Chicken’s Feet are not to everyone’s tastes, it’s true, but there’s no question that, although a little weird, this is a foodstuff that proves surprisingly popular.
People dine on Chicken’s Feet in countless countries – including Indonesia, Ecuador, Romania, Russia, Mexico, Moldova – and it is a highly popular food in Chinese and Indonesian cuisine. As a matter of fact, packaged chicken feet are sold in most grocery stores and supermarkets in China as a snack, often seasoned with rice vinegar and chili.
Such is their global appeal, there are numerous cooking methods that vary from country to country. Chicken’s Feet can be eaten as snacks or added to dishes, but regardless of the recipe, it’s crucial to prepare them properly. The Chinese like them deep-fried or steamed until puffy and in southern China, they also cook chicken feet with raw peanuts to make a thin soup. Would you be willing to try it?
Spotted Shirako on the menu? You should think twice about ordering. This might sound harmless enough — like a variation on sushi or sashimi. But Shirako is, in fact, fish sperm.
This is a dish that is served in Japan, as well as other Asian countries, including Indonesia and Korea. ‘Milt’ is another word to look out for on the menu. Unless eating a fish’s seminal fluid is what you intended, you should think about ordering something else.
Cod Shirako is the most common — although sperm that has been drawn from molluscs and other water-based creatures that spray their fluid onto eggs can also be used. It’s difficult to picture, but most find that Shirako looks nothing like they’d imagined. It tends to be squishy and ovoid in shape and is similar in appearance to a miniature brain. If you think eating fish sperm is weird, spare a thought for those who have to collect it.
There’s no question that this one has the gross factor. But Tuna Eyeballs are popular in Japan, where they’re readily available from most supermarkets. Like all things fishy? This might still be a step too far. Tuna Eyeballs are the size of tennis balls and are surrounded by fat and severed muscles.
It should not be eaten raw and needs to be lightly cooked. There are various cooking methods used here, but none can disguise the fact that this is a giant eyeball — or shake the nagging feeling that you’re being watched.
Home cooks often boil Tuna Eyeballs and season to taste, whilst chefs braise them in soy sauce and mirin or saut’ in sesame oil and ginger. The taste is a little like squid, but the texture can present quite a challenge. Served as bar snacks and appetisers, there’s no question that Tuna Eyeballs are an acquired taste.
Most people couldn’t bear to touch a giant tarantula. But to eat one? This is such an alien concept that it’s difficult to imagine. But fried spiders have been eaten for some time in Cambodia — where Crispy Tarantulas are considered to be quite a delicacy.
This is believed to be quite a recent trend that began during the dark days of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. With more traditional foods in short supply, people here began to eat spiders in order to avoid starvation. The dark days are over in Cambodia, but still the practice persists.
Most popular in Skuon and Phnom Penh, the spiders are bred in holes in the ground until they’re the size of a human hand. They’re then fried in oil, along with sugar, salt and garlic, until the legs are stiff and the body crunchy. Thinking about trying a Crispy Tarantula? You’re braver than us.
White Egg Ant Soup
Got a favourite soup? Most people plump for a classic, such as tomato, chicken or leek and potato. But travel a little further afield and the options become rather more exotic. For those heading to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos, soup is much different to the familiar flavours that are found at home.
White Egg Ant Soup is just one example from the region. This is, as the name suggests, a dish concocted from ants and their eggs. You might have a favourite soup, but we doubt it’s this one.
White Egg Ant Soup contains baby ants, partial embryos and eggs which pop in the mouth — releasing flavour. There are regional variations, but the general taste is sour, with a flavour that is similar to shrimp. This is one that calls only to the culinary courageous and probably the most exotic soup you can find.
Jellied Moose Nose
Jellied Moose Nose is not one for the squeamish. This is an indigenous dish that originates in Alaska and Canada’s northernmost reaches. Here, wilderness hunters could dine on a single moose for several weeks. But that meant eating everything — and we mean everything.
Long after all the best cuts had been devoured, the moose’s less-attractive parts would still feed families. This included the nose — preserved in a gelatinous broth. Served cold in slices, this isn’t one that appeals to all.
Challenging perhaps, but once winter set in, eating such things could be the difference between life and death. So the long bulbous nose went into the pot, where it was cooked with onions, garlic and spices. But that is not all — with the moose’s ears, lips and other facial features often added to the mix.
These days, Jellied Moose Nose is harder to find, and you certainly won’t find it in restaurants, but it is still out there. You may be able to find it at a public potlatch, a gift-giving feast hosted by indigenous communities in Alaska and Northwestern Canada.
Black Pudding is a familiar food in the UK and Ireland. It is often included in a traditional cooked breakfast here. This might not sound as weird as certain other foodstuffs — but consider its composition and the concept is somewhat strange.
In its most basic form, Black Pudding is a sausage that is made using pig’s blood, drained during slaughter. Weird, perhaps. But as fans and foodies can attest, it is also delicious.
This is an ancient dish that dates back centuries. Traditional Black Pudding comprises pork blood and fat, mixed with beef suet and cereal, and encased in a cow’s intestine. Described as such, it doesn’t sound too appealing, it’s true.
But look past the pudding’s production and this remains a popular British foodstuff. So-called ‘blood sausages’ are commonplace elsewhere, and can be found all over Europe and beyond. But Black Pudding is the original — and, as traditionalists continue to insist, the best.
Salo is not one for anyone watching their waistline. Traditional in Slavic countries, this is not the healthiest option out there. Foodies consume cured slabs of pork fat in great quantities across Eastern Europe. For lard lovers, this is as good as it gets.
Salo is considered a national treasure in Ukraine, where it is most popular. Visiting Hungary, Poland, Russia or Romania? You will see Salo on sale here too. But the big question is, will you be brave enough to give it a try?
People eat Salo cooked or raw, and with or without skin. There are regional variations aplenty, but the basic premise is always the same. Cured in brine or dried in salt, Salo is smoked in the South and served with paprika in the East, and it often comes with a shot of vodka on the side. Have a try, but do take our advice. Order a second glass before tucking in.
How do you like your eggs in the morning? Preserved? China is the place to be if this is the case. Here, the fabled Century Egg remains a prized delicacy. Enjoyed in these parts since the Ming Dynasty, 600 years ago, this is an unusual food that endures to this day. It’s not to everybody’s tastes, but still discerning diners here put it on a culinary pedestal.
Duck, chicken and quail eggs are used most often. These are preserved in clay, ash and salt for several months — the precise time depending on your tastes. When the process is complete, the flavour is strong and the yolk has turned dark green or grey.
Eaten on their own or as a side dish, Century Eggs are often cut into chunks and stir-fried with vegetables or drizzled with sesame oil and soy sauce. Regardless of the final dish, there’s no disguising the Century Egg’s distinctive flavour. Are you adventurous enough to try?
People have been eating Locusts since Biblical times. Served dried, smoked or fried, this is a food stuff that is packed with protein. Most popular in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, edible insects remain an important source of nourishment for millions. Like to give Locusts a try? You’ll find them rather moreish.
So much so that Locusts are starting to become available outside their traditional heartlands. Europe has still to be conquered, but it seems as though this is a food trend heading our way. Would you eat insects?
You could soon get the chance without having to travel. For now, though, Locusts are best enjoyed served the traditional way, from a Middle Eastern market or Asian food stall. Seasoned well and cooked to a crunch, Locust fans love to scoff theirs on wooden sticks whilst on the move and is a weird food that remained popular through centuries with foodies all over the world.
Like to eat a rotten shark? Thought not. Yet in Iceland, this is a delicacy. Called Hakarl, this is a food that divides opinion. One thing is for certain: Hakarl reeks. Those tasting it for the first time are advised to hold their nose.
