The different things people eat around the world is absolutely fascinating. In some parts of the world eating dog is normal, in others they like to eat posionous fish. Of course, they might look at us here in England and think our Yorkshire pudding and spotted dick is totally bonkers too. Remember, one person’s normal is another person’s no way…
South East Asia
The Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia have got a few things on their menus that aren’t for the faint-hearted. Arachnophobes, steer clear of the fried spiders! These are a regional delicacy in the town of Skuon in Cambodia and these species of tarantula are the size of a human palm. Although the taste of them has been described as bland, it’s the contents of the abdomen that might be worth having second thoughts over, you’d basically be eating a spider’s eggs, guts and excrement.
Iceland and Greenland
Iceland and Greenland are not just places to brave the cold and the dark in, but also they test your stomach strength by offering the dish called Hákarl – aka fermented shark. It’s cured for months by being buried under sand and when it’s good and rotten, it is strung up to dry out for a few months more. It is said to have an overpowering, gag-provoking ammonia smell and the real challenge is keeping it down after the stink of it has bowled you over. But if you can consume a piece of rotten shark without bringing it back up again, then you’ve the strength and bravery of a Viking!
Iceland is not only proud of its Hákarl, but also its delicacy of Puffin heart. Supposedly tasty, like a fishy version of duck, puffin heart is eaten raw after the neck of the bird is snapped – but most people wouldn’t eat it just because puffins are just too cute to butcher!
The food festivals in Europe can be fun, like the world-famous tomato throwing festival in Spain – La Tomatina – or the Battle of Oranges festival in Italy. But Spain has got its strange ones, like the Festival of Onions. The onions are not for throwing but for gorging on; celebrating the calcot onions, or “calcotades” in the town of Valls. It’s all about eating, drinking and partying, and most festival goers can be found wearing bibs, slathered in onion and barbecue sauce.
For a place known for ‘safe’ foods like burgers and hotdogs, the US has its fair share of stomach-churning food traditions. The Testicle Festival, also known as “Testy Festy” in Montana, dedicates itself to deep fried bulls balls. For $17 you can watch a wet t-shirt contest, chug beer and see contestants go at it in a ball eating championship – it’s all very classy.
If the danglies of a bull aren’t weird enough for you, head to West Virginia for the Road Kill Cook Off festival. This festival boasts an assortment of dishes made with the kind of creatures you’d often find stuck to a car tire, including: possum, porcupine and squirrel which are fried, skewered and stewed.
So you’ve tried your bull testicles and your possum stew, what other gross festivals can you hit in the States?
The Bug Eating Festival in Texas, that’s what; join thousands of people in sampling grasshoppers the size of rabbits and locusts, extra crispy.
The US also has its less strange festivals such as the Garlic Festival in California but one of the most specific has to be the spam festival in Hawaii called Spam Jam! In the UK, spam (the “can you guess what’s in this mushy meat?” food substance) was waved a jolly farewell after years of it not being a choice to have it in your cupboard; it was cheap and went a long way. But in Hawaii, they worship the spam and will even kick off the carnival with some fireworks to show it.
Down in Mexico there’s a very special food festival indeed; if you love radishes then you’ll be in radish heaven at “Noche de Rabanos”! The Night of the Radishes is very much a party; starting off just a couple of days before Christmas, giant radishes are carved into nativity scenes and all sorts of designs. There is plenty of street dancing to be had but at this festival, it’s not so much about eating them, but about how creative people get with them, working away for the prize of the best radish art piece.
Mexico also has to answer for the grim dish, escamoles (ant larvae). Once considered the equivalent of caviar to Aztecs, this dish of nutty flavoured ant eggs is usually served in tacos or with butter and spices, as horrid sounding as it is, the general review of them is that they are “quite tasty”.
Tanzania / Kenya
In some parts of Africa drinking animal blood is a tradition. It comes down generations from when people would have walked at great lengths across a desert, drinking animal’s blood was thought to give the traveller strength and stamina. The Masai people drink animal’s blood to celebrate the birth of a child as well as consuming it as part of their regular diet. If you’re in Africa and happen upon some cow’s blood (naturally of course) then mix it with some milk and pour it into your scrambled eggs or fry it with rice.
Asia’s weird food is for the stomachs of steel, the champions of extreme eating and if you’re looking to challenge yourself (and your gag reflexes) then this is where you do it. China is proud of something they call “Thousand Year Egg” which is pretty self-explanatory, although not quite a thousand years, these duck, chicken and quail eggs are buried in a mixture of ash, salt, rice and clay for several weeks or months.
If these aren’t enough to whet your appetite then how about virgin eggs? These are soaked in the urine of young boys – apparently they taste like “spring”.
Korea has a wine and it’s got baby mice in it, that’s right, baby mice that are plunged (still alive) into a rice wine; it supposedly tastes like gasoline but the Korean swear that it is a “health tonic”. Topping the baby mice wine in the ick factor is live octopus, how do you fancy your seafood turning up whole in a bowl, its tentacles undulating before you?
The Japanese have a cuisine that is creative, full of flavour and incredibly interesting and most people who love Japanese food are willing to cheat death by eating Fugu, the infamous deadly blowfish, prepared by speciality chefs trained to get the amount of poison just right so that it tickles the lips but doesn’t kill.
Something less attractive to try is a tuna eyeball which can be found packaged up in the supermarket as if it were a pie. Boil it up and season for a dish that can look at you as you eat it.
Ready for more?
Check out the World’s Most Dubious Delicacies