Do you eat comfortably? Me too, especially when I’m at home. I get stuck in a avo-on-toast rut for weeks, and then I suddenly get something in my mouth that shatters my comfort zone to pieces. I was thinking about all the weird and wonderful things I’ve eaten when I’ve been traveling and how so many of those things push me outside of my comfort zone and force me to embrace the local culture.
It doesn’t really matter what your relationship is with food, these dishes are guaranteed to have even the most adventurous foodies questioning their decision to take a bite…
FRIED TARANTULA – CAMBODIA
If you’re arachnaphobic, best look away now; fried tarantula is a regional delicacy in Cambodia. First bred in a hole then fried in oil with some spices, you’ll find the legs crunchy, the head and body a little bland, and the abdomen a surprising flavour due to the organs, excrements, and digested herbs. Find fried tarantulas in Skuon, a regional town in the country’s Kampong Cham province. If you’re not heading that way, you can pick them up at a handful of restaurants in the capital, Phnom Penh.
GUINEA PIG – PERU
Cute and fluffy right? Perfect pets because they’re small and low maintenance, guinea pigs are also apparently delicious when barbecued. In fact, Peruvians have been snacking on these little guys since pre-colonial times. They look pretty freaky as well, cooked whole with their hair and teeth intact and just a light dusting of garlic and salt to distract you from the fact that you’re eating something that resembles a childhood pet. Locally called cuy, you can find these all over Peru – tuck with with your hands.
BABY EEL – NORTHERN SPAIN
Ok, eating baby anything is always a bit politically incorrect (hello delicious veal, I’m looking at you), but this traditional Basque dish has been around for centuries. These baby eels or angulas are actually a few years old and are now an expensive delicacy. Luckily, you can still try the mock version, gulas in Northern Spain, including San Sebastián, and it has nearly an identical taste and spaghetti-like appearance.
BITERS AND BUGS – CHINA
China is possibly the most free-spirited and experimental country I’ve been to in regards to eating habits, but one city really understands notoriously shocking eats: Beijing. Donghuamen Night Market is chock-full of creepy crawlies to try: fried scorpions, silkworm cocoons, centipedes, locusts, sea horses, and pretty much anything else that crawls, flies, or swims. Snack time?
LAMB HEAD – MOROCCO
Lamb meat is included in a lot of Moroccan dishes, and not to get left out of the fun: lamb heads. Because why would you waste a perfectly good head? Everyone knows the cheeks of an animal are the best and most tender cuts of meat, so don’t let the boiled face scare you off. Usually boiled in a large pot then cut into smaller pieces, everything is served but the eyeballs (yes, more brains). Although daunting, the final plate looks and tastes just like your normal, everyday lamb meat. The lovely guys at Marrakech Food Tours can show you where to find the best heads.
BRAIN FRITTERS – SOUTHERN ITALY
These are honestly the most delicious thing I have ever put in my mouth. Cervella as it’s locally known are small pieces of cow brain, lightly breaded in breadcrumbs and then flash fried. Let’s be real, fried food is tastier food — even if it is brains. If you’re up for it, you’ll find frittelle di cervello all over Rome. It’s a dish with a long history, during poor times Romans would use the entire animal, but they especially revel in what is known as the “fifth quarter”.
COD SPERM – JAPAN
Yes, you read that correctly. Cod sperm. Milt, also known as shirako is a popular dish in Japan. It can be served raw, steamed, pan-fried, or deep-fried and is said to have a subtly sweet flavour and a creamy, custard-like consistency. Shirako can be found throughout Japan, including street vendors and restaurants in Tokyo.
So… who’s up for a foodventure now?
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten while traveling? Let me know in the comments below!