It’s time to take a trip around the world and delve into all the weird foods our species like to chow down. Unfortunately, the world isn’t only full of those tasty breakfasts we spoilt you with a while back – if only. Consider this a public service and an education to save you from shock when you come across these, the 50 weirdest foods from around the world.
1. Chicken’s feet – East Asia, Caribbean, South America and South Africa
Photo: Yi Chen
Considering how many places it’s eaten, perhaps it’s unfair to deem this weird. Still, it’s made mostly of skin making it a little gelatinous in texture. They’re pretty tasty when flavoured properly, but the bones get on your nerves after a while.
2. Haggis – Scotland
Photo: David Blaikie
A sheep’s heart, liver and lungs minced and mixed with onions, oatmeal, suet and seasoned with salt and spices cooked inside the animal’s stomach. If that doesn’t sound appealing, I just don’t know what will.
3. Tripe – All Over the World
Photo: Ernesto Andrade
The stomach lining of various animals with a sponge-like honeycomb texture. Looks like some weird kind of sea plant life and has a peculiar and not entirely appetising rubbery texture. Served up with various sauces to add flavour or simply with an accompaniment like onions.
4. Khash – Middle East, East Europe and Turkey
Photo: Kamyar Adl
A pretty gruesome little dish made up of stewed cows feet and head. It was once a winter comfort food but is now considered a delicacy. I’m sure it’s fine, so long as you don’t mind that grinning skull staring at you through its cold dead eyes.
5. Tuna eyeball – Japan
Although it sounds nasty, apparently it’s rather tame, tasting pretty similar to squid or octopus. None of the gunk you’d normally associate with slicing up eyeballs then?
6. Black pudding (Blood Sausage) – Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe
Pretty widely available, really. Still, there are a large number of people who find the idea revolting. And silly people they are as the finished product is tasty. Congealed blood cooked up with various natural flavourings, thickening agents like suet and breadcrumbs and stuffed into a sausage skin – lush!
7. Spam – United States
Photo: Mike Mozart
The famous mystery meat. It’s said that Spam is made from chopped pork shoulder meat, ham and potato starch, but who knows what ends up in there.
8. Hákarl – Iceland
Photo: Richard Toller
The rotting carcass of a Greenland or basking (Somniosidae) shark. It’s buried underground in a shallow pit and pressed with stones so the poisonous internal fluids that allow it to live in such cold waters can be drained out making the meat safe to eat. After this it’s hung out to dry before being cut into strips and served. With a smell that’s described as ammonia-rich and a strong ‘fishy-flavour’, it was described by Anthony Bourdain as “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he’d tried.
9. Surstromming – Sweden
Baltic Sea herring fermented with just enough salt used to prevent it from rotting. Mainly found tinned in brine these days, when opened it releases such a pungent aroma that it usually needs to be eaten outside. Sounds delightful.
10. 100 or 1000 year old egg/century egg/millenium egg – China
Yeah, OK, it’s neither a century nor a millennium old, but this egg is pretty rotten. After being preserved in a mixture of clay, ash and quicklime for a few months, the yolk turns a dark green or even black and slimy while the white has turns to a dark brown translucent jelly. Apparently it smells of strongly of sulphur and ammonia, but tastes like a hardboiled egg… until you breathe out that is.
11. Stinkheads – Alaska, United States
The fermented head of a king salmon, buried underground in for a few weeks and eaten as a pungent, putty-like mush. Fancy it?
12. Shiokara – Japan
Now this really does sound bad. A dish made of pieces of meat taken from a selection of sea creatures, served in a brown, viscous paste of their own salted and fermented viscera. Oh, I forgot to say, it’s all served raw. You enjoy, I’m going to grab a bucket.
Yummy, yummy creepy crawlies
13. Jing leed (Grasshoppers) – Thailand
So, yes, this is a big old grasshopper seasoned with salt, pepper power and chilli and fried in a big wok. Tastes a little like hollow popcorn skin… except a little juice squirts out when you bite into it… nice.
