Bizarre Foods From Around the World

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As I started my blog in September 2013 and only became vegan in May 2016, there are several non-vegan posts pre-vegan era.  As an example of how someone can change their path in life drastically, I have made the decision to leave the posts up even though I am ashamed of them.  I hope you will take this example and think on it.  Also, see my animal activism page or travel page on ideas for ethical animal tourism and vegan food around the world.  My inbox is always open should you have questions about changing your lifestyle to better serve animals, our planet, and your own health.

Growing up as an extremely picky eater, I feel like I’ve been trying to make up for it ever since.  Now, there are still things I absolutely hate.  For instance, I will not touch mustard.  The sight of it makes me gag.  I’m well aware I eat things that I’m sure have mustard in them, but if I can taste it or see it, …bleh.  Mustard is nothing compared to some of the cultural delicacies around the world though.  I’m extremely fascinated with the foods certain cultures determine to be normal or bizarre.  We have a habit of calling anything we aren’t used to either weird, abnormal or strange.  That may be how you view it, but to the people eating it, it’s completely normal.

Coming from a western civilization and heading to Southeat Asia later this year, I know I’m going to come across several things I’ve never even dreamt of putting in my mouth, but I swore to myself I would try anything that was offered to me.  To me, that’s an extremely important part of understanding a culture.  I even wrote about my thoughts on trying some of the cultural delicacies of Southeast Asia.

Since I myself haven’t eaten too many “bizarre” foods, I reached out to several other amazing travel bloggers and asked them what’s the weirdest thing they’ve ever eaten, the story behind it and how did they feel afterwards…they definitely delivered.  Enjoy!


 

Balut – Chasing the Donkey

Balut is a boiled duck embryo that is sold on the street in the Philippines. I just had to try this when I was with my Philippino friends.

The head, feet and feathers are soft and gelatinous so don’t worry, you’re not having to crunch through fully-formed bones. To fully embrace the balut experience, which I have done a few times now – I follow it up with a local beer.

Eating Balut is not for the faint-hearted as you can see the duck forming but, if you try it, be sure to drink the juice before you eat it.

bizarre foods, balut, cultural delicacies


Chicken Soup – My Tan Feet

It’s incredibly normal in Taiwanese and Chinese culture to use the whole animal as not to let any part go to waste. My family uses the whole chicken to make a flavorful soup and broth and uses all the parts including the neck, beak, feet, intestines, and blood in various dishes. Some dishes you can make from the chicken are chicken feet which is common in dim sum, spicy chicken neck, fried beak and chicken blood soup.

bizarre foods

 


 

Beondegi – Life Outside of Texas

Beondegi, or silkworm larvae, is a popular snack food in South Korea. It’s often sold as street food and the aroma is so pungent that you can smell it from meters away! Times were tough during the Korean War and protein wasn’t easily available so people made due with what they could and foods like beondegi became popular. The word beondegi means pupa in Korea. If you buy them from a street food vendor, a small cup will only set you back about $2. They are also sometimes served as a side dish and they can be purchased in cans at any local grocery store.

silkworm larvae, bizarre foods, korea

Source


Live Octopus – Bunch of Backpackers

Eating a live octopus is not for the fainthearted. Some people actually died because the octopus got stuck in their throat. Last year in Seoul I visited the fish market and decided to go for it. An old Korean fisherman handled me the octopus tentacle, which immediately wrapped itself around my finger (eakss!). The suction naps were still working and much stronger than I expected. After I got the tentacle released from my finger, the suction naps attached to my buccal mucosa. Such a weird feeling. The tentacle proved to be tough material, almost leather-like and it took me around 10 minutes to consume the whole thing. What an experience. For all you fellow dare devils: When in Korea, eat a live octopus!

live octopus, bizarre foods, korea

 


 

