One of the most exciting parts of visiting far-flung places is discovering the delicacies that the locals like to enjoy. Indeed, the world is full of weird and wonderful eats, from scorpions on sticks in Southeast Asia to haggis in Scotland. But, sometimes, the exotic gives way to what even seasoned travelers might find downright disgusting and bizarre. Just check out what’s on our menu of some of the planet’s most unbelievable food.
Image: via Pinterest/Luigi Carnevali
20. Casu marzu
A fermented sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia, casu marzu doesn’t just look gross – it’s dangerous too. The live maggots that fill the cheese have a tendency to jump into people’s eyes, and if they’re not thoroughly chewed before swallowing, the acid-resistant critters might try to burrow their way out of you.
Image: via Here, There and an Attempt on Everywhere
19. Scorpion soup
Scorpion soup is a risky southern Chinese dish to prepare, given that the live ingredients are armed with venom. Fortunately, though, there’s no sting in this culinary tale; once cooked, the dish is held to cure rheumatism and even cancer.
Image: via Photoshow/Finnur Thorgeirsson
Hákarl is fermented shark meat and is considered a delicacy in Iceland, where food was once scarce. It’s prepared by burying a Greenland shark and letting it rot; the resulting meat is rich in urea and gives off a potent ammonia smell. Yum.
Image: via Pinterest/Frances Riley
17. Stink heads
The popular Alaskan dish “stink heads” are made by secreting salmon heads in the ground and leaving them until they turn soft and malleable. Unfortunately – and perhaps unsurprisingly – consumption of the rotted flesh can sometimes cause botulism.
Image: via RocketNews24
16. Wasp crackers
Japan is known for its wild inventions, so there are no prizes for guessing from which country the wasp cracker hails. These weird snacks are crammed with boiled digger wasps, which apparently taste similar to raisins.
Image: via On the Real
15. Blood clams
Considered a delicacy in China, blood clams look a bit like something that came from the Black Lagoon. But what’s really scary is that these bivalves have been known to bring on medical conditions like hepatitis and typhoid fever.
14. Baked giant bullfrog
Giant bullfrogs might not seem like an obvious choice of dinner ingredient, but in Namibia, Africa they are served up as a local delicacy. Just make sure that you wait until mating season is over before you indulge, or you could risk kidney failure. Bullfrogs are also eaten in Vietnam, as seen in the above shot taken at Vinh Long Market.
Image: Flickr/anthonioo & Mei-Ling
Be sure to try out paniki the next time you’re visiting the Sulawesi island of Indonesia. It’s essentially bat soup – with a hairless fruit bat being boiled up in coconut milk and a combination of herbs and spices.
Image: via imgur
12. Tuna eyeball
Who doesn’t love a bit of eyeball matter, fat and severed muscle every now and again? Beyond the gross-out factor, though, these disembodied tuna eyeballs – commonly bought as a budget ingredient in Japan – have a taste that’s said to be similar to that of squid.
Image: via Ideas in Food
A cockscomb is a gamebird’s crest, which is not exactly the most appetizing-looking piece of anatomy. It’s enjoyed as a gourmet ingredient in parts of Western Europe and, apparently, is delicious – although often a little on the chewy side.
Image: via Thoughts of Food
We’ve all heard of the French predilection for frog legs, but how about frog fallopian tubes? In parts of northern China hasma is made by adding water and sugar to the dehydrated frog part to create an interesting dessert.
Would you eat something that has been responsible for the deaths of more than 20 people in Japan since the turn of the century? Fugu, otherwise known as puffer fish, has the potential to be so poisonous that the slightest error in preparing it can be fatal to the diner.
Image: via Allegations of Deliciousness
8. Deep-fried tarantula
When confronted with a giant, hairy tarantula, your first thought is generally not that this arachnid would make a tasty snack. Some bold Cambodians, however, have acted on exactly that impulse, with the deep-fried dish thought to have originated from the Khmer Rouge era when food was scarce.
Even the most adventurous of culinary travelers might balk at the idea of shirako – or fish sperm. This Japanese dish is the male fish equivalent of roe and is eaten either raw or gently cooked.
Image: via Tangled Noodle
How do you like your eggs in the morning – boiled, fried or with a partially developed duck fetus inside? Balut, a plate enjoyed in the Philippines, consists of a fertilized duck egg that’s been left to develop for a few weeks before being soft-boiled and served up straight from the shell.
While silkworm pupae doesn’t exactly sound – or look – like a gourmet snack, beondegi is considered a popular in-between-meal treat in Korea. The pupae are poached and dished up by street-food sellers or as a bar snack.
Image: via The Tattletale Traveler
Natural sources of fresh food can be difficult for indigenous Alaskans to find, which could explain why muktuk is such a popular local dish. It comes from the skin and blubber of whales and is often eaten raw, resulting in an oily, rubbery taste.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/LWY
Sannakji is a South Korean dish made from octopus legs. Doesn’t sound too bad? Here’s the kicker: the octopus is still alive when the legs are removed, and the diner is presented with a plate of wriggling limbs. It’s estimated that half a dozen people die every 12 months as a result of choking on sannakji.
Image: via OffClouds
2. Century egg
A century egg is also known as a “horse urine egg” owing to its strong smell of ammonia. It’s a dish that hails from – where else? – China. Traditionally, century eggs are preserved in a mixture of things, such as ash and burnt lime, and left to ferment for anything up to 100 days.
1. Monkey brains
Alas, monkey brains as food is not purely the invention of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; people in parts of Asia and South America really do tuck into this gruesome ingredient. There are even tales from China of restaurants opening the animal’s skull while it is still alive. Gross.