nesting sites have become common. Hong Kong and the US are the largest importers of birds’ nests and a bowl of the soup can cost between $30 to $100 per bowl, whereas a kilo of nests can cost between $2,000 and $10,000. A tradition for centuries, the soup’s believed to have aphrodisiac qualities in addition to its nutritious protein content.
2 – Fried tarantulas, Cambodia
The eensy weensy spider climbed up the water spout…if you suffer from arachnophobia you probably don’t want to try eating these eight-legged monsters. They’re not tiny little house spiders, they’re great big tarantulas and you can buy them from street vendors in Skuon, Cambodia.
They’re fried whole – legs, fangs and all. They were first discovered to be edible by starving Cambodians in the bloody, brutal days of the Khmer Rouge rule and have gone from being the vital sustenance of these people to a delicacy tourists come from far and wide to try.” They’re crispy on the outside with a gooey body on the inside with a flavor resembling cricket or chicken.”
The black hairy arachnids, found in the jungle around the market town of Skuon, have become a source of fame and fortune for the region as busloads of people stop to try them on their way to other places. For only a few cents, they taste delicious plucked straight from the burrow and pan fried with a bit of garlic and salt. They’re crispy on the outside with a gooey body on the inside with a flavor resembling cricket or chicken.
3 – Puffer fish, Japan
You’ve got to be careful with this delicacy or you might end up in the morgue. The deadly Puffer fish, or fugu, is the ultimate delicacy in Japan even though its skin and insides contain the poisonous toxin tetrodotoxin, which is 1,250 times stronger than cyanide.“Its skin and insides contain the poisonous toxin tetrodotoxin, which is 1,250 times stronger than cyanide.’
That’s why in Japan only expert chefs in licensed restaurants are allowed to prepare it. Only try this at licensed restaurants, otherwise, you could end up paralysed and eventually die from asphyxiation because there is no known antidote.
Fifteen people died in Thailand when the fish was declared illegal and people started dying it pink and passing it off as salmon.
4 – Fertilized Eggs, The Philippines
This Filippino dish, called Balut, isn’t unlike a chocolate Kinder Surprise, these eggs harbor a surprise, although it’s not a plastic toy, but rather a chance to eat your chicken and your egg at the same time.
Fertilized eggs are boiled just before they’re due to hatch, so your yolk oozes out followed by… a chicken (or duck) foetus. They are cooked when the foetus is anywhere from 17 days to 21 days depending on your preference, although when the egg is older the foetus begins to have a beak, claws, bones, and feathers.
In Filipino culture, Balut is almost as popular as the hot dog in America and street vendors yell out ‘Baluuuuuuut’ as they push their carts down the street. They’re popularly believed to boost the libido and are also a hearty snack full of protein.“They’re popularly believed to boost the libido and are also a hearty snack full of protein.”
Balut are usually guzzled down with beer and are prepared with a pinch of salt, lemon juice, black pepper and coriander, although some Balut eaters prefer it with chili and vinegar. The way to eat Balut is to crack open the egg, sip the broth and then eat the yolk and foetus.
5 – Maggot Cheese, Sardinia
This Sardinian cheese is riddled with insect larvae. “Casu Marzu” means ‘rotten cheese’ and is most commonly referred to as ‘maggot cheese.’ It’s now been banned for health reasons but can still be found for sale on the black market in Sardinia and other parts of Italy.
This sheep’s milk cheese is basically Pecorino, which has had the larvae of the cheese fly, Piophila casei, introduced into it. Fermentation occurs as the larvae digest the cheese fats, and the texture becomes very soft with some liquid seeping out. The cheese has to be eaten when the maggots are still alive because when they are dead it is considered to be toxic.“Since the larvae can jump if they are disturbed, diners have to shield their eyes”
Since the larvae can jump if they are disturbed, diners have to shield their eyes. Health issues have arisen in relation to Casu Marzu, including reports of allergic reactions and the danger of consuming cheese that has advanced to a toxic state. There’s also the risk of intestinal larval infection to consider,
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