Kopi Luwak – The Traveling Dutchman

The most expensive coffee in the world comes from Indonesia and is called “Kopi Luwak.” The coffee is made from beans excreted by the Asian Palm Civet, a weasel-like mammal. This creature has a big appetite for the coffee cherries, but it can’t digest the inner bean.
The Kopi Luwak coffee has a superior taste because of two reasons. First of all, the four-legged coffee-bean lover only selects the best beans. Secondly,  enzymes in its intestines remove the bitter after-taste of the coffee.
kopi luwak, bizarre foods, indonesia

Basashi – Besudesu Abroad

People all over the world praise Japan for their creation of sushi and sashimi. While living in Japan, I enjoyed delighting in this type of cuisine often, as it was always the best fish I’ve eaten.

One occasion eating with my host family, a wide assortment of sashimi was placed before us on the table. After quickly gobbling some pieces down, I noticed everyone was watching to see my reaction to what I had just eaten.

Confused, I asked them why they were staring, to which they replied that I had just eaten basashi. Not knowing what that was, I inquired further. Basashi is raw horse flesh that is served as a type of sashimi across Japan. While at the time I thought everything had tasted great, I slowly began to regret my decision asking.

basashi, japan, bizarre foods


Fried Tarantulas – The Traveluster

Driving from Siem Reap to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, we passed through the town of Skuon, famous for its delectable fried spiders. There are buckets upon buckets of these creepy crawlers, and kids run around with them climbing all over their shirts like pets. You can purchase them live or fried. Our guide, Charles, recommended avoiding the gelatinous torso, which was fine by me. Instead, we noshed on the crunchy legs, which tasted like a strange version of french fries or potato chips (“crisps” for the Brits). They were greasy, salty and crispy! I still think I prefer fried crickets, though.

fried tarantulas, siem reap, cambodia, bizarre foods


Stinky Tofu – Foreign Sanctuary

You will be able to smell it a mile away! Sold at local night markets and roadside stands around Taiwan, it is made from fermented tofu and topped with pickled vegetables. It is the one snack in Taiwan that apparently tastes better than it smells (one of my friends once compared the smell to dirty wet socks). Most Taiwanese claim it is the best thing they have ever eaten! My opinion slightly differs, so you be the judge!!

stinky tofu, bizarre foods


Horse – Mountains and Giraffes

When I travel I love to try everything, even if it means to eat bizzare things. I saw Horse on the menu and my eyes lit up! Finally my chance to taste something new. When the steak arrived it took me a few minutes to start eating it – I sat there, thinking and finding an excuse to why I should take the first bite: “it’s already dead, you’re honoring it…” It was the best piece of meat I’ve ever had in my life and I dread the next time I see horse on the menu – I might not resist the temptation. The funny thing was the horse back riding tour I booked for the following day.

Horse, bizarre foods


 

Fried Cow Brains – Nomadically Inclined

When I was 18, I spent four months working on a farm in Northern Spain. It was a small farm and along with an assortment of chickens and sheep we had three cows and a young bull. A few weeks into my stay, we sent the bull to the butcher’s and my boss came back with the car piled high with boxes of bull parts. We ate everything–tongue (delicious!), tripe (not delicious!), and most intriguing of all, at least to me, the bull’s brain. I had never eaten cow brain before and had a vague idea that this was how one got mad cow disease. This worried me for a bit until I remembered that I knew the bull in question. My boss took lumps of bull brain, coated the lumps in bread crumbs and fried them in olive oil. It was a bit…mushy…but, like basically everything deep fried, pretty tasty!

cow brain, bizarre foods, spain

Source


Pig Tongue – Gallop Around the Globe

These are pigs tongues, for sale at the night market in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.  We eat pig in the U.K, the only difference being the parts of the pig we choose to eat.  In many parts of Asia and India, they don’t believe in wasting any part of an animal, so if it tastes good, they’ll eat it.  I didn’t try these, my excuse being that I’m vegetarian.  But even if I wasn’t, I’m not sure I’d be brave enough!

