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The World’s Strangest Delicacies

Each country has their own traditional dishes like England’s roast dinner, Spain’s paella and Italy’s lasagne; however there are some countries that have more unusual delicacies. I have put together 10 of the strangest delicacies that are not for the faint hearted, so it’s probably best to look away now if you’re squeamish!

Tuna Eyeball - Eaten in China and Japan

Tuna Eye can be found staring up at you in most Japanese stores for less than a Pound. Apparently it tastes a bit like squid and the eyeball comes surrounded by fish fat and severed muscles that are also meant to be quite tasty. To cook, you simply boil it and then season to taste.

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Salmon Roe - Eaten in Eastern Europe and Russia

This is the is the fully ripe internal ovaries or egg masses of Salmon, a similar dish to the more widely-known Caviar. In some parts of Eastern Europe, the more expensive Salmon Roe is seen as a delicacy but there are also cheaper versions available in the chilled food sections of most supermarkets.

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Casu Marzu - Eaten in Sardinia

Casu Marzu literally translated means “rotten cheese” in Sardinian. This is also known as maggot cheese because it is made from traditional sheep milk and insect larvae. The cheese is left for months to decompose and then the Larvae of a cheese fly are introduced into the cheese to break down its fat. They look like see-through worms, just under 1cm long and can jump up to 15 cm when disturbed. Some people remove the maggots before eating where as others prefer to leave them in. If the maggots die, the cheese becomes toxic which has lead to this Sardinian cheese being banned for health reasons.

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Cod Fish Sperm - Eaten in Japan

This slippery, soft white food is a popular winter delicacy in Japan. Shirako, otherwise known as Cod Fish Sperm Sac, is said to melt in the mouth like butter and is made from cod milt, a fancier word for fish sperm. It can be eaten both raw and cooked, depending on individual tastes.

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Chicken Cartilage - Eaten in Japan

Chicken cartilage is commonly served in bars in Japan as a tasty snack. It can be eaten fried or on a shish kabob. The texture is very chewy and sometimes can take quite a few mouthfuls to break it up properly.

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Salo - Eaten in Ukraine

Salo is an Ukraine delicacy that is actually pig fat! Salo can be eaten raw, smoked, fried or boiled but in Russia it is most commonly eaten as a snack to accompany vodka, they cut thin slices and add it to rye bread rubbed with garlic. It is stored in cold dark places where it can last up to a year, however if it is kept longer than that the surface will turn yellow and it will then be used for things like a protection treatment for leather boots!

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Balut - Eaten in the Philippines

Balut is known as “the treat with feet” or “the egg with legs” and is a favourite snack of the Philippines. It is a fertilized egg that is buried in the ground for a few weeks until an embryo has nearly been developed, it is then boiled and eaten in its shell.

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Goat Head - Eaten in Southern Africa

Goat head is served complete with cooked brains, tongue and ears! In Southern Africa it is boiled with onions, garlic, tomatoes, ginger and chillies which gives it its flavour, and surprisingly it is served in some very upscale restaurants! It is also been known to be served with the goat’s eyes but only if you are lucky enough to be a guest of honour!

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Cuy Bien - Eaten in Peru

Cuy Bien is a traditional dish and a major part of the diets in Peru, this is because roasted guinea pig is high in protein and very low in fat. Its taste has reportedly been compared to a number of different meats including, the dark meat of chicken, rabbit and even rat!

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Yak Penis - Eaten in China

Yak penis is a Chinese delicacy and is also known as "Dragon in the Flame of Desire". It is most commonly served in the Guolizhuang Restaurant in Beijing which is famous for serving penis and testicle dishes, the yak penis dish is very popular as it is supposed to be very good for your skin!

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Prairie Oyster or Rocky Mountain Oyster – Eaten in North America

Prairie oysters are actually bull’s testicles and are also known as ‘rocky mountain oysters’. One way to eat them is to pound them flat, coat them in flour and deep-fry them; this is the way they prepare them in North America where they serve them as an appetizer.

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Herring Sperm - Eaten in Russia

Herring sperm also known as herring milt is traditionally a Russian dish, however it is enjoyed in a number of countries including the UK! There are a number of ways to serve it including frying it and serving it with horseradish, but the most popular recipe is to roll them in flour and fry them before serving them on toast.

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Smalahove - Eaten in Norway

Sheep’s head or Smalahove is a traditional Christmas dