As a world traveller, or simply a traveller in general, you are bound to come across concepts, ideas, and lifestyles that are beyond your realm of that which is considered normal. This, as you explore and discover new cultures, their traditions and way of life. All of this is invariably tied to the food that is found on the tables. The foods that are most commonly eaten.
I was curious to know more about the different food cultures around the world, taking it to the extreme, however. And in doing so, asked a handful of some of my favourite travellers for the weirdest-strangest-exotic foods they’ve consumed during their travels around the world. Read on (if you dare) to discover a list of 35 strange foods around the world!
>> When you’re done being grossed out, read these more pleasant (I promise!) food guides:
- What the food in Egypt is like. A detailed look at both modern and ancient Egyptian cuisine
- Eating gelato in Rome and where to find the best of the best.
- Trying Finnish food for the first time in Helsinki and being pleasantly surprised.
There are a few things more apt in getting to know a land and its people than witnessing (and ultimately participating in) that which often fills the tables and the food consumed.
As a traveller, curious about the world and the place you occupy within, it is important to be open minded during your explorations. You cannot understand new countries, new cultures, the people and their way of life when you’re scared. When you are filled with fear and mental barriers.
Now, I am not trying to convince you to go and try every weird food and unusual activity out there.
People do some weeeeeeeeeird shit (observational: no judgement here)
However, what I am trying to say is to be a little more open minded, a little more empathic, a little more curious, and a lot less judgemental. It is also a way of building bridges and gaining common ground.
Get out of your comfort zone.
Take a step towards understanding other people a little more.
People that don’t look like you. People that eat differently, talk differently, pray differently, play differently than you do. People that live differently to what you’re accustomed to.
Try a food that is completely foreign to your every thought of what food is “suppose” to be.
That being said….
As an animal lover and advocate for animal rights, I am working my way to being more conscious in my decisions and ultimately living without consuming any animal products.
I do hope that the world in general moves towards living cruelty-free and consuming less animal products in the process.
And just being kinder Beings in general.
For the sake of the animals, for the sake of the environment, and for the good of their very own health.
So without further ado, let’s get into these unusual foods. Adventurous eating starts here!
Are you brave enough to try?
WEIRD + EXOTIC FOODS AROUND THE WORLD
How many of these weird + wonderful foods have you tasted?
1 | Frog Legs in France
A slight shiver ran through my spine. I took one bite. I was done. I just couldn’t get past the rest and the idea of what this once was
I had never tried frog legs before. Never even contemplated the idea of eating such a thing. However, there I found myself at a restaurant in Paris with local friends, where everyone had agreed to order a plate of cuisses de grenouilles to share. A slight shiver ran through my spine. The thought of frog bones did not please my appetite.
If you’re as grossed out as I am by the idea and are wondering who in their right mind would eat that, you’re be surprised to hear that globally 100 million frogs are taken out of the wild for use as food each year.
The French are by far the biggest consumers popular in purist Gallic gastronomes, known locally as grenouilles or cuisses de grenouilles. The USA is the second largest importer, especially in the south of the country.
Although frog legs are common in French cuisine, it is a delicacy in many parts of the world not limited to Thailand, China, the Caribbean, Indonesia, and sporadically throughout Europe. Frogs are raised commercially in certain countries, such as Vietnam. It is said to be rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and potassium.
What do frog legs taste like?
Doesn’t everything taste like chicken?! Resembling tiny, skinny and elongated poultry legs, frog legs are most often served grilled, boiled, or fried. The taste and flavour can be described as a weird mix between chicken and fish with a texture that is similar to chicken wings.
Traditionally frog legs are served sautéed in garlic butter sauce as an appetizer and entrée. It can also be grilled or deep fried. As a cold-blooded animal, the heat or salt from cooking can cause the fresh frog legs to twitch.
Would I try it again? A firm no to that. When it comes to anything frog-related, once is more than enough. Also, the global appetite for frog legs is now threatening the dwindling frog population. So much so that many countries have placed a ban on the farming, hunting, and collection of indigenous frogs.
2 | Hormigas Culonas Big Butt Ants in Colombia
When you hear about big butts in Colombia, the first thing that comes to mind probably aren’t ants
Once you take your mind out of the gutter, you’ll realize that hormigas culonas (literally big butt ants) are a regional delicacy in the Santander region of Colombia. After hearing about them, I couldn’t wait to try this curious snack when my wife and I visited the town of Barichara.
What do ants taste like?
The hormigas culonas aka hormigas santandereanas are pregnant leaf cutter ants that are collected by hand during the Spring mating season. They are then roasted and lightly salted to make a tasty snack. Nice and crunchy, they have a sort of earthy, irony taste. They are actually packed with protein, and locals laud them for having aphrodisiac qualities. They reminded me a bit of bacon bits, but with legs and if they tasted a little bit like dirt.
Hormigas culonas ants can be bought in small bags of a handful ranging up to large jars at corner stores and shops in the Santander region. We took a jar home that was a great conversation starter for a while. Eat them as a snack like peanuts.
Where can I find hormigas culonas?
The best places to find hormigas culonas are in Barichara, San Gil, or Bucaramanga, however you may also find street vendors in other places in Colombia, including Cartagena selling them. I know I’ve picked up a small pack a couple times here in Cartagena. They are best enjoyed when they are fresh between the months of March-May, but you can often find them the rest of the year as well.
An exotic food and unique snack, be sure to try hormigas culonas during your time in Colombia. Hey, if nothing else you can say you had a taste of the world famous big Colombian butts on your visit.
Tasted by Adam McConnaughhay of Cartagena Explorer | Insta
3 | Maggot Cheese in Sardinia Italy
Once the eggs open, the larvae start feeding and the cheese is eaten while the larvae are still alive
When it comes to Sardinian food nothing is weirder than casu marzu – literally “rotten cheese.” The name of this maggot cheese, which is found across Sardinia and even in nearby Corsica, doesn’t in reality reflect the conservation status of the cheese, which is by no means rotten.
What does cheese with maggots taste like?
