One of the most incredible aspects of modern travel is the fact that practically anyone with a plane ticket and a passport can enjoy delicacies that are just as foreign to the palate as the country’s sights are to the eyes. That being said, some of the foods are just so extreme, smelly–and even illegal–that many tourists don’t have a chance to get their hands on them.
Luckily, we live in a day in age where we have the magic of the internet to teach us all about these unlikely dishes. Here are 50 of the most intriguing, offensive, and just plain mind-blowing delicacies from all around the world…
(Spoiler alert: Get ready for your definition of ‘protein’ to be challenged!)
Bird’s Nest Soup (China)
This Chinese delicacy isn’t just a soup, it’s a medical concoction of sorts, mainly prescribed for digestive issues. With that said, the way in which this traditional dish is made isn’t at all appetizing. Hint: It’s chock-full of dried bird saliva!
If you like your fish really fresh, sannakji, or live octopus, may just be the seafood for you—that is, if you don’t mind chewing through those squirming tentacles.
Your eyes aren’t deceiving you—that really is a cooked sheep’s head! As it turns out, it’s a tradition for Norwegians in the western region of the country to chow down on one of these gruesome pieces of meat on the last Sunday before Christmas day.
Durian (Southeast Asia)
Depending on who you ask, this is either considered to be the tastiest fruit in the world or the most repulsive—and it has everything to do with chemistry. One lover of the controversial fruit described it as being “pungent, floral, and sweet,” while one very famous durian hater, mega-chef Anthony Bourdain said that, if you eat one “your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.” Ouch.
This infamous Filipino street food consists of a 16 to 25-day-old duck embryo, served safely encased in the unfortunate fowl’s soft-boiled shell.
Cuy Asado (Peru, Ecuador)
Bad news for all of you guinea pig lovers; your little, furry friends are actually beloved snacks in these South American countries.
Fried Tarantulas (Cambodia)
When Cambodian cities were overrun with creepy tarantulas, residents came up with a great solution; they fried them up! Fun fact: Silver screen queen Angelina Jolie is even known to munch on the hairy spiders.
Casu Marzu (Sardinia)
Believe it or not, the islanders of Sardinia consider casu marzu—a special live maggot-infested cheese—to be a true regional delicacy. Unless you are in Sardinia, though, good luck locating the cheese—the unpasteurized fromage is illegal in most countries.
Poisonous fugu, or blowfish, is best known for being the most dangerous delicacy in the world. It’s banned from being sold in most countries, but, lucky for adventurous eaters, it can be purchased in its native Japan from chefs who carry a special license to serve the dish.
For most, the idea of eating a shark is stomach-churning enough, but Icelanders don’t seem to mind chowing down on the fish. In fact, they prefer it when its buried under stones for 6-12 weeks and fermented prior to being served.
Venomous Snake Wine (Vietnam)
Do you like it when your wine has a little extra bite and added medicinal benefits? So do the Vietnamese, apparently. This Southeast Asian country is home to purveyors of this controversial spirit.
Rocky Mountain Oysters (United States)
These ‘oysters’ won’t be found in any ocean—in fact, they aren’t even in the same category as shellfish. In fact, this Midwestern delicacy is actually made entirely out of deep-fried sheep, pig, or bull testicles.
Pork lovers rejoice, this German delicacy consists of lean pork meat, bratwurst, and a variety of seasonings all neatly wrapped up in a pig’s stomach. Fancier restaurants will even fry it up for their guests!
Kangaroo Steak (Australia)
While kangaroos may seem like treasured exotic creatures to most of the world, Australians are no strangers to throwing their steaks on the barbie.
Jellied Eels (England)
Jellied eels first hit British menus back in the 18th-century, when the creatures were invading the River Thames. Since then, the tradition has managed to survive in London’s East End pie shops.
Poutine Râpée (Canada)
This Acadian dish looks innocuous enough, but once you dig your fork into it, its contents will leave you scratching your head. Poutine râpée is, essentially, a flour-covered boiled potato stuffed with ground pork. The kicker is that the dish is most frequently garnished with brown sugar, making for quite a conflicting flavor profile.
Kopi Luwak (Indonesia)
Heralded as being the world’s most expensive coffee, kopi luwak isn’t just really good coffee bean–it’s really good coffee beans hidden in civet poop.
A traditional Aztecan dish, escamoles consists entirely of ‘insect caviar’, better known as squirming ant larvae.
In Zimbabwe, mopane caterpillars are considered an everyday delicacy by residents who fry, sauté, and boil them prior to serving. It has even received the ‘OK’ from nutritionists who label it as a “cheap, protein-rich, and highly sustainable food.”
Though Scotland’s national dish, Haggis, is routinely used as the butt of jokes, the bold culinary tradition is still a hit with many Scots. Or at least the ones that don’t mind eating an organ-stuffed sheep’s stomach, that is…
Camel Meat (Gulf Countries, Somalia)
Those who dine on camels say that cooking the meat can be tricky business—if not handled correctly the flavor can be gamey and the texture rubbery. That being said, when it’s good, it’s GOOD, which is precisely why the fare is sometimes called the “meat of kings.”
Stink Bugs (Sub-Saharan Africa)
Believe it or not, this creepy crawly is known for its unbeatable health properties. One serving of the bug boasts a total of twelve amino acids, four flavonoids, and ten essential fatty acids.