Those who don’t heed the warnings are often ill. Hakarl comes in two different types — soft and chewy. Both are disgusting. You might think that you have a strong stomach. But nothing can prepare you for this.
Greenland Sharks are cured using a particular fermentation process and left to hang for four to five months in order to make Hakarl. It’s a long and laborious process and one wonders if it’s worth it.
Yet still production continues — and still those tasting it for the first time continue to gag at the ammonia-like stench. Feeling brave? We don’t recommend it. But if you must give horrible Hakarl a try, be sure to wash it down with a shot of Brennivin — a potent local spirit that makes the experience a little less vile.
Known also as Mexican Truffle, Huitlacoche is a Latin American delicacy, dating back to Aztec times. This is a prized foodstuff in these parts. It’s strange to think then that this is, in fact, a fungus — a plant disease dismissed elsewhere as Corn Smuts.
Found growing on affected ears of corn, Huitlacoche has an earthy flavour, a little like mushrooms. Like to put it to the test? Trust us on this one: it tastes much better than it sounds.
Sharp-eyed foodies harvest the blue-black spores for use in various Mexican dishes — including quesadillas, tortillas and soups. It can be bought canned or jarred from stores and markets, but is best enjoyed in freshly-prepared favourites from traditional street food stalls. Smothered in melted cheese and topped with spicy salsa, Huitlacoche can be elevated from fungus to fine food in an instant. Weird perhaps, but a tasty treat indeed.
This is not one for all the dog lovers out there. Yes, Boshintang is a soup that is made using canine meat. Frowned upon in the West, eating dogs has long been a part of Korea’s culinary culture. You might think that this is wrong. But in Asia, there is nothing unusual about tucking into a steaming bowl of Boshintang.
This flavoursome soup is eaten both in North and South Korea. Dining out? It could be called Gaejangguk or Dangogiguk on the menu. You don’t want to eat dogs? Then this is one to avoid.
Boiled with onions, dandelions and various herbs and spices, Boshintang has a rich flavour that, the ingredients aside, tempt the taste buds. Eating it is said to be invigorating, with some claiming the broth even has medicinal benefits. But for dog lovers, eating this dish is probably unthinkable.
Most common in Mongolia, Airag is a popular drink throughout Central Asia. Yes, it’s milk, but not as we know it. This is a product that is best described as fermented mare’s milk.
There’s no question that Airag is an acquired taste. It’s pungent and slightly alcoholic. Even here, where it’s still consumed in great quantities, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.
The taste is sour and it tends to sparkle a little on the tongue. Rich in vitamins and minerals, this provides a nourishing drink for nomadic people. For travellers to these parts, it demands to be tasted. But it’s quite a challenge — and there’s no shame in finding it too much to bear. Airag can also be found in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and China. Popular here, perhaps. But for those not used to drinking sour fermented horse milk, this is one that might just be a little too weird.
Balut beckons the brave. Popular in the Philippines — as well as Vietnam — this is not one for the faint of heart. It is a developing bird embryo that is boiled and eaten direct from the shell. The bird in question tends to be duck, although other species are sometimes used. Sold at markets and street food stalls, local people love Balut. For travelling foodies, however, this presents quite a challenge.
The eggs are incubated for between 14 and 21 days and the embryo inside has recognisable features once opened. It is eaten, bones, beak and all — these soft enough at this stage to be chewed and swallowed. Reckon you could keep this down? We’re not so sure.
Balut was introduced to the Philippines by the Chinese in 1885 and has gone on to prove popular during the subsequent period. This is a weird food that raises certain ethical issues, whilst the taste and general appearance mean it’s one that only calls to the most courageous.
‘Casu Marzu’ translates as ‘rotten, putrid cheese’. Forget Stilton and the like, this takes things to another level. Traditional in Sardinia, this is a cheese made from sheep’s milk. So far so good. But it’s the squirming maggots that make this cheese so unique that also make Casu Marzu such an unpleasant prospect.