Casu Marzu is a well aged pecorino cheese in which holes have been placed, and which is left outside for flies to deposit their eggs in it. Once the eggs open, the maggots larvae start feeding on the cheese and the cheese is ready. Hard on the outside, the inside of the cheese looks more like a thick spread. It’s a strong cheese, not for those who like mild flavors, and it’s eaten while the maggots are still alive.
Where to find cheese with worms in Italy
Production of this maggot cheese – which is by no means dangerous, despite a few media may have argued the contrary – is actually forbidden by more than strict European regulations. This means that casu marzu is not commonly found on the market – you won’t see it in grocery stores or at the market. If you care to try cheese with maggots, you’ll have to find the person (usually a local shepherd) who produces it, and the only way to get to one is by word of mouth.
Claudia Tavani of My Adventures Across The World | Insta | Photo credit
4 | Sannakji Live Octopus in Korea
The experience of eating live octopus is like going into battle with your food
Of all the adventurous foods we’ve tried, nothing could prepare us for our first Sannakji experience. Sannakji is Korean for “live octopus”, and after living in Korea for a year, and being challenged by many students, we decided to give Sannakji a try. Originally we thought it would be like the movie “Old Boy” where you just eat a whole octopus, with all the tentacles attached, fighting it’s way out of your mouth…. the actual experience was nothing like that!
We tried sannakji at a fish market in Busan, South Korea. We browsed the endless tanks of live fish and sea creatures before finally choosing one with a sweet old auntie, eager to show us her selection of live moving cephalopods.
We made our selection, two small octopi were put into a bag, we paid the kind lady and she promptly escorted us to the elevator. At the 3rd floor she exited with us into a beautiful seafood restaurant. Less than 10 minutes later we were each served a plate of live octopus wriggling tentacles drizzled with sesame oil!
What does octopus taste like?
San-nakji “Live” octopus isn’t quite alive in the way you might think. The octopus is chopped up and prepared with light seasoning. The experience of eating live octopus is like going into battle with your food. The active tentacles wiggle up the chopsticks, they suck to your teeth and the inside of your mouth. The meat is slightly chewy and crunchy at the same time. The flavor is so fresh and briny, like the freshest seafood you ever tasted!
Since then we’ve tried sannakji a few more times, and I can easily say this is one of our favorite Korean delicacies. If you find yourself in South Korea, feeling adventurous, and you can get past the fear of putting a moving tentacle into your mouth, we’d highly recommend eating live octopus!
5 | Locust Bugs in Myanmar
I can honestly say it was the grossest food I’ve ever put in my mouth
If you’ve ever watched the TV show I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, you’ll have seen people in the Australian jungle munching their way through a variety of different insects. I’m no celebrity, but I have tried eating locusts – and after that experience I can firmly say that if they offered me the chance to go on that show, I’d decline!
Eating fried locusts
I ate a fried locust while exploring a market in Myanmar As a travel photographer I absolutely love markets, and I’d gone to Yangon’s main street market for the chance to capture some of the sights and colours. There I spotted a pretty girl with traditional thanaka paste on her cheeks, and asked if I could take her picture.
Only then did I notice what she had next to her: a terrifying bag full of dead locusts, each one as fat and juicy as a cocktail sausage. However, the comparison ends there. Because when I tried one – purely as a gesture of goodwill because I really wanted that photo – I can honestly say it was the grossest food I’ve ever put in my mouth.
Are locusts edible?
When you bite down, at first the insect’s tough exoskeleton resists, and then suddenly it cracks, and all the bitter, gooey insides come squirting out. It wasn’t just the disgusting taste, but also the shock of the goo explosion and the horrifying crunching sound the dead insect made as it burst in my mouth that made this utterly sickening. Would not recommend. But hey, at least I earned my photo – and that grin!
Tasted by Bella – Passport & Pixels | Insta
6 | Bird Embryo Balut Egg in Philippines
As I chewed the soft bones and the soft feathers of the balut egg, I began to imagine every part of the embryo, from its beak to its claws
Balut egg, a two to three-week old duck embryo, are the most popular exotic foods that you will find all over the Philippines. It is usually sold on the sidewalks in a woven basket covered with cloth to keep the balut warm. As a Filipino, I had my first taste of balut when I was young.
What does Balut egg taste like?
Balut is basically eaten from the egg shell, starting with a small crack to sip the broth. The broth tastes like chicken soup and is best sipped while warm.
The story will take a different turn when I peeled the rest of the eggshell and took my first bite. My first balut egg eating experience wasn’t pleasant. As I chewed the soft bones and the soft feathers in my mouth, I began to imagine every part of the embryo from its beak to its claws. I almost vomited but my cousin prodded me to just swallow so I can eat the yolk next, which tastes just like scrambled egg.
Would I try balut egg again? Yes, but always with someone who is willing to eat the duckling part so I can sip the soup and eat the yolk after sprinkling with a pinch of salt.
Tasted by Jing Calonge of Finding Jing | Insta | Photo credit
7 | Basashi Raw Horse Meat in Japan
In Japan I got to try many very strange dishes such as raw horse meat and cod sperm which looks like human brain
Japan has one of the most delicious cuisines in the world. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t also have some very strange food there.
Exotic food in Japan
In my time living in Japan, I got to try many very strange dishes such as Shirako, cod sperm which looks like human brains and tastes as I imagine brains to taste like.
What I found though, is that sometimes the weird foods you cannot imagine to taste good at all are actually delicious. One of these delicious but definitely exotic foods I have tasted is called Basashi: raw horse meat.
What does horse taste like?
Raw horse meat is served thinly sliced with sesame oil and grated ginger. The meat is very tender, not chewy at all. I would actually say there isn’t much difference between Basashi and Sashimi, raw fish slices.
Basashi is a specialty in Kumamoto on Kyushu island, but if you keep your eyes open you can try it at many traditional Japanese bars called Izakaya all over the country.
Since it is considered a delicacy Basashi doesn’t come cheap. For one serving of 4 small slices of raw horse meat, you can expect to pay around 800 yen which is equivalent to around 8 US dollars.
Tasted by Lena Scheidler of Nagoya Foodie | Insta
8 | Cuy Guinea Pig in Ecuador
It still looked remarkably like a guinea pig and I could see its little teeth at the front of its mouth.