14. Wasp crackers – Japan
Yep, you guessed it, it’s a biscuit filled with wasps. Think chocolate chip cookies, only the insects replace the choccy chips. Apparently the digger wasp, which the biscuit contains, has a pretty mean sting. I wish your tongue good luck.
15. Fried spider – Cambodia
Fried spider is a regional delicacy popular in the Cambodian town of Skuon, prepared by marinating it in MSG, sugar and salt and then frying it in garlic. Apparently it has more meat on it than a grasshopper, but also has brown sludge in the abdomen, which consists of mainly innards, eggs and excrement. Yum.
16. Witchetty grub – Australian
Part of the Australian ‘bushmeat’ family, this was another staple of Indigenous Australians in the desert. These can either be eaten raw, when it tastes like almonds, or lightly cooked, where its skin crisps like roast chicken and its insides take on the look and consistency of scrambled egg.
17. Escamol – Mexico
Also known as ‘insect caviar’, this dish is made of the edible larvae and pupae of ants, harvested from the tequila or mescal plant. Considered something of a delicacy, it is said to have the consistency of cottage cheese and a buttery, nutty taste.
18. Beondegi – Korea
Mmm, lovely, lovely silkworm. Simply boiled or steamed and lightly seasoned, this is popular snack all over Korea and usually sold from street vendors. Apparently they taste like wood, if you’ve ever tried wood…?
19. Escargots à la bourguignonne – France
Snails cooked in a sauce of white wine, garlic, butter and parsley served in their shells. Said to have a similar consistency to mussels or clams, though I found them to be pretty rubbery. Perhaps best to try in a decent, reasonably priced restaurant rather than the satay version down a back street in Hong Kong.
20. Sago Delight – Southeast Asia
Edible sago grubs are said to be creamy tasting when raw or meaty and like bacon when cooked. Generally seasoned and flavoured in the same way as the other Southeast Asian creepy crawly favourite, Jing Leed and served alongside. My friend gaged when she ate one and said it was pregnant – a braver being than me.
21. Stink bugs – Africa
Used to flavour stews or eaten on their own, stinkbugs are said to have a crunch to them and taste a little like apple. Prepared by boiling, the bugs release defensive pheromones in a last ditch attempt to survive, and while it hurts the eyes it’s no more successful than the onion’s weak survival attempt.
22. Mopane worms – Southern Africa
A big fat, juicy worm that’s said to be full of meat. Although traditionally dried or smoked to preserve, they are usually rehydrated and cooked with tomato or chilli sauce to flavour. According to an American couple who tried the dish on the Food Network, it tastes like honey barbequed chicken. One to give a go, I’d say.
23. Tequila worm – Mexico
Not actually found in tequila but rather it’s cheaper cousin, mescal, it’s said that the legendary hallucinogenic properties of the worm are pretty much non-existent. All a marketing gimmick, you fools.
24. Marmite (or Vegemite) – UK, New Zealand & Australia
Made from yeast extract, a by-product of brewing beer, Marmite (or Vegemite as it’s known as in Australia) is essentially the slurry from the bottom of the barrel that most breweries just throw away. It’s a sticky brown paste with a concentrated, salty flavour that’s usually spread on toast or eaten with cheese. People are either ‘love it or hate it’… I hate it.
25. Pickled egg – UK
Pretty much summed up in the name, this is a hardboiled egg that been left to go cold and stuck in a jar of vinegar. The sour liquid penetrates right to the heart, meaning the powdery yolk in the centre is uncomfortably sour. I’m yet to be sold on these.
26. Bird’s nest soup – Southeast Asia
This Asian delicacy is made from the nest of the swiftlet bird, who instead of collecting twigs for its bed, builds it out of its own gummy saliva, which goes hard when exposed to air. Usually the built high up on cliff faces, harvesting them is a dangerous business and many people die each year. Whether its ‘rubbery taste’ is worth this human sacrifice, I’ve yet to find out.