It is indeed packed with live insect larvae which can disgust the most ardent cheese lover. Feeling unsettled? Look away now as you probably won’t be able to stomach it.
Casu Marzu is a cheese that has been taken beyond fermentation to a state of decomposition. The flavour is strong, the smell pungent and the texture so soft that it’s almost a liquid. The crawling maggots are too much for most to bear. But for Casu Marzu fans, this is the best bit, so much so that they’ll refuse to eat it if the larvae have passed. Eaten with Sicilian flat bread and local red wine, there’s no question that this is authentic. But for most, Casu Marzu is a step too far.
Edible insects are all the rage in Thailand. Head to Khao San Road in Bangkok, or Bangla Road in Phuket, and the street food stalls are overflowing with creepie crawlies. You can choose from various species, including Red Ants, Silkworms and Scorpions. Feeling a little squeamish? Grasshoppers are often the best bet for those not used to such things.
They’re called Takatan here and they’re available in plentiful supply. Sometimes they’re included in delicious Thai dishes. But Takatan are best enjoyed as crisp salted snacks — purchased from street food vendors and eaten on the move.
Thai Grasshoppers are often deep-fried in soy sauce and for those brave enough, they’re surprisingly moreish. Packed with protein, these provide much-needed nourishment for many, whilst also appealing to travelling foodies. Take our advice and give them a try — before moving on to the more-challenging Red Ants, Silkworms and Scorpions.
Seeking strange foods? It doesn’t get much weirder than Wasp Crackers. Even in Japan, where they’re eaten, these are considered an oddity. Like to give them a try? You’re braver than us. The crackers in question are quite a recent phenomenon, dreamt up by a so-called ‘fan club for wasps’ in a small town called Omachi. Here, they’re known as ‘Jibachi Senbei’.
Digger Wasps native to the region are captured before being boiled, dried and added to the rice cracker mix. Each cracker contains five or six wasps. The taste is best described as being bitter, and a little like eating burnt raisins.
We could live with this, but the texture is perturbing. The wasps’ wings and legs are prone to getting stuck in the teeth, which makes it a non-starter for us. Looking for an unusual experience? You’ll probably find content here.
Like to take a Bush Tucker Trial? You don’t need to be a celebrity. Just head Down Under. Here, in the outback, Witchetty Grubs can be found in plentiful supply. You just have to be brave enough to tuck in. Long a staple in traditional Aboriginal diets, Witchetty Grubs are packed with protein and make for a nourishing snack.
The flavour is a little like almonds, with a crispy skin and a soft inside. These don’t look too appetising, it’s true, but don’t be fooled by their appearance. Witchetty Grubs are, in fact, surprisingly tasty.
The grubs are the larvae of various Australian moth species — in particular the giant Cossid Moth, that feeds on Witchetty Bushes (hence the name). Long, plump and white, they’re none too attractive, but don’t let this put you off. Eat them raw, or lightly cooked in hot ashes for a snack that, whilst flavoursome, could not be more weird.
Beondegi is a popular snack food in South Korea. Served boiled or steamed, it’s sold both on street corners and in supermarkets. Tempted to have a little taste? Do just bear in mind that this popular snack food is, in fact, silkworms.
People here have been feasting on Beondegi ever since the Korean War, when nutritious food was in short supply. There’s no question that it’s nourishing — this a snack that is packed with protein. But the flavour isn’t to everyone’s liking.
Still tempted? You can go sweet or savoury, choosing between spiced and salted silkworms or ones that have been candied. The shell is crunchy, whilst the inside is soft and juicy, with a flavour that is nutty. Served in disposable cups with toothpicks, Beondegi is readily available in South Korea. The question is, will you be brave enough to give it a try?