pig tongue, thailand, bizarre foods


Frogs – Frank About Croatia

I grew up in a small town located in a delta of the river Neretva, in southern Croatia. This area is a wetland, and has a really unique landscapes. There are lots of small rivers, armlets, and in general lots of water wherever you go. Although, this area is probably the most fertile area in the entire region, and we grow lots of veggies and fruits, the biggest treat when it comes to food are frogs and eels. And we don’t eat only frog’s legs, but the entire body – from head to toes. We prepare them in many ways: grilled with prosciutto, in a stew, breaded, and fried with onions. They are delicious!

frogs, bizarre foods


Fried Spiders – A Dangerous Business

There’s a town in Cambodia that’s just known as “Spiderville.” Just a stop along the highway, really, on the way to the tourist hub of Siem Reap. The place is a popular rest stop for one reason: the spiders. Fried tarantula is a popular snack food in Cambodia, and you can buy it here along with an assortment of other fried bugs. I couldn’t bring myself to eat one, though others said the crunchy legs weren’t half bad.

tarantulas, cambodia, bizarre foods unnamed (11)


 

Bear – A Luxury Travel Blog

When I heard that there was a restaurant serving bear just a short walk from the hotel I was staying at in Helsinki, I thought “I’ve got to give that a try”. My dish was actually a bear burger (75% bear and 25% pork to help bind the meat together), but at a sister restaurant to the one I was at, you can order the bear’s paw which is considered to be quite a delicacy but comes at a price (around 130 euros per serving). As for the taste, it was full of flavour – quite rich and gamey, but tasty, too. I’m not sure if I’d rush to order it again, but I did enjoy it.

bear, finland, bizarre foods


Bull Tails in Chocolate – Halfway Somewhere

The first time I was in Spain I took a tapas tour where we spent the evening visiting different places and trying a whole bunch of different dishes. There’s one that stands out – bulls tail in chocolate. The restaurant had just won an award for ‘tapa of the year’ for this dish. It was basically shredded beef in a chocolate sauce. I have no idea if it was meant to be a starter or part of the meal or dessert or what, and it actually tasted pretty good. Odd, but good.


Lángos – Pack Me To

One of the strangest things that I encountered during my time in Budapest was Lángos. The combination just sounded disgusting to me: deep fried dough, slathered with garlic and then covered with sour cream and lots and lots of cheese. But after the first bite, I was sold. This is the ultimate comfort food, great after a night out. You can also get different toppings on them like ham, tomatoes, mushrooms and sausage. It is greasy and glutinous, but so delicious! You can find them at markets and during special events, especially in the summer, but my favorite way to eat them is homemade.

langos, budapest, bizarre foods

Can’t get enough knowledge about what other cultures eat?  Check out this post about the Eight Foods to Try in New Zealand.  I’m promise it’s well worth the read!

Have you eaten any of these foods?  What were you thoughts afterward?  Would you try any of these?  Have any additions?  

Traveler. Freelance Writer. Blogger. Vegan. Risk Taker. Voice for the Voiceless.

71 Comments

  1. Sammi

    March 14, 2014 at 4:52 AM

    I’m glad you ended with Langós, I love that stuff. I have been positively wretching at the thought of some of that- particularly the spiders. I am a total wimp when it comes to creepy crawlies. Ugghh!!

  2. Serena

    March 14, 2014 at 7:46 AM

    I must say… I would not probably dare to taste most of them, exp. the baby duckling in the egg 😐
    My most “brave” food experience abroad has been Scottish haggis – which took me ages to dare to taste, but then I was glad I had, because I found it delicious.

  3. Yana

    March 14, 2014 at 8:22 AM

    I can only say WOW!!!
    I can deal with horse, octopus, cow brain or bull tails..but spiders and larvae??
    I enjoyed reading this post – it will probably be the only time I get near to fried tarantulas 🙂

  4. Meagan | LifeOutsideOfTexas.com

    March 14, 2014 at 9:00 AM

    I’ve done both of the South Korean foods, but not sure how many of the others I could stomach. I’m curious about the coffee. I’d be up for trying it! Also, I find it so bizarre that there’s just a heaping pile of spiders in that market!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      March 14, 2014 at 3:16 PM

      The coffee seems easy peasy next to the others, huh?

  5. Amanda

    March 14, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    Wow, so many strange and gross foods! I think the one that grosses me out the most is the balut. There is no way in hell I could eat that.

    • Ashley Hubbard

      March 14, 2014 at 3:16 PM

      I’m planning on trying it when I go later this year! I hear it’s mostly mental…that it actually tastes pretty good 🙂

  6. Adelina | PackMeTo

    March 14, 2014 at 10:23 AM

    Wow, so many gross foods. I don’t think I could stomach any of them. I came close to trying tarantula in Cambodia but I just couldn’t do it. Thanks for including me in the round up! Everything else on this list makes me look too tame. I should have thought up a better one!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      March 14, 2014 at 3:16 PM

      Adelina, yours might seem tame next to bugs and baby duck embryos but its still different for sure!

  7. Daidri | Thee Getaway Gal

    March 14, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    Regrets… sitting down to eat an apple while reading this post! 🙂 Very fun and interesting but no way in *&^# would you catch me eating that stuff except maybe the coffee which I’ve heard of before. I’m just not brave and it made me gag just looking at these pictures, my nose is still crinkled up. I know it’s a great way to experience other cultures but I’ll need to find different ways. As always Ashley, thanks for some great entertainment.

    • Ashley Hubbard

      March 14, 2014 at 3:15 PM

      Haha I love the different point of views on things like this. I’m terrified of spiders…like it’s ridiculous but I really want to force myself to try one. We shall see soon enough!

  8. Syd

    March 14, 2014 at 8:23 PM

    Most of these sound like things I would try…except maybe the balut. The squishy feather bit got me, I’ll admit.

  9. Samantha @mytanfeet

    March 14, 2014 at 11:11 PM

    The only thing that really made me hesitate was the spiders… I just don’t think I can stomach any sort of insect, no way. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it!

  10. Conversant Traveller

    March 15, 2014 at 6:01 AM

    I think I could stomach it all except the balut, and maybe the tarantulas (although I prefer them dead to alive!). The most adventurous thing I’ve eaten was guinea pig, presented spread-eagled on a board, complete with attached feet/claws to use as toothpicks. Was pretty tasty but you don’t get much for all that effort!

  11. Michael Huxley

    March 15, 2014 at 6:58 AM

    I love eating strange and unique dishes from around the world, I think it is one of the best things about travelling. There’s only one thing I have ever said no to so far, and that is the aged eggs in China! I just couldn’t!

  12. Anastasia Sofia

    March 15, 2014 at 8:13 AM

    Haven’t tried any on this list. I think as a vego I get off easy sometimes, but definitely came across some really gross stuff on the way. Live mini scorpions on sticks and the spiders in Cambodia I won’t forget. Eerrrlack.

    I would be all over that stinky tofu though, sounds amazing! Will definitely give the Langos a try after a drunken night when I hit up Budapest in a few weeks! 😀

  13. frankaboutcroatia

    March 15, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    Thanks for making us a part of this great post, Ashley! Balut and live octopus sound really disgusting. And what’s wrong with the mustard?! It one of my favorite foods, I buy it everywhere I go 🙂

  14. Olga @The EuropeanMama

    March 15, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Awesome round-up! I love some of these- langos is brilliant, and I love sushi- I would add young raw herring (eaten in the Netherlands), sour milk (and other lacto fermented products such as kefir)- from Poland. My father used to live in Venezuela and told me of his experience of eating monkey soup. Also in the Netherlands, I would add bitterballen (fried meatballs), and from other countries raw oysters, snails, and horsemeat.

