11 bizarre foods from around the world you should give a try

May 3, 2016 at 4:30 p.m. ET
Image: Chalabala/Getty Images

If you turn up your nose at these foods, you may be missing out. From much-lauded delicacies to foods that provide sustenance in times of scarcity, trying the cuisines of other cultures can help us get a literal taste of what it means to be human in other parts of the world. And if these sound strange to you, just think about how many times you've eaten processed cheese food product from a can. Food is food, right?

1. Kopi luwak

Brewed from partially digested coffee beans found in the waste of civet cats, this drink is an Indonesian delicacy. It's said to be the most expensive coffee in the world.

2. Balut

A popular street food in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, balut is a fertilized duck egg that contains a duck embryo. The egg is boiled, and when it's cooked, it contains a broth, yolk and duck embryo, which are usually enjoyed one at a time. Apparently the embryo tastes like chicken, which makes sense, as duck is a type of poultry. And the yolk, predictably, tastes like a cooked egg yolk.

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3. Escamoles

Sometimes referred to as insect caviar, escamoles is the larvae of ants. It's a popular ingredient in central Mexico, known for its nutty, buttery taste and a creamy texture.

4. Fried tarantula

They look a little intimidating, but apparently fried tarantulas taste great. This Cambodian specialty is deep-fried (which makes basically anything taste good), then seasoned with salt, sugar and MSG. Apparently it has white meat with the texture of crab. And come to think of it, have you looked at a crab lately? It doesn't seem any weirder to me to eat a spider, TBH.

5. Century eggs

Popular in China, century eggs, also known as thousand-year or millennium eggs, are simply preserved eggs. The eggs are soaked in a solution of salt and clay or ash for a few weeks or even months. When the eggs are fully cured, they have a pungent odor (as one might expect), with a creamy, almost cheesy yolk and jellied, dark egg white. Apparently the white and yolk have a concentrated egg flavor, though some have a hard time getting past the strong ammonia-like smell. The eggs are often served with pickled ginger to help cut through the pungency.

6. Casu marzu

A Sicilian specialty, casu marzu is created when blocks of pecorino cheese are purposely infested with maggots. The maggots break down the fat in the cheese, making it soft and unctuous. Sure, there are still live maggots in it when you eat it, but it must be delicious if you're willing to put up with that!

7. Kiviak

Traditional to the Inuit people of Greenland, kiviak is made by stuffing a seal skin with hundreds of small sea birds, called auks. The whole birds are packed (feathers included) into the seal, then left to ferment for between three to 18 months. Their completed fermentation coincides with the winter, when fresh food is scarce. The feathers are removed before eating, and the other parts of the bird become soft after fermenting along with the layer of fat inside the seal's skin. You may not want it on a sandwich, but when you think about it, kiviak is a pretty ingenious way to deal with food shortages in a hostile northern climate.

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8. Squirrel brains

A classic Appalachian ingredient, squirrel brains can be added to scrambled eggs or eaten in stews. Just be careful — some doctors think squirrels may carry a variant of mad cow disease.

9. Bat paste

Live bats are boiled, roasted, seasoned and mashed into a flavorful paste in this Thai dish, which is usually then used to make soup. However, even in the area where it's found, bat paste is considered a rare delicacy, especially since bats are known to carry diseases.

10. Jellied moose nose

Much like pig's feet, moose nose is full of collagen. When the nose is boiled, it creates a gelatin-rich broth. The boiled moose meat is removed from any remaining bones on the snout, then sliced, and the broth is poured over. Then the whole thing is refrigerated until the natural gelatin has set. If you can get your hands on a moose snout, try this recipe for yourself.

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11. Roasted scorpion on a stick

You can get all manner of fried and roasted insects at the night markets of Bangkok, Thailand, but scorpions are an especially exciting delicacy. Don't worry about that venom. Scorpions are perfectly safe to eat so long as they're thoroughly cooked.