I won’t lie, I was a little conflicted about eating guinea pig during my visit to Cuenca, Ecuador. Although I had never had one as a pet myself, my neighbour was guinea pig mad and I remember going over to stroke them when I was a kid.
Eating guinea pig
Despite my initial reservations, I decided to challenge myself and see whether I could chow down on one of these little rodents. I headed to a reputable restaurant and ordered ‘cuy’ from the menu. The guinea pig came out roasted, with a side of potatoes and veg. It still looked remarkably like a guinea pig and I could see its little teeth at the front of its mouth.
Part of me still cringes when I think about how cute guinea pigs are but as a meat-eater, it would be pretty hypocritical of me to strike these rodents off of the menu just because they are fluffy. Besides, with all the damage we are doing to the planet in the name of cattle farming, maybe eating guinea pig isn’t so bad?
What does guinea pig taste like?
I took my first bite of the crispy skin and was pleasantly surprised. It was delicious, sort of like pork crackling. I continued to eat and found the taste of the guinea pig to be very gamey, much like rabbit. Although I had reservations, I actually found the whole meal to be delicious and wouldn’t hesitate to eat it again. It looks like I am well and truly on the side of the Ecuadorians – guinea pig is delicious!
Tasted by Sheree Hooker of Winging the World | Insta
9 | Morcilla blood sausage in Spain
Morcilla is made with cooked pork blood and then left to dry. It looks like a normal sausage, but it’s very dark, almost black in color.
During my recent trip to Costa Tropical in Spain I had the chance to try blood sausage for the first time in my life. I have encountered this dish many times both in restaurants and in the supermarket, but I never tried it before, until now. I had morcilla for the first time at the Bodega Quatro Vientos, a winery located in the hills of Costa Tropical, with stunning views over both the coast and the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
What is blood sausage?
Morcilla is a type of blood sausage local to Spain. It is made with cooked pork blood, which is mixed with rice and onions, and then left to dry. Morcilla looks like a normal sausage, but its color is very dark, almost black.
What does blood sausage taste like?
The morcilla blood sausage was served fried, on the same plate as the normal sausages, with a fresh side salad next to it. The texture of the blood sausage was very soft, almost creamy, and it tasted quite mild. What I found intriguing was the slight hints of aniseed in the flavour and the almost sweet taste.
I would like to try morcilla blood sausage again because I did enjoy its taste a lot. It was peculiar, but I couldn’t stop having another and another bite. I would definitely recommend Morcilla it to anyone who wants to explore unknown flavours.
Tasted by Joanna of The World in my Pocket | Insta
10 | Giant Ant Eggs & Raspberry in Luang Prabang
they “explode” when you bite down on them and release their creamy liquid interior
I’ve had my fair share of insects while traveling South East Asia, but by far the most creative insect dish was a giant ant egg and raspberry sorbet, created by a Lao chef in Luang Prabang.
The hotel I was staying at gave the chef of a fairly upscale Lao restaurant a heads up that we were up for “adventurous food”, so he prepared a three course insect-based fine dining menu for us, the highlight of which (in terms of creativity!) was this ant egg sorbet for dessert.
What do ant eggs taste like?
The taste is hard to describe: ant eggs don’t taste like much, but they are a bit crunchy on the outside, and in the case of eggs from giant ants, they “explode” when you bite down on them and release their creamy liquid interior. In combination with tart raspberries, this was quite the experience.
Would I eat it again? It’s not something I’d have on a regular basis, but it was interesting enough for me to finish the entire dish!
11 | Crocodile meat curry in Cambodia
I’m glad I tried this one when I did, because I’m not sure how to get my hands on crocodile ingredients back home
Do humans eat crocodiles?
There are plenty of interesting foods to sample walking the streets of Siem Reap, Cambodia. More than one local kid approached us with a tray of insects and bugs, theoretically for eating!
However, the most interesting dish I had the pleasure of trying in Cambodia was crocodile amok. Amok is arguably Cambodia’s most famous dish. I’m oversimplifying the dish by calling it a curry, but in some respects it is essentially a steamed banana leaf curry. Cambodia was one of the few countries I’ve visited of which I didn’t know what to expect, cuisine-wise. If it did have an iconic national dish, though, that’d be amok!
What does crocodile meat taste like?
I knew I wanted to try amok, so when I saw a crocodile meat amok on offer at a restaurant in Siem Reap, there was no time like the present! I’m not going to lie, the prettiest part of the dish was probably the white rice, but it was actually super tasty. Amok truly resembles a soupy, creamy curry dish served in a banana leaf. I was expecting it to be spicier, but it had the perfect amount of heat. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the crocodile meat reminded me a lot of chicken! It went beautifully with the mixed vegetables.
All in all, I’d totally eat authentic Cambodian crocodile amok again. Normally I try to duplicate dishes from my travels… but I’m glad I tried this one when I did, because I’m not sure how to get my hands on crocodile amok ingredients back home!
Tasted by Kaisa of Glam Granola Travel | Insta
12 | Fried Insect Bugs in Thailand
Take your pick, close your eyes, and pop the edible insect into your mouth. Share the experience with a friend and a nice cold Chang in hand to wash it down with.
Eating fried bugs
The fried insects in Thailand are some of the strangest and most exotic foods in the world.
By the 6-storey shopping centre known as Platinum Mall in Bangkok is a long line of vendors selling piles of these creepy crawly edible insects, from barbecued scorpions on a stick to fried bugs sorted on steel platters. It might turn your stomach at first glance but they don’t really taste as bad as you think. You might even be surprised to find yourself enjoying this weird dish. It is certainly something I would have again.
How do insects taste?
And, if I would do it again, I would certainly start with crickets known as Jing Reed in Thai. Crunchy and flavored with lemon balm leaves, you might be led to believe that you are eating a plate of mixed nuts that are served in Thai bars if you have them with your eyes closed. Next on the line up are the grasshoppers which actually taste like crunchy prawns, which you can have by prying the legs off before popping them into your mouth. If you enjoy the taste of bamboo stalks, perhaps a bite of the crispy, bamboo-eating worms known as Rot Duan, would be up your alley.