27. Fugu – Japan
Made famous by The Simpsons, this little delicacy has the potential to be deadly if prepared incorrectly. As such, only chefs that have been drilled to perfection are allowed to handle the serving of the pufferfish. Still, it’s said to make one mean little sashimi dish.
28. Steak tartare – France
Is this weird? I mean, French waiters will still ask foreigners over and over again if they know what they are getting themselves into, but surely this is pretty well known now. It’s made up of good quality raw ground beef, served with onions, capers, raw egg and seasoned with Worcester sauce and other condiments, usually with rye bread or fries on the side. Considering I like my steak served blue this was always the next logical step – and man, is it good.
29. Cherry blossom meat – Japan
Interesting one to bring up after that whole European horsemeat scandal. While I have the same aversion most people do to horsemeat, I also kind of recognise the insincerity. I mean, once horses were our companions and transport. Now they are the playthings of rich people. Perhaps something of a nostalgic attachment? Anyway, cherry blossom meat is raw horse, served either on its own or as part of sushi. It’s said to be low in calories and low in fat, but it’s not something I can see myself trying, despite savouring the raw flesh of cows.
30. Frogs legs – France, Southeast Asia and other
What’s there to say? Basically the back end and back legs of a frog, grilled, baked, fried or stewed. With the texture of chicken with a very faint taste of fish, it’s one of my favourite kind of meats. Try it with chilli as part of Cantonese cuisine or roasted and served with a garlic and cream sauce – beautiful!
31. Kangeroo – Australia
Historically the staple meat for indigenous Australians, kangaroo is high in protein and low in fat, making it a pretty healthy choice. It’s gamey in flavour and served in multiple ways, from a simple steak to sausages or burgers. Although some animal groups are against the hunting and harvesting of kangaroos for meat, many ecologists see farming native animals as much better for the fragile Australian rangelands than cattle and say it could massively reduce greenhouse emissions.
32. Crocodile – Australia, Southeast Asia and Africa
Not only harvested for shoes (one for all you Jimmy Nail fans out there), crocodile meat is considered a delicacy in many places around the world, supposedly tasting like a cross between chicken and crab. Although crocodiles are protected in many parts of the world, crocodile meat is usually farmed, so is sustainable if not particularly kind or natural.
33. Southern fried rattlesnake – United States
A favourite in the Southwestern United States, it’s said to taste a little like frogs legs. Experts advise boiling the meat off the bones before dipping in egg and covering in seasoned salt mix, flour and breadcrumbs. Deep fat fry and munch away.
34. Guinea pig – South America
A strange one, because again I see this as kind of wrong. Yet I know over here we use guinea pigs in all sorts of medical tests and experiments, which is far worse. Typically served whole and roasted or in a casserole, guinea pig is said to have a similar flavour to rabbit.
35. Turtle soup – China, Singapore and United States
Made using the meat, skin and innards of the soft-shell turtle in East Asia or the snapping turtle in the United States, this is considered something of a Chinese delicacy. However, after seeing turtles slaughtered in the Hong Kong wet markets I vowed I’d never eat this dish. That and the fact Shredder always threatened to turn the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into turtle soup, the bastard.
36. Starfish – China
Served dry and covered in hard and spiny armour, this isn’t a snack you want to bite into. According to online accounts, you want to break of a leg and peel open the skin to get at the green coloured meat inside. Hopefully it won’t regenerate in your stomach…
37. Rocky mountain oysters – United Sates
Despite the name, these aren’t actually oysters at all. No, they are bull testicles deep in a batter of flour, pepper and salt. Done for breeding purposes rather than specifically for culinary reasons, I guess it’s good they use a part of the animal that would otherwise be wasted. That being said, ow…
38. Balut – Philippines
A developing duck embryo that’s boiled alive in its shell. As well as sounding incredibly harsh, it looks incredibly unappetising. Still, it’s a common street food and is usually served with beers. Can’t say I have the stomach for it.