  15. Nita

    March 15, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    So much weirdness in one post! Haha! The strangest things I’ve eaten are stir fried crocodile meal, frog legs, snails (escargots). I would never eat bugs (dead or alive) or any other things that are still moving. Kudos to all you daring eaters out there! 😀

  16. Zana@GreenGlobalTravel

    March 15, 2014 at 6:29 PM

    You are a BRAVE soul! I’ll admit some of this doesn’t look too bad but I can barley stand looking at spiders much less eating one! Wow! Major respect.

  17. Nina

    March 16, 2014 at 1:52 AM

    Normally food posts makes me feel hungry, except this one. 🙂 I’m not really a picky eater and while traveling I always try to eat (or at least taste) the things local eats, although I would pass on anything that’s still alive.
    Another great post, keep them coming!

  18. Bob R

    March 16, 2014 at 3:23 AM

    An excellent meny. There’s enough here with which to open the best restaurant in Nashville. Beondegi was my winner.

    • Ashley Hubbard

      March 18, 2014 at 7:44 AM

      Haha I’m afraid that restaurant wouldn’t do too well in Nashville…

  19. Craig Lewis

    March 16, 2014 at 4:33 AM

    I’ve had a few weird and wonderful foods over the years, including kangaroo, alligator and crocodile.
    But the number was probably ‘brains masala’ – A delicacy of south east asia consisting of cow brain very lightly stir fried with spices.
    It was delicious!

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  21. Sam @ Travelling King

    March 16, 2014 at 5:05 AM

    ok – i have a weak stomach…
    maybe i shouldn’t have read this!
    Interesting but slightly sickening 🙂

  22. Erin

    March 16, 2014 at 6:53 AM

    I’m actually shocked that I *would* try a few of those things. Bull tail in chocolate, horse, bear burger, Lángos and, OF COURSE, the Civet Poo Coffee! 🙂 Super fun and, divinely, icky post 🙂

  23. Laurie

    March 16, 2014 at 7:31 AM

    I must admit I have tried fried crickets and attempted the leg of a tarantula (I had to spit it out) while in Cambodia (I think it’s called “peer pressure”!!) but the rest? No thanks!!!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      March 18, 2014 at 7:34 AM

      Haha peer pressure makes us do awful things 😉

  24. Tara Gorman

    March 16, 2014 at 3:39 PM

    I could do probably all of them except horse….makes me sad every time someone eats horse because of my love for them (though no judgements to those that can do it, just I cannot). Cool post though – loved seeing the bizarre foods and can’t wait to discover more in the world 😀

    • Ashley Hubbard

      March 18, 2014 at 7:30 AM

      The horse makes me really sad too…I’d be more likely to eat the spider (which I’m terrified of) than the horse!

  25. Gabor Kovacs

    March 16, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    I would have hard time to eat most of this food, except for of course are Hungarian lángos, which is simply delicious!:) Great idea this post Ashley!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      March 18, 2014 at 7:30 AM

      Thanks Gabor! I’ll have to keep Langos in mind 🙂

  26. Lauren

    March 16, 2014 at 7:31 PM

    Wow…those are definitely very strange foods! I don’t know why people would eat a lot of those things. We are both vegan so most of that is totally out of the question for us anyway….except maybe the stinky tofu, but I don’t want to eat something with “stinky” in the name of it! haha! Very interesting post though!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      March 18, 2014 at 7:29 AM

      Stinky tofu doesn’t really sound too appetizing to me either Lauren…smells really turn me off so I don’t know if I could do that.

  27. Raphael Alexander Zoren

    March 17, 2014 at 7:59 AM

    Those spiders sure look tasty!!! 😀

  28. Chris Boothman

    March 17, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    Firstly Ashley, I apologize for not sending through my part on good old English Black Pudding but we can save that for another time! I think out of that list the one food that always sticks out to me that appears so gross is balut. I just can’t stomach the look of that even on a picture so can only imagine what it must be like in reality.