Take your pick, close your eyes, and pop it into your mouth. Share the experience with a friend and a nice cold Chang in hand to wash it down with.
Tasted by Karolina Klesta of LazyTravelBlog | Insta
13 | Coconut Worms in Vietnam
They ruin the coconut but the worms are a delicacy to the Vietnamese, who eat them in a number of ways
For us, one of the highlights of adventuring to foreign lands is experiencing strange foods and the bizarre products you wouldn’t find at home. In Vietnam you’re absolutely spoiled for choice. And this is even in supermarkets, go to one of the local street markets and things get even more extreme.
One of the things that really caught our eye was the first time we saw packaged coconut worms in the chilled section of a supermarket in Hanoi. A pack of them wrapped in clingfilm, right next to regular meats, and for a cheap price.
What does coconut worm taste like?
If you’ve not seen coconut worms before they’re a form of beetle larvae which look like huge maggots. Beetles lay their eggs inside coconuts and the larvae grow inside. They ruin the coconut but the worms are a delicacy to the Vietnamese who eat them in a number of ways. It’s becoming more popular with tourists and sometimes they’re fried, sometimes fermented in a stew and sometimes eaten raw.
We’re vegan so they weren’t appealing to us but in Southern Vietnam they’re highly sought after as it’s believed they enhance men’s sexual abilities!
Josh and Sarah of Veggie Vagabonds www.veggievagabonds.com | Insta
14 | Ox head in Oman
My stomach revolted. I saw the severed head lying on the roof terrace smeared in spiced marinade
We have tried lots of strange foods on our travels – from fermented mare’s milk in Kazakhstan to snake, tarantula and scorpion in the Far East. Most of them were just weird foods, but not really tasty. Until we tried an ox head in Oman – Yucky to look at, but all the same, one of the most delicious meals we have ever eaten.
Traditional slow cooked meat
I was invited by a journalist to photograph the preparation of shuwa for her newspaper article. Shuwa is a traditional way of preparing meat in Oman by putting it in a communal fire pit, where it slow-cooks for two days.
When we arrived in the village of Misfat Al Abryeen, our hosts had just killed their steer and were butchering it with axes and saws in the staircase of their house. They told us that they would freeze most of the meat and we would eat the head. When I saw the severed head lying on the roof terrace, smeared in spiced marinade with an orange in its mouth, my stomach revolted.
Ok to photograph, I thought, But for sure I’m not going to eat that! The head was then wrapped in banana leaves and covered with an old sack and dropped to the pit with other bags of meat belonging to other families. There was one big communal pit for the whole village.
All the families went home to celebrate the Eid, and we returned to Muscat with promises that we will be back after two days to take more photos and try the food. We did come back, join in the drumming, and watch the show of digging for food. It was great fun – imagine all the young men from the village in their white robes digging in a hot dirty pit to take a sack of meat. Our hosts found their own sack and we followed them back to their house to enjoy the Eid feast.
What does ox head taste like?
Once the ox head was unwrapped, we saw the skull with the tender meat peeling from it. We received our portions, and it was delicious. My kids were coming back every five minutes for more. Me too. Sometimes – though not often, the most exotic foods are the tastiest!
Tasted by Ania from The Travelling Twins | Insta
15 | Rats in India
Freshly caught rat is a highly coveted menu item in parts of Northeast India
Do people eat rats?
Travelling has introduced me to various interesting people, places and perhaps some strange and exotic foods. One such food that I had in Basar in Arunachal Pradesh is rat roast. Freshly caught rat is the highly coveted menus in some of the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India and other parts of northeast India.
I had visited Basar during the Basar Confluence, a festival celebrating the life and culture of the Galo tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. The festival also saw the gathering of several cuisines of the state including pork, beef, silkworms, and rats! Well, having tasted the rest before, I could not resist a taste of rat roast.
What does rat meat taste like?
The taste is like that of chicken, but with a rubbery feel. Rats are eaten widely in these parts of the world. It is even considered a delicacy, cooked during the time of festivals and family gatherings.
The meat is often boiled in water with salt and chilli and leafy vegetables and ginger added as a garnish. Sometimes the fresh meat is roasted and smoke-dried and preserved for later use. The one which I had was fresh rat roasted over a considerable time. Will I eat it again? Well, no. Tasting it once is okay. I don’t think I would make myself eat rats another time.
Tasted by Amrita of Experience Northeast India | Insta
16 | Camel Burger in Morocco
It’s pretty confronting and was hard to ignore the giant camel heads hanging on hooks above meat stalls
Fez, the oldest of Morocco’s imperial cities, seems like it is frozen in time. The older walled part of the city, Fes El-Bali, is a medieval medina recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The medina is one of the world’s largest urban car-free zones.
Here, donkeys, pedestrians and the occasional motor bike move through the narrow streets. Navigating the medina is an adventure on its own. Many tourists get lost in the labyrinthine streets, which is why we opted for hiring a local guide.
Eating camel meat
When walking through the markets, it was hard to ignore the giant camel heads hanging on hooks above meat stalls. Displaying the head of the meat you’re selling seems to be common practice in Morocco. It’s pretty confronting, but at least you know the meat is fresh. Our guide noticed our interests and suggested we try a “famous camel burger”.
Camel meat is more expensive than its counterparts beef and lamb and it’s considered a better meat. We were taken though narrow streets and directed to sit in a small, windowless room with just one table. Our guide assured us that this place had “the most traditional burgers.” But hang on, aren’t burgers American? It was better not to ask.
What does camel taste like?
Our traditional Moroccan burgers were served in a thick pocket style bread with onions, shaved spiced carrots topped with more delicious Moroccan spices. To be honest, it tasted mostly like beef and was a little chewy. The next time I get close to a camel I’ll be riding on it’s back along a beach at sunset.
Tasted by Emily of Websites From A Van | Insta
17 | Mopane Worms in South Africa
For the brave, they can also be eaten raw and uncooked!
Where to find mopane worms
We tried Mopane worms at Lesedi Cultural Village in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mopane caterpillars are a South African dish which are high in protein. I first heard about this dish in Trevor Noah’s autobiography when he mentioned that his family were in reduced circumstances and had to eat mopane worms for a time while his mother got back on their feet.
They may not look great but they are cheap source of protein because mopane are almost 60% protein and lots of iron and calcium. For many Southern African people, mopane worms are a cheap and easy form of protein. So when the guide at Lesedi Cultural Village offered up the chance to try mopane worms, I took the opportunity.
What do mopane worms taste like?
They tasted very salty and crunchy – like they had been grilled until they were charcoal. I can’t say it was unpleasant. They can be served as a dried or fried delicacy, or added to stews. For the brave, they can also be eaten raw and uncooked!
Tasted by Shobha George of Just Go Places | Facebook
18 | Durian Fruit in SE Asia
One word: durian. It can spark disgust or delight
It’s called the king of fruits, and eating it is a thing in southeast Asia. My first experience tasting durian came in 2005 when, at the Mandarin Oriental in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I ordered the “durian pancakes.” Suffice it to say, there was plenty of food left on my plate that day. I could barely stand the smell/taste onslaught.
Fast forward a dozen years, and I was fortunate to be back in Kuala Lumpur. This time, I had my young family in tow, and we sought out the Durian Durian kiosk at KLCC. Purchasing a 2-pack of durian crepes, we took them back to our hotel room for a taste test (oops, that might have been a no-no… durian is often forbidden inside hotels and public transportation). We all took turns snacking on the crepes. My husband (who had never tasted durian before but has eaten some crazy stuff around the world) had the hardest time with it. Our daughters and I had a much more pleasant experience.
What does durian taste like?
It’s hard to describe what durian tastes like; pungent is the only word that comes to mind. I have to concede that these durian crepes make the fruit quite palatable though. Inside the crepe, besides the durian fruit, there is a layer of something like sweetened whipped cream. Some may consider this cheating, but I call it success! I would definitely eat durian in this sweet crepe form again.
Pro Tip: Even with the sweetness, beware of burps later on. You might be tasting durian for a while!
Tasted by Nicolette Kay of Semi-Budget Travel | Insta
19 | Chapulines & Pre-Hispanic Food in Mexico
I had the hardest time with the little grasshopper legs getting stuck in my teeth
Mexican food culture
We all love tacos and chilaquiles, but Mexican cuisine also features plenty of weird and bizarre things to try if you know where to look. When on a market tour in Mexico City, your guide will inevitably bring you to the stands selling pre-Hispanic food. If you’re adventurous, you’ll be in heaven.
The most popular (and strange) pre-Hispanic food in Mexico City is chapulines, or Mexican grasshoppers. The little bugs are seasoned and heavily salted and sold by the gram (if you like them, pick up 100 grams for a go-to snack). There are also scorpions and tiny lobsters (reminiscent of crawdad’s if you’re from the American south). If you’re daring enough to try a scorpion, order it with a shot of mezcal to help it go down (chilli powder also never hurts).
It’s also possible to eat an entire taco of chapulines. The corn tortilla is covered in refried beans, avocado and a generous serving of Mexican grasshopper. Chase it down with a fruity agua fresca.
What do chapulines taste like?
The flavor of chapulines is actually really good. However, I don’t think I would try it again if presented the chance. What I had the hardest time with were the little Mexican grasshopper legs getting stuck in my teeth. Rather than taste, it was an issue of texture and a mental challenge I had a hard time surpassing. You have to try chapulines for yourself. Adventurous or picky eaters alike must try the pre-Hispanic foods when in Mexico City!
Tasted by Erin Mushaway of Sol Salute | Insta
20 | Pickled Swallow in Laos
I’ve not experienced anything like sour swallows, but I firmly believe once is more than enough!
One of the most exotic foods of Laos has to be pickled swallows, or nok ann toong, in Lao language.
A speciality of Xieng Khouang Province, located in the little-visited north-east of Laos, sour swallows are a seasonal delicacy of the region. With its relatively high altitude and cool climate, Xieng Khouang Province is home to many distinct food items not found in other parts of Laos.
Every year in August and September migratory swallows make the long journey from Russia to Xieng Khouang, Laos in order to escape the freezing winter temperatures. The small birds are trapped using large nets and then placed in huge jars to undergo a fermentation process. The fermented birds are then fried and eaten whole (minus the feathers), or slowly cooked in a watery stew.
Nok ann toong is usually only available during the latter part of the year and can only be found for sale at fresh markets in and around Phonsavan, the capital of Xieng Khouang Province.
What does swallow taste like?
The much sought-after delicacy has an extremely pungent, overpowering sour taste. And if the taste doesn’t get to you – the texture will! You’ll need a stomach of steel to get through the crunchy little bits of bone and beak. I’ve not experienced anything like Xieng Khouang’s famous sour swallows, but I firmly believe once is more than enough!
Tasted by Marie Moncrieff of A Life Without Borders | Insta
21 | Fertilized Duck Egg Hot vit lon in Vietnam
Of course, I had to try it. You eat hot vit lon with some lime, salt, pepper and an herbal green leaf.
There I am in Hanoi, Vietnam. I’m walking around with my food tour guide, enjoying the local dishes when my tour guide starts talking to me about the food we’ve had. Now, I normally never shy away from a new opportunity, so she takes an interest in how easily I’ve adapted to the “exotic” foods we have had so far. I told her that the weirdest food I have tried before was balut egg and she stops me, “well, now we have to try hot vit lon!”
What is the difference between balut and hot vin lon
Now, if you don’t know what balut is, let me indulge you. Balut is a developing bird embryo or half-hatched duck egg, normally boiled and eaten from the shell as a snack food in the Philippines.
The only difference between hot vit lon and balut is the timing that you will eat it as it’s hatching. Hot vit lon is eaten around 15 to 17 days whereas balut egg is eaten at 20+ days.
What does fertilized duck egg taste like?
My recommendation is to try to eat hot vin lon in one go. My immediate reaction was a gag reflex, to be honest. It’s hard to eat the egg without knowing what is inside of it. That said, the egg itself is very good. If you like the taste of egg yolks, hot vit lon is basically that times two. Would I have it again? I most definitely would. Do I recommend anyone else to try it? Absolutely.
Tasted by Trish of Keeping It Curious | Insta
22 | Mexican Jungle Rat in Playa del Carmen
Now while I don’t mind eating a bit of rodent, I didn’t want to literally eat shit
As I write about food around the world, I have eaten some things that most people would turn away. But unless an animal is endangered or its unethical I won’t eat it. So you won’t catch me eating turtle eggs, but I have eaten balut in the Philippines, crickets in Mexico and guinea pig in Ecuador.
A friend of mine is a teacher at a Mayan village in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico. I was living nearby writing about the best Playa del Carmen restaurants. He asked if I wanted to come see the village as it’s a real Mayan village not one made for tourism.
The first time I visited several of his students offered to show me their homes, which are large homes with one central room and a thatched roof. The second time they had a surprise for me, they were making a traditional Mayan meal with delicious huevos con chaya (eggs with Mayan spinach), a corn based drink and they were cooking meat under the ground.
They told me even Anthony Bourdain probably hadn’t eat this! And he probably hadn’t. They called it Tussa and my friend translated it to Mexican jungle rat.
I’ve eaten cuy in Ecuador so I wasn’t entirely afraid to try it. Especially as the translation is a bit off, it’s not so much a rat but instead a rodent that lives in the Mexican jungle. It’s a very traditional dish to eat on its own or in a tamale.
However, what I didn’t know is that it’s common to cook it with its feces in it. Now while I don’t mind eating a bit of rodent, I didn’t want to literally eat shit. But my hosts were so excited for me to try it I didn’t let anyone know that I wasn’t sure about this. Instead I told my friend that I’d eat it but PLEASE don’t give me a piece with shit on it.
What does Mexican rat taste like?
He gave me some to try, without any feces so I was thrilled to try it and told my hosts it was delicious. The truth is that it didn’t taste very good it all. It wasn’t their fault. It was cooked perfectly tender but I guess I don’t have a taste for jungle rats in Mexico. It tasted like a really old rabbit and I would not try it again. Actually I would if someone offered it to me. I could never be so rude to refuse.
Tasted by Ayngelina Brogan of Bacon is Magic | Insta
23 | Sopa de Mondongo Tripe Soup in Nicaragua
The stomach lining itself was very chewy and had a rather strong taste, but it was not unpalatable.
What is tripe?
Mondongo in English is Tripe, which in case you didn’t know is the edible lining from the stomachs of various farm animals, like cattle and sheep. In Nicaragua a special delicacy is Sopa de Mondongo – literally tripe soup.
This soup is popular in many areas formerly colonised by the Spanish, including Latin America, the Caribbean and the Philippines. Each area has different variations to its Mondongo Tripe soup, but all of them include the principal ingredient of cow’s stomach lining. Another alternative is the lining of the cow’s udder. Some countries also use chicken or pig stomach lining.
I’ve tried Mondongo soup a few times in Nicaragua, as it is considered a really special dish. Would I do it again? Sure! My friends have taken me to the village of Masatepe which is known nationwide for its exquisite Nicaraguan cuisine. Masatepe is located in the Pueblos Blancos (White Villages) around Masaya and we made it a day trip from Granada, visiting a number of artisans in these different villages.
What does Sopa de Mondongo tripe taste like?
Mondongo soup had a pleasant taste, not unlike typical vegetable and meat broths found across Latin America. In addition to the furry (!) appearance of the stomach lining it had ripe banana (platano), cassava, carrots and a range of other tasty vegetables. The stomach lining itself was very chewy and had a rather strong taste, but it was not unpalatable.
Tasted by Ariana from World of Travels with Kids | Insta
24 | Escargots Snails in Paris
Some people find it weird, but escargots are a common food in France
Although some people find it weird, escargots (snails in French) are a popular food in France. Escargots are low in fat, high in water and proteins plus they taste good. Actually, mankind is eating snails since the prehistoric times!
What do snails taste like?
Escargots are fluffy and they tend to taste like whatever they are cooked in, which is usually butter, garlic, and parsley. Usually, escargots come with two special tools to eat them: snail tongs, and a snail fork. Therefore, it is important to be familiar with these tools before eating snails, you don’t want to make them fly in the middle of a dinner!
Where to eat escargots in Paris?
You can find escargots in restaurants or Parisian bistros, but they are not a menu staple. If you want to be sure to eat escargots, we recommend places like L’Escargot, at 38 rue Montorgueil (Paris 2) that are famous for their escargots. You cannot miss this place, there is a huge golden snail on the top of its roof!
Tasted by Elisa from World in Paris | Facebook
25 | Tacacá Soup in Brasil
Brazillian Tacacá: a mouth-numbing delicacy. We left the restaurant unable to feel our mouths.
Amazon rainforest food
We discovered the most ridiculous meal whilst on our travels through Brazil. Whilst in Rio de Janeiro, after speaking a local guide, we were told to go to a traditional Amazonian restaurant called Tacaca Do Norte. Here we were told we could find some authentic Amazonian food that would blow our socks off. We were not disappointed.
Not only did we eat what we think is the best Acai in the whole of Brazil, but we left the restaurant unable to feel our mouths. The culprit of this condition was a dish called Tacacá. It is a spicy soup with dried shrimp, peppers and leaves from the jambu plant. It is these leaves that cause the numbing sensation.
What does Brazilian Tacacá soup taste like?
If you really want the full effect of the numbing, you should chew the leaves for a few minutes. The sensation feels like something we have experienced at the dentist and is completely unusual. I was pretty weirded out by the sensation, but Candi really enjoyed it. Both of us would try it again though if given the opportunity.
Visiting Taca Do Norte is definitely a must when you write your list of things to do in Rio.
Tasted by Ollie and the Captain | Insta
26 | Chicken Breast dessert in Turkey
Fancy some chicken for dessert?
When most people think of Turkish desserts they think of Turkish delight or syrup-infused baklava, but Turkey is home to some of the best food and wide selection of usual desserts.
My favorite was Tavuk Gögsü, a stiff, milky pudding that is made from milk, shredded chicken breast, and rice. The dessert dates back to the Ottoman times and is one of the best Turkish desserts I’ve ever had!