Mopane Worms are not, in fact, worms at all. They’re large caterpillars — yet to become giant Emperor Moths. In Southern Africa, they’re an important foodstuff for millions of people. Like to give them a try? Mopane Worms taste a little like leaves. This is due to their diet — which is, in the main, the leaves of the Mopane Tree. If this doesn’t sound weird enough, consider how they’re harvested.
Mopane Worms are hand-picked, often by women and children, who pinch their tails hard to rupture their innards. They’re then squeezed like a tube of toothpaste in order to expel their guts. Only then are they ready to prepare and preserve. The caterpillars are either dried in the hot sun or smoked for flavour.
Some like to eat them raw, as a crunchy dried snack, whilst others prefer to buy them canned in brine from the supermarket, before adding to dishes as a rich protein source. Either way, for those uninitiated, eating Mopane Worms could not seem much weirder.
Chefs in Japan must undertake rigorous training for at least three years before serving this dangerous dish. Get it wrong and it could be curtains. Fugu is a meal that is made from the poisonous pufferfish.
This is a creature that uses tetrodotoxin — a lethal chemical — to deter predators. Eating it? That doesn’t sound like a good idea.
Still, Fugu is a popular dish in Japan, where skilled and qualified chefs are much sought after and celebrated. The pufferfish must be prepared with great precision in order to remove the poison and guard against contamination.
One false move can have dire consequences — as Homer once found out in The Simpsons. He lived to tell the tale, but not all are so fortunate. Indeed, those attempting to prepare Fugu at home are taking a great risk.’Thinking about trying Fugu? Take our advice and seek out an expert.
Been offered Desert Whitefish? Do beware. This is just an alternative name for a dish that is often eaten in the Southwest United States. The Desert Whitefish that looks so tempting on the menu? It is, in fact, Southern Fried Rattlesnake. Still keen to order?
Venomous rattlers are abundant in Texas and Arizona, but since discovering them to be delicious, local foodies have stopped complaining. Like to give Southern Fried Rattlesnake a try? Take our word for it: this is an acquired taste.
Often bland and lacking flavour, it can be difficult to eat — with the meat sinewy, tough and riddled with small bones. Get a good one, however, and aficionados reckon that, with sufficient seasoning, this is good eating indeed. Best served breaded and deep fried, it’s not a dish for all. Be it Desert Whitefish or Southern Fried Rattlesnake, this might be one that is best avoided.
When it comes to weird food, it doesn’t get much stranger than Starfish. Popular in China, this is a street food most often found on market stalls. Dried out and deep fried in oil, the Starfish is considered quite a delicacy.
Yet eating it is far from a simple task for the uninitiated. The outside is tough and armour-plated and not good to bite down upon. Keen to avoid a rookie mistake? Crack it open and seek out the meat inside.
This is soft and spongy, but connoisseurs will tell you that this is where the good stuff is. It can be rather mushy, whilst the pungent smell puts off many. But Starfish fans cannot get enough, and hai xing — as it is known here — is regarded as a considerable treat for foodies. Starfish is often served on a wooden stick, like an exotic seafood lollipop.
Frog’s Legs are a French cuisine delicacy. Yet “Cuisses de Grenouille” is quite a recent phenomenon. Elsewhere on Earth, diners have been feasting on frogs for much longer.
The Chinese in particular have been enjoying Frog’s Legs for centuries, but it’s in France that this weird foodstuff has gained the greatest gastronomic renown. Here, they’re served in the discerning Dombes region. Like to give them a try? They’re not as bad as most people imagine.
Frog’s Legs taste a little like chicken, with a mild flavour and a texture like wings. They’re packed with protein and fatty acids. But their reputation remains questionable. This is, in part, due to animal welfare issues. Served all over Asia, as well as in Portugal, Spain and the Southern United States, Frog’s Legs are more popular than you’d imagine. Yet, despite the fact that the food has found its home country in France, it is not a dish largely consumed by the French.