39. Dragon in the Flame of Desire – Chinese
The rather elaborate name above can be simplified down to yak’s penis. The Guolizhuang Restaurant in Beijing’s most (in)famous dish, it’s simply a yak’s penis roasted and served in elaborate fashion on a large platter.
40. Shirako – Japan
Another fancy name for an animal’s reproductive organs, Shirako is essentially a cod’s sperm sac. Apparently soft and creamy to taste you can have it served up steamed or deep fried.
Living and unethical
41. Cobra heart – Vietnam
So, they slit the struggling poor creature open right in front of you and place its still beating heart into a shot glass of its own blood. You sink it while it still pumps away… enticed?
42. Casu marzu – Italy
Also known as ‘maggot cheese’, this traditional Sardinian dish is sheep’s milk cheese famous for containing live insect larvae. Apparently these wiggling little maggots are supposed to enhance the flavour, but are prone to jump when they panic, so watch your eyes. Some people suffocate them or kill the beasties in the fridge before consuming, but others go for the live version. Sometimes they survive the stomach and burrow into your intestines. Nice.
43. Ying-yang fish – Taiwan and China
A dish of extreme cruelty, Ying Yang Fish is a fish that has been deep fried and kept alive. A video can be seen of diners prodding at the face and eyes with their chopsticks while they eat to make the fish move, with its mouth and gills opening as it struggles to breathe. Truly horrific stuff.
44. Sannakji – Korea
Another one that ranks high on the cruelty scale, this dish involves hacking the tentacles off a baby octopus and serving them up to the customer, still wriggling. We can take solace that on occasion the tentacles get revenge and choke the consumer. They have suckers on those things… didn’t you realise?
45. Drunken shrimp – China
Shrimp served both living and drunk, stunned in a strong liquor called baijiu. Diners usually bite the head off first before consuming the body. A horrible pursuit, not just for the cruelty aspect, but also for the severe risk of paragonimiasis.
46. Shark fin soup – China
Before we get into it – no, no, no and no again! Although considered a delicacy in this part of the world, the cruel and barbaric way in which the fins are harvested means no one should have any business supporting the industry. The fact their fins are hacked from the sharks’ still living bodies before they are thrown back into the sea means it’s definitely not worth it for the dried and congealed strands in some chicken broth.
47. Bushmeat – Africa
Covering all manner of animals from the African plains, bushmeat includes flesh of wildlife like giraffe, lemurs and even apes. It’s a strange one, considering how close an ape’s DNA is to a human’s, almost on the verge of cannibalism. Not only is bushmeat bad for conservation efforts, it’s also believed to spread Ebola and may be the part of the reason for the current outbreak.
48. Whale – Japan, United States, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Iceland
Despite being denounced by countless detractors on the grounds of wildlife conservation and animal rights, whale meat is still consumed in a large number of countries. The deaths of these endangered creatures are rarely quick and usually bloody, yet it still goes on all around the world. Luckily they get their own back after death. The meat is said to contain high amounts of mercury and other toxins, which can cause organs to fail and madness. An occupational hazard for hatters in the 19th century, mercury poisoning inspired the Mad Hatter character in the Alice in Wonderland stories.
49. Dog – Korea, China and Vietnam
Yeah, so call me a bleeding heart westerner and a hypocrite, but this always breaks my heart. As someone who had a dog growing up, who was part of the family and treated as a little four legged sister, it’s tough to see dog carcasses roasted beyond recognition or locked in those tight little cages, waiting for the slaughter. But then I eat all the animals we deem fit for farming over here, so this one is going to turn into a long argument. While not widely consumed in Korea these days, dog meat is big money in Vietnam, leading to a massive increase in the stealing of family pets.
50. Cat – East Asia
Another household pet to be killed and served up on a plate. Like dog, it’s found in parts China and Korea, but unlikely to be found in many mainstream restaurants. Another one I won’t be trying… ever.
Have you tried any of these weird foods and do you have any to add to the list? Let us know in the comments…