Enjoying cultural specialties is one of the best parts of traveling, and truly gives you a taste of the local flavor. However, if it’s something you don’t recognize, it might be wise to read up on what you’re about to put in your mouth before you open and insert. Because while adventurous eating can be fun, some things are just not worth the experience. Here’s a collection of delicacies and comfort foods from around the world that foreigners may find a bit difficult to stomach: 10 foods you love only if you were raised on them.
Sources: IntlDelicacies.com, Wikipedia.org, IBTimes.com, UrbanSpoon.com, Weather.com, FoxNews.com, ReadersDigest.ca
Prepare yourself, because this is probably the least-gross item on the list. Vegemite is a hot commodity in Australia, and while it’s similar to Marmite — which is more widely eaten — Vegemite has its own special taste. Made from a yeast extract, Vegemite is a dark brown paste that’s spread on breads, crackers, sandwiches and really anything Australians happen to have handy. It’s salty, bitter, malty, and similar to beef bouillon. It’s rare that somebody who hasn’t been brought up on the stuff enjoys it at first taste.
Not to be confused with escargot, escamoles are a Mexican specialty made from insect larvae — specifically ant larva normally found in agave or maguey plants. Buttery and nutty in flavor, they resemble cottage cheese in consistency and are considered the “caviar of insects.” It’s difficult to harvest them. Farmers need to dig down as far as two feet into the ground to reach a nest of larvae, and are they are therefore considered a special (and expensive) treat.
Iceland isn’t exactly known for its cuisine, but hákarl takes that to a new level. The uremic acid in fresh shark can be fatal if the meat is not handled correctly, and in olden days, folklore has it people died from eating fresh shark meat that hadn’t been butchered properly. Icelanders began burying and hanging to dry their Greenland and sleeper sharks for months at a time before eating. Fermenting it gave the meat a strong cheese-bathed-in-acid taste. It’s also supposed to aid digestion.
Though they’re not exactly 100 years old, these eggs are still old, and would most likely be thrown out in a heartbeat by anybody not in the know. In China, duck, chicken or quail eggs are set in a mixture of clay, ash and rice straw among other things, and left for several months to “cook.” Once opened, they are brownish-green and gelatinous-looking monstrosities with a distinct sulfur smell. They are eaten as is or used as an ingredient in other meals.
Think of a hard-boiled egg. Now put a barely developed duck fetus inside it. This is balut, and, unbelievably, it is a popular street food in Vietnam and the Philippines. Boiled and salted, these can be found on most corners, and they’re eaten as snacks throughout the day. One can only imagine the horror of an unsuspecting tourist looking to try out some local flavor…
People all over the world have embraced most Mexican food as delicious, satisfying, and filling. Who doesn’t love a hearty burrito at 2 a.m.? But you may want to look a bit closer if huitlacoche is on the menu. It’s corn smut. Considered to be a pest, this weird, blobby tumor is found on corn. But in Mexico, it’s a delicacy and actually more expensive than the corn itself. This despite the fact that the word “huitlacoche” actually translates to “raven’s poo” in Nahuatl, or Aztec.
Nattō is a favorite breakfast dish in Japan, similar to oatmeal — if oatmeal was slimy and chunky and served with wasabi. Its smell has been likened to ammonia mixed with a car catching on fire, whatever you imagine that smells like. It’s an acquired taste to say the least.
Cheeses span a wide variety of flavors and textures, and there are many that only the most sophisticated pallet can enjoy (or unsophisticated, depending on how you view it). But how many cheeses have their legality questioned? Casu marzu is a traditional Sardinian cheese made from sheep’s milk. The cheese is filled with live insect larvae that are supposed to soften the cheese and lower the fat content. If you eat the maggots when they have already died, the cheese becomes toxic, so Casu marzu connoisseurs have to be careful to chow down early, while being careful the larvae don’t jump into their faces. Yum?
These are usually what you think about when you’re walking in the desert and contemplating all the things out there that can kill you. In China, some choose to turn the tables on these tiny killers. Boiling scorpions is supposed to render the poison in their tails harmless, and they are eaten in soup or fried as a snack in China. Apparently, scorpions have a woody taste and are raised on “ranches” in people’s homes — what a nice family pet!
Lest you think that weird delicacies can only be found outside the U.S., behold Jell-O. A gelatinous blob of dye and sugar, Jell-O is a ubiquitous snack that’s found all over the country in hospitals, school lunches, college frat parties and bars (although, as these normally have vodka in them, it’s a slightly different story). Ask any foreigner visiting the U.S. about it, and they most likely won’t touch the stuff. Also, Jell-O salad? Not OK.
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