Making the desert is meticulous and time-consuming. First, chicken breast is boiled, left to cool off then all the liquid is squeezed out. The meat is then shredded and added to a dissolved butter, sugar, vanilla, and ground rice mixture. The whole mix is then placed in trays and refrigerated before being shaped into small flat rolls, similar to blancmange.
What does Tavuk Gögsü chicken dessert taste like?
The final result has a sweet, creamy, and slightly sticky texture and is served with cinnamon. If you love milky desserts, you’re sure to love its counterpart called Kazandibi which is made like Tavuk göğsü but the outer layer is caramelized.
Tasted by Lerato Bambo of My Life from a Bag | Insta
27 | Tarantulas in Siem Reap
Once you get over the fact that you’re eating bugs, there is no mental barrier stopping you. You can enjoy the food freely!
When we first arrived in Siem Reap, one of the first things we wanted to do was to try the bugs. We had heard about eating crickets and tarantulas, scorpions and worms. Basically, a cornucopia of 6-8 legged critters to devour to our hearts’ content!
Insects as food
It may seem like a weird food to have on our bucket list, but there are a few things to keep in mind, especially if you’re foodies and eco-travelers like us. Eating bugs is a very easy way to reduce our carbon footprint – taking less water and resources to produce. Renowned chefs like Alex Atala in Brazil now serve bugs on their menus. Two billion people a day eat bugs in places like Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Often, they’re even considered delicacies in these places. One-quarter of the world’s population can’t be that wrong when it comes to eating these critters! So we knew we had to try them!
We set out and found a “bug lady”, thanks to one of the local bar owners around Pub Street in Siem Reap. She picks her bugs daily, and when she doesn’t have any fresh stock, she’s not around. Unlike many of the bug vendors who sell old bugs from days before, she has integrity!
Our favorite dish she offered was her tarantulas. She grilled them lightly to give them a little crunch. She always picked the ones that had an extra big belly, because they are the tastiest.
What does fried tarantula taste like?
Although the texture of the crunchy, hairy legs between our teeth was a little odd, the body of the tarantula was quite enjoyable. It was almost like BBQ chicken, a crispy outside, with a tender inside. We loved every bite of her bugs, so much that we went for seconds a few days later… and we brought friends.
Once you get over the fact that you’re eating bugs, there is no mental barrier stopping you. You can enjoy the food freely! These bugs are delicious, nutritious, eco-friendly and a great way to support a local businesswoman!
Tasted by Carine & Derek from We did it our way | Insta
28 | Tuna eyeballs in Japan
Fish eyeballs are a delicacy in many parts of Japan and East Asia.
Are fish eyes edible
Tuna eyeballs are served in many parts of Japan and East Asia. One would think that fish eyeballs is an ancient dish, but actually it came onto the scene in 90s only.
While in Tokyo I was in this grocery store, looking for something to eat and then I found something that I couldn’t look back from and it was Tuna Eyeballs, wrapped in plastic. It was around 250 yen and so I thought I would give it a try. It was lightly steamed so I took it home and fried and to my amaze, it was just wow!
After loving it, I again tried it at a restaurant, with soy sauce and rice wine cake. I am sure you would be a bit sceptical to try it, but once you get over it you will find it mouth-watering and want to try again.
What do fish eyes taste like?
The flavour is similar to that of a boiled egg with seasoning. I have also heard from the waiter of the restaurant that it is good for your health due to the omega fatty acids. It is said to increase your cognitive ability too.
Tasted by Shalini Garnaik of Eager2travel | Insta
29 | Exotic street food in China
Here I discovered a collection of deep fried sheep penis, roasted centipedes and scorpions wriggling on a stick
Asia is full of exotic foods that may seem strange to some but perfectly acceptable to others. China in particular is a feast of oddball edibles. Some of these include fish skins, snake hearts, duck heads, and deep fried spiders.
Why does China have such strange foods? Some speculate that due to China’s history of famines when people ate anything they could, some foods remained on the menu when the difficult times passed. Others believe the gross foods are there just to amuse the tourists.
Chinese street food
The weirdest foods I’ve encountered in China I found in Beijing on Wangfujing Street. Here I discovered a collection of deep fried sheep penis, roasted centipedes and scorpions wriggling on a stick.
This scorpion shish kebab is not a Chinese delicacy according to any Chinese person I asked. But the tourists gather around the scorpions shooting photos with delight. That’s what the surrounding vendors like, lots of tourists milling about near their stores and hopefully buying something.
Tasted by Talek Nantes of Travels with Talek | Insta
30 | Brain Curry in India
Brain curry has a gooey texture and has a bit weird taste if you are having it for the first time.
Do people eat brain?
Brain curry is one of the bizarre foods you can have in different parts of India.
The spices vary from region to region but its mostly a stir-fried dry dish and served with some gravy dish or dal. I had one of the yummiest brain curries in Kochi in Kerala. There it is made by stir-frying raw brain in onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic paste, cumin, and black pepper. It’s easy to cook and gets ready very fast.
Brain curry has a gooey texture and a slightly weird taste if you’re having it for the first time. It certainly is an acquired taste. In most parts of India, it’s considered a delicacy and the best part of the goat to eat.
What does brain taste like?
Brain curry tastes just like soft-cooked eggs, creamy in texture that melts in the mouth. Brain curry is mostly fat and high in cholesterol, but at the same time, it’s rich in omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin B12, iron, and protein. It’s considered good for boosting brain cells.
It’s safe to eat just like any other organ of goat or lamb although it should be consumed in moderation. It tastes best if brain meat is fresh cut instead of frozen. I advise that everyone should try it at least once to understand its taste.
Tasted by Sapna Kapoor of My Simple Sojourn | Insta
31 | Beondegi Silkworms in South Korea
If you can get past the smell, the taste of the silkworms isn’t too terrible.
One of the strangest foods we have ever tried during our travels would have to be Beondegi, or grilled silkworms in South Korea.
Beondegi is a famous dish in South Korea and is often served as a street food or at festivals. You will know when Beondegi is near as the smell is something that can’t be described but very distinct. The Korean silkworms are grilled up in a big wok and served in a cup with a toothpick. They are also quite often served as a “pre-appetizer” to your meal- and are brought to your table without even asking.
What do Korean silkworms taste like?
If you can get past the smell, the taste of the silkworms isn’t too terrible. They have an earthy taste along with a gritty texture, making for an interesting palate experience. If I had the chance to eat Beondegi again I would probably have to pass, I didn’t find the taste terrible, but it also wasn’t something I need to eat over and over again. Although, if you are ever in South Korea — it’s definitely worth a try!
Tasted by Jessica from Unearth the Voyage | Insta
32 | Flying Fox in Vanuatu
flying foxes are a delicacy for the people of Vanuatu and New Caledonia
Can you eat bats?
In Australia, they have a loud and clear message about not touching bats – or flying foxes to be more exact – because of the risk of contracting the Australian Bat Lyssavirus infection. So I was surprised when people from the neighbour countries Vanuatu and New Caledonia told us flying foxes are a delicacy for them. At dusk, you can see many locals on the side of the road with a slingshot to hunt flying foxes.
They don’t really serve it to tourists but L’Houstalet, a restaurant in Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital, had it on its menu.
What does bat meat taste like?
Some say it tastes like chicken; some say it has a very strong flavour like game meat. With all the sauce in the civet, I didn’t find the taste of the bat strong. Also, I don’t think we had the right technique for eating it as the many small bones were quite annoying.
If I eat it again, I’d like to have it cooked as the locals do to taste the meat better.
Flying foxes are very important for the ecosystem as they pollinate many plants and disperse seeds. Many species are threatened so if you want to eat a flying fox, ask if it is the Pacific flying fox as this one is widespread and not in danger.
Tasted by Eloise from My favourite Escapes | Insta
33 | Purple Blue Tacos in Mexico
One of the strangest foods I had was the taco with the blue corn tortilla shell in Mexico
The origin of tacos
We all know and love tacos, the Mexican staple that’s eaten throughout the world. It’s usually our entry dish into the world of Mexican food that dates back all the way to the Mesoamerican civilizations. It’s said that Mayan women used to place food in tortillas, so that their husbands had something to carry their main course in when working the fields. And so the taco was born!
When visiting one of the Taquerias (restaurants that exclusively serve tacos) in Mexico City, you’ll notice that they come in a variety of colors, not just the yellowish white variety we’re used to. If you travel to Mexico, you’ll soon find out that corn is everywhere. In fact, there are 59 endemic varieties of corn in the country to date. This means that corn, and the products made from corn, come in a rainbow of colors like red and purple. So, much like a flight of beer, you can sample all kinds of tacos where the difference isn’t only in the filling, but also in the tortilla shells.
What do blue corn tacos taste like?
One of the strangest foods in Mexico I had was the taco with the blue corn tortilla shell. This is isn’t really because of the taste, it has a very slight difference and is a bit stronger, but rather the color. While it may not be the craziest food compared to the others on this list, it sure is one of the most memorable.
There’s actually a trend in Mexico that favors this type of taco over the other more plain varieties and you’ll see some very hipster-ish locals chowing down on these treats. So order 3 tacos at a time when you’re next in Mexico City and you can sample each flavor to see if you can taste the difference.
Tasted by Mar Pages from Once in a Lifetime Journey | Insta
34 | Green rum in Curacao
Ròm Bèrdè is made with a mix of ingredients and spices from a secret recipe
Although the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao is famous for its sapphire-blue and orange Curacao liqueur made with the dried peel of the Laraha citrus fruit, it has another, less well-known drink worth seeking out.
This unusual drink is Ròm Bèrdè (green rum), a potent Caribbean rum blended with local herbs and spices. If you’re curious about exactly which spices and ingredients are in it, you’ll just have to set your reservations aside because Ròm Bèrdè is made according to a secret recipe.
What does Ròm Bèrdè green rum taste like?
Tinted bright green and with a slight anise flavour, the distilled spirit was originally invented in the 1950s by Ernesto “Netto” Koster, the proprietor of Netto’s Bar a neighbourhood hangout, that’s still off-the-beaten-path for most tourists.
You can enjoy a taste of Ròm Bèrdè during a guided walking tour of Willemstad, one of the best free things to do in Curacao or at the original Netto’s Bar, where the green rum is served straight as a shot, on the rocks or mixed with coconut water.
Tasted by Michele Peterson of A Taste for Travel | Insta
35 | Pequi in Brasil
It was like I’d just eaten a porcupine! Suddenly I had these tiny spikes sticking out of my tongue, and the inside of my cheeks
Brazil has so many fruits that you’ve probably never seen before. Tasting them is usually a lot of fun, but there was one called pequi that caught me by surprise.
A pequi is a yellowish orange fruit, about the size of an unshelled walnut, but more oval in shape. It’s always eaten cooked, not raw, and it’s usually added to savory rather than sweet dishes. When I tasted it, though, it was served on its own, as part of a bus stop buffet with a variety of other dishes somewhere in the interior of Brazil.
I wasn’t sure what it was, and since I’m vegan I asked the woman working by behind the counter whether it was of plant or animal origin. She assured me that it was indeed a plant, and a very tasty one.
What does pequi taste like?
What she failed to mention, however, was that there are dozens of sharp spines sticking out of the pit in the middle of the fruit. I found out later that you’re supposed to gently scrape off the outer layers of the fruit with your teeth, being careful not to touch the spines. But, I bit right into it and even sucked on the pit, and suddenly I had these tiny spikes sticking out of my tongue, the inside of my cheeks, and the roof of my mouth. It was like I’d just eaten a porcupine! The rest of that bus ride was pretty miserable, and it took me a couple of days to pluck out all the spines with tweezers.
Pequi are sometimes sold canned and sliced, with the spines removed, in grocery stores in São Paulo and other large cities. This is probably a safe way to try them if you’re curious, but I’m never touching one again!
Tasted by Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan | Insta
And that’s it for the strangest food around the world.
If you’ve said “eeew” or “hello no” at least once, and opened your mind to new cultures and exotic foods our work here is done.
If you’ve made it to the end, I applaud you — I applaud your curiosity, and your strong stomach.
Please take a quick moment to share this with the most adventurous foodie you know.
Until the next time I decide to gross you out…