Sakura Niku, aka Cherry Blossom Meat (Japan)
Don’t let this dish’s ‘flowery’ name fool you—it’s nothing more than raw horse meat, sashimi style.
Even though starfish are mainly composed of rough calcite, adventurous eaters can find plenty of soft protein right inside the animal’s tube feet.
Bushmeat (West Africa)
Even though hunting animals for bushmeat has been deemed illegal for ecological and health purposes, in countries like Liberia, the controversial meat is still considered a delicacy.
Also known as “Eskimo ice cream,” frozen Akutaq is a mishmash of ingredients from The Last Frontier, including reindeer fat, water berries, tallow, sea oil, and ground fish.
Frog Legs (France, China)
Although most frog leg connoisseurs downplay the amphibious gams by saying they taste “just like chicken,” this ‘other white meat’ is still frequently cooked up in France, as well as China.
If you’re into fine Italian food, you’ve probably gotten a taste of bottarga–or salted and cured fish roe–without even realizing it. Sardinian chefs, in particular, like to sprinkle it on top of pasta, salads, and even celery.
Century Egg (China)
Don’t worry, these oddly-colored ducks, quail, and chicken eggs aren’t a century old—but they do sit in a saline solution for at least a few months before they are served up to customers. Fun fact: The longer one is preserved, the more cheese-like the yolk becomes!
Tiet Canh (Vietnam)
Though practically every country in the world has a dish whose main feature is animal blood, Vietnam’s thick tiet canh, a raw duck blood soup, is famous for being the most piquant of all.
This fishy Scandinavian treat is comprised of a dried and re-hydrated lyefish which, once served, has a Jell-O-like consistency.
Jellied Moose Nose (Canada, Alaska)
While the mighty moose is frequently regarded as a novelty to non-Northerners, the animal is fair game to those who live amongst the beasts. Jellied moose nose is just what it sounds like—a moose’s nose seasoned, boiled, and cooled until the meat becomes gelatinous. Bullwinkle surely wouldn’t approve!
Pork lovers, listen up! For centuries, Ukrainians have found a way to cut to the chase when it comes to enjoying their pig. In a dish called salo, the animal’s fat is served raw or smoked with a shot of vodka on the side for good measure. Za zdrovoja!
If you thought lutefisk was intimidating, wait until you get a hold of—or a whiff of, for that matter—surströmming, a canned and fermented Baltic herring whose mere scent is known for making newbies vomit.
This supersized rodent has been wreaking havoc on the Bayou for generations. Luckily, residents have taken to hunting and consuming the animal in an effort to curb the pest’s population.
What’s the best way to tell whether or not your fish is fresh? If it’s pared body is still fighting for life on your plate, of course.
Warthog Anus (Namibia)
Considered a delicacy within Namibia’s bush communities, warthog anus was famously featured on Anthony Bourdain’s TV show No Reservations, in a segment where the host himself feasted on the perplexing dish.
Stinky Tofu (Taiwan)
Although ‘stinky tofu’, or fermented tofu, distinctly smells of raw sewage, it is still one of the most popular street foods in all of Taiwan.
Giraffe Weevil (Madagascar)
This funny-looking insect actually makes Andrew Zimmern’s top 10 list of the strangest foods he’s ever eaten. He contends that, if you try this bug blindfolded, you’d probably guess you were eating shrimp!
You know the expression, “everything but the kitchen sink?” Well, this Armenian winter staple which features an entire cow—feet, head, stomach and all—perfectly captures that sentiment.
Drunken Shrimp (China)
Yet another Asian dish that challenges our notions of ‘raw food’, drunken shrimp is actually a dish that features live, albeit subdued, shrimp that are still swimming in ethanol when served.
Peanuts in Coca-Cola (Southern United States)
The Depression-era fad of dropping a packet of salted peanuts into a half-full bottle of Coca-Cola is still a strong tradition with some Southerners.
Blood Pudding (United Kingdom)
Perhaps not to scare young children, blood pudding is also sometimes called “black pudding,” but it’s still made out of the same gruesome ingredients—pig blood, cow blood, and a bit of oatmeal for good measure.
Do you like a whole lot of protein with your Jell-O? If so, you’re in luck because holodets has it all—a jelly-like consistency, nutritious veggies, and plenty of meat. Yum?!
To non-native Hawaiians, the idea of substituting traditional starches with a purple fluid from a taro root seems unconventional, but the Islanders sure do love it.
Tuna Eye (Japan)
Though the eyes are technically the cheapest part of the tuna, plenty of Japanese go crazy for this boiled seafood treat.
Deep Fried Twinkie (United States)
Nothing says “American overindulgence” than Hostess’ effort to make the classic Twinkie even more delicious by deep-fat frying it.
Sure, this traditionally German side may have the word ‘cheese’ in its name, but it’s actually nothing but. Instead, this gelatinous dish is chock-full of what are perhaps the least appetizing parts of livestock, including cow’s tongue, pig’s skin, and sheep’s head.
This Korean street food classic is comprised of one, and only one, ingredient—steamed silkworms.
Witchetty Grub (Australian Outback)
A creepy-crawly bushfood that is made entirely out of moth larvae. Fans of the unusual dish swear it tastes just like scrambled eggs.