Bird’s Nest Soup
It’s all in the name – a soup that is made from bird’s nests. Intrigued? Bird’s Nest Soup is delicious. But it’s also expensive. The high price is due, in part, to the dangers involved in harvesting the edible nests from the mountaintop caves in which they’re found.
The nests then require a thorough clean to make them safe to eat. This is a painstaking process that just adds to the cost. The end result? Connoisseurs have no doubt that it’s worth it.
Popular dish in Chinese cuisine, people have been eating Bird’s Nest Soup throughout Southeast Asia for more than 400 years. The nests are created by swiftlets, using solidified saliva. This might sound disgusting, but it’s considered quite a delicacy. When dissolved in water, the nests have a gelatinous texture that makes them popular amongst discerning diners. This is probably one of the strangest most expensive foods eaten by humans.
Stink Bugs could not sound less appetising. This is a species that secretes a pungent chemical that is used as a defence mechanism against predators. In a nutshell, Stink Bugs smell bad — hence the name. It’s surprising then that these odorous insects are eaten in great number throughout South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
The good news? When cooked, Stink Bugs lose the eye-watering aroma that gives the species such a bad reputation. But that’s not all. Rich in protein, vitamins and essential nutrients, this is an insect that is vital to keeping local people well nourished, fit and healthy.
Boiled and then sun-dried, Stink Bugs are fried and served as a salted snack. Tempted to give them a try? Stink Bugs could not sound less appetising, it’s true. But this weird food is one that, in our opinion, does not deserve to have such a bad name.
Mexicans have been eating Escamol since Aztec times. Comprising the larvae and pupae of ants, this ‘insect caviar’ is popular in Latin America. Feeling peckish? Trust us on this one — it’s much nicer than it sounds. Harvesting the light-coloured eggs is a laborious process that makes Escamol a delicacy.
The distinctive flavour is both buttery and nutty, and the texture a little like cottage cheese. This is particularly popular in and around Mexico City. Ever paid a visit to this pulsing metropolis? The chances are you’ve eaten Escamol.
Local cooks often add Escamol to fresh tacos and flavoursome omelettes. But it’s also eaten alone, with guacamole and tortillas. Sometimes the larvae is fried — giving it a distinct crunch. Best served with butter and local herbs and spices, this is one that we recommend. Mexican street food at its weirdest, this is also indigenous cuisine at its authentic best.
Feeling a little under the weather? You should consider a bowl of Khash. This is a pungent dish that is believed to have healing powers. But a strong stomach is required for those not used to such things. Eaten throughout the Middle East and Eastern Europe, Khash is often served with an accompanying glass of vodka. There’s no question that Dutch courage is needed in order to get this down.
Khash is made from boiled cow and sheep parts. It’s difficult to be more precise — but animal heads, feet and stomachs are often thrown into the bubbling pot. This is considered an effective hangover cure — although on reflection, you might prefer just to sleep it off.
Served, amongst other places, in Afghanistan and Albania, Bulgaria and Bosnia, Georgia and Greece, Khash is thought of as a local delicacy. Add salt, garlic, lemon juice or vinegar according to taste — and don’t forget the vodka.
Ever tried Tripe? It’s eaten all over the world. Once popular in the UK, this is a dish in decline on British shores. But Tripe is still favourite across Europe and beyond. Often found in France and in Italy, this is a foodstuff that is still served in great quantities on the Continent. Yet for those uninitiated, Tripe’s reputation makes it one to avoid.
Tripe is the edible lining taken from a farm animal’s stomach. More often than not, this comes from cows and sheep. But those with more exotic tastes dine on deer, antelope and even giraffe Tripe. Boiled and bleached, Tripe was a working-class staple during Victorian times — providing a cheap and nutritious meal that was readily available.
Modern tastes and trends mean that it is far less popular in the UK these days. Yet aficionados elsewhere continue to swear by it — with Tripe Soup one variation that is consumed on a regular basis in Eastern Europe.