As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and when it comes to what people eat, that statement rings true.
As Americans, the thought of eating minced heart and lungs makes us want to gag, however to many (the Scottish, especially) it’s considered a delicacy. See if you can unleash your inner Andrew Zimmern as we count down the strangest foods from across the world.
Would you eat a fried brain sandwich, maggot cheese or a fried cricket? We at SheKnows are quick to say no. However, these dishes are widely revered in other countries and are sold in street markets and fancy restaurants. Check out our list of strange, albeit popular, dishes and let us know, would you eat it?
Rocky Mountain oysters
To those who don’t know, we’ll be blunt here. A Rocky Mountain oyster is a deep-fried bull testicle (sorry fellas!). However, to many Americans, this isn’t a weird food at all. In fact, it’s what they’re eating for happy hour tonight! These fried balls are extremely popular in states like Colorado and Montana (as well as in Canada) and can be found on menus all across the western states. To make them, you simply peel, boil, roll in flour, fry, then serve with a side of cocktail sauce.
Fancy a big plate of sheep liver, lung and heart? No? Does that make you want to gag a little? Well, if the answer is yes, we recommend you don’t travel to Scotland. This popular gastronomic delight is common pub fare over there and is typically served with a big plate of onion, spices, oatmeal, salt and stock. Oh, and to give it even more flavor, it’s boiled in a sheep’s stomach. This specialty is available all year in Scottish pubs, restaurants and supermarkets. If the sheep’s stomach preparation is a little much, they can prepare it without. And last but not least, you can buy it in a can to send home to mom. Yum!
Yep, you read that right. Maggot cheese. This stuff, also known as caso marzu, is a popular Sardinian cheese with live fly larvae found inside. This cheese is typically made from sheep’s milk and the cheese ferments as a result of the larvae digesting. The weirdest part? It’s most commonly eaten with the bugs inside. If that’s a little too gross for you, you can clear them out before you eat. Watch Andrew Zimmern, travel host and chef, eat this popular cheese while in Sardinia.
Ever heard of fugu? No? What about a puffer fish? Sound more familiar? Fugu is the fancy way of saying puffer fish. The puffer fish is one of the most poisonous fishes in the world and, if not cooked right, could kill you on impact. Scary, right? This delicacy is very popular in Japan and can only be prepared by licensed and certified chefs. The poisonous organs and skin are removed carefully so all you are left with is the fish. Feel a little better? This flaky, delicate fish is best eaten in winter when they are caught fresh.
Birds nest soup
You know those cute little birds nests you see in the trees outside your window? Well, in China, they eat those, in the form of a soup. What gives this soup such a unique flavor and texture is the fact it uses the nests, which are made from bird’s saliva. However, due to a high demand for this soup, man-made nests are being constructed to satisfy the craving for nest soup. According to Bootsnall, a travel site, Hong Kong and the U.S. are the top importers for the nest, and soup in Hong Kong can cost as much as $100 a bowl! Because nests are so high in nutrients, the Chinese believe this soup can solve whatever is troubling you, whether that be a cold or even concentration. Next time you can’t focus on your to-do list, maybe the cure is in your big oak tree.
Eating crickets, tarantulas and beetles may sound rather unappealing to us, but for many cultures, these six plus-legged creatures are regular staples on the lunch menus and at farmers’ markets. The actual practice of eating insects is known as entomophagy and is extremely common in many parts of the world. In fact, you can’t go to Bangkok, Thailand, without seeing carts and markets filled with deep-fried crickets, grasshoppers, scorpions and even worms. The reason these little insects are so popular is because they are easy to catch, quick to cook and are very high in protein and filled with fatty, healthy acids. If eating a fried spider has you squeamish, you can enjoy your bug pureed and baked into chocolate chip cookies.
This one we can’t say with a straight face. Muktuk is, simply, a popular Eskimo dish made of whale blubber and skin. This delicacy of fat is typically eaten raw, however, if the thought of eating pure raw fat is alarming to you, you can also order it diced, deep-fried or even pickled. In addition to providing a good source of protein and fat, muktuk is also a great source of vitamin C. This dish can be found all over Alaska (typically in the Inuit community) and is best eaten during the summer or whaling season.
Skip that ordinary deep-fried chicken sandwich for lunch and grab a nice slab of fried brains on whole wheat instead. Before the scare of mad cow disease, bars and pubs in St. Louis, Missouri, would serve up plates and plates of fried calves brains between two buns with a dab of mayo. You may not find this item on the menu anymore in big cities, but you can still find it in some diners in the Ohio River Valley. In Mexico and El Salvador, brains are a very popular menu item and are served up in tacos and burritos. According to Moolf, brains don’t have much flavor at all, so they are often doused in hot sauce, Mexican spices and sauces to give them some kick.
Try saying that one three times fast. This Swedish dish is made up of fermented Baltic herring and is an extremely popular comfort food all across the country. The herring is caught in the spring and then fermented in large barrels for up to two months. Then, it’s canned and tinned and fermented for another two to three months. The Swedish enjoy this delicacy smashed over toast or with potatoes. The extremely strong odor and taste (which Andrew Zimmern simply said “it tastes like year-old rotted fish”) is best washed down with a beer. A very strong, strong beer.
If you’re a brave soul who managed to read through all those interesting foods, you may have to step away after reading this one. Balut is a fertilized duck or chicken egg with a nearly-developed embryo that is boiled and eaten in the shell and is quite common in the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam. Yes, you read that right, a boiled, nearly developed embryo. The broth that surrounds the embryo is sipped before the shell is peeled and the insides consumed. These eggs are often sold in sand (to keep the eggs warm) with a side of salt. Can you see now why we labeled this the number one strangest food in the world?
Photo credit: Marshall Astor
Congratulations on making it through this list! What’s your vote, then? Could you eat any of these strange foods?