    Kudos to anyone who could eat ANY of those delectable delights!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      March 18, 2014 at 7:25 AM

      No worries Chris! I’m probably doing a Part Two if you’d like to still contribute 🙂

  29. Morin

    March 17, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    Oh my!! I always like to try new stuff, but not sure I have the guts for any of these! love this post 🙂

  30. Wes

    March 17, 2014 at 6:59 PM

    Great post! Fried Spiders? I was quite surprised by some of the weird foods. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Michael Orobona

    March 17, 2014 at 7:04 PM

    My personal favorite (story) was rancid muktuk (raw whale skin and blubber) an Inuit/Eskimo man sold to me for a dollar in Nome, Alaska. It had the simultaneous texture of soaked fiberglass insulation filled with jelly (blubber) and a rubber tire (skin). It took me ten minutes to break down to where I could swallow a bite-sized piece. The fellow who sold it followed me around the whole time. I think he wanted to see if I’d go through with the digestion. A colleague seemed to be in on the joke; this stuff was clearly last the expiration date. I passed on the offer of stink heads (raw fish heads buried in willow leaves for a couple weeks). The name said it all.

    • Ashley Hubbard

      March 18, 2014 at 7:22 AM

      Wow, that sounds absolutely horrible haha…but well worth the story?

  32. Beth

    March 17, 2014 at 7:09 PM

    Thanks for including mine!
    I should’ve known I’d see balut on there! A lot of people have been asking me if I’m going to try it since I’ll be in the Philippines next month… I don’t think I could bring myself to do it though! Blehk!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      March 18, 2014 at 7:22 AM

      Beth, do it!! I’m going to do it when I’m there later this year/next year. Video included 😉

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  34. Fred Yummy

    March 18, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    Waw I’m not sure I’d be bold enough to try any of these and I have a travel and food blog (shame on me!). A strange food I saw during my travel in Northern Thailand was dung beetle larva (see pictures here: http://yummy-planet.com/en/eat-dung-beetle-larva-thailand) and of course Durian (but I see you’ve mentioned it in your other article about cultural delicacies).

  35. JR_justJR

    March 20, 2014 at 4:57 AM

    Love the pictures, and love the positive attitude!

    Half the fun if travel is trying something new. Some new foods will be good, some strange and some… Well that’s where balut fits in.

    Amazing overlaps to some of my own list of my strangest foods, including stinky tofu, balut, tarantula, chicken feet. Guess they really are not that uncommon!

    Regards, JR

    • Ashley Hubbard

      March 21, 2014 at 7:17 AM

      Thanks! Pretty awesome you’ve tried all those foods…I plan on checking off a lot of them on my upcoming SEA trip.

  36. Diana

    March 21, 2014 at 9:13 AM

    I’m not sure what would be weird since I greew up with strong Chinese culture and normal for me is weird for many people and it has opened my mind to different culture and their food. You are really brave for eating raw horse meat. I wasn’t able to do that shen I was in Japan. And cook chicken fetus in a egg is still a big no no to me.

    Weird that seems normal to me:
    Rotten duck egg
    Chicken feet
    Pig feet
    Cow tongue
    Pig intestine
    Steak tartare
    Caviar

    I don’t eat organs. Anything else I’m open

    • NZ Muse

      March 30, 2014 at 6:50 PM

      Ddefinitely no organs.

      I’m very squeamish – only started eating tofu recently and have never even eaten chicken feet (some Asian I am).

      The weirdest things I’ve eaten are haggis and whale (both surprisingly good).

      • Ashley Hubbard

        March 31, 2014 at 9:46 AM

        Whale is pretty weird – as in different, I mean. That’s pretty impressive 🙂

  37. Constance - Foreign Sanctuary

    March 22, 2014 at 6:59 PM

    Great post!! Thanks for including mine! Loved reading about all the other bizarre foods included in this post!

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  39. Anna

    April 4, 2014 at 12:42 AM

    I think we need part 2 – there are way more strange dishes 😉

    • Ashley Hubbard

      April 4, 2014 at 7:09 AM

      It’s in the works Anna – have any you’d like to share?! 😀

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