Wednesday, November 22, 2017 Edition: U.S. & World | Regional

World’s Strangest National Foods

Trying new foods is an important part of learning about the countries we travel to, but some foreign delicacies probably aren’t going to make your list of favorite discoveries. Dishes that are considered iconic in one country may sound weird or even downright disgusting to visitors from abroad.

Here are 13 of the world’s strangest national foods. Are you brave enough to give them a try?

1    Shirako

Shirako is the sperm filled reproductive glands of male fish and it is considered a delicacy in Japan. When Shirako is cooked, it can have a creamy and custardy texture, but when it is served raw, it looks and tastes like a gooey and rubbery blob. Japanese diners will eat shirako in any form though and will never complain about the taste.
2    Lutefisk

Lutefisk is a popular dish in Norway. Air dried or salted whitefish is placed in lye to marinate and the fish must be removed before it turns into soap. The lutefisk is ready when it has a jelly like consistency and smells like something that no one would ever dream of eating. However, people do eat it, because in 2008, over 3,000 tons of lutefisk was sold in Norway.
3    Trứng Vịt Lộn

People who live in Vietnam believe that Trứng Vịt Lộn is an aphrodisiac. This fertilized duck egg has an almost fully developed embryo inside and this dish is made by boiling the egg and then eating the inside directly from the shell. Prior to removing the shell in pieces to eat the inside, people must sip the broth that surrounds the embryo. Depending on where a person lives in Vietnam will determine how old the eggs are when they are eaten. People who live in Northern Vietnam prefer that the eggs are mature, so that the embryo has a beak and claws.
Trứng Vịt Lộn Balut
4    Black Pudding

In England, people devour black pudding, which is not really pudding. Instead, it is blood combined with fillers that consist of meat, fat, oatmeal, or bread and turned into a sausage. This sausage is routinely served with baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, and eggs. It’s also part of the traditional Irish breakfast fry up.
Black Pudding
5    Kopi Luwak Beans

Okay, Kopi Luwak Beans are not really a food, but a bean that is ground up to make coffee in Asia. Yes, this doesn’t sound too bad, until a person realizes that these beans are made from animal feces. Since the beans have been through the digestive process, they have been naturally fermented, so the coffee is not as bitter as traditional coffee.
Kopi Luwak Civet Coffee
6    Fried Tarantulas

Fried tarantulas can be found on the menu in many places in Cambodia. They are inexpensive and very easy to prepare. It has been considered to be a bland tasting dish with a crunchy outside and a soft center.
Fried Tarantulas
7    Rocky Mountain Oysters

Rocky Mountain Oysters may seem like a harmless dish that is served in North America, however the dish does not include any oysters. Instead the dish consists of buffalo and bull calf testicles, which are boiled, rolled in flour, and fried.
Rocky Mountain Oysters
8    Sannakji

In Korea, people enjoy eating octopus and Sannakji gives everyone the opportunity to eat an octopus while it is still alive. The octopus is cut into smaller pieces and served while the tentacles are still moving. People do need to be careful while eating this dish, because the octopus can cause a person to choke.
Sannakji Octopus
9    Escamoles

Escamoles is part of the tequila plant, more specifically, the ant larvae that is taken from the plant’s roots. Escamoles are served in Mexico where they are also called insect caviar.
10    Beondegi

In Korea, people take silkworm pupae and cook them in a liquid, before eating them as a snack or with drinks. The pungent smell of the cooking bugs often fills the street markets, where huge pots of this common snack are cooked and served. Originally intended as a cheap source of protein, Beondegi has become a nostalgic tradition.
11    Hákarl

A shark is buried and left to ferment in its own fluids for months at a time in Iceland. The shark is then removed, cut into strips, and hung up to dry completely. Once the shark is completely dry, people can enjoy this Icelandic delicacy.
12    Tepa

Tepa is also called stinkheads and this fish is eaten mostly by the Yupik people of Alaska. Once they catch the fish, they chop off the heads and bury them in the ground with their insides intact until the desired taste is achieved.
Tepa Stinkheads
13    Wasp Crackers

The Japanese take their wasps very seriously and that includes baking them right into biscuits. These biscuits are supposed to be similar to chocolate chips, but with different results. The digger wasp is inside these biscuits and their stinger is sharp and strong. This may mean a very different result than a person would get with a chocolate chip cookie.
Japanese Wasp Crackers

All of these foods are considered delicacies in their originating country and many people visiting would be hesitant to try any of them. However, people would probably be pleasantly surprised to find that they would enjoy at least some of these world’s strangest dishes when they are traveling. And if not, at least you’ll have an interesting travel story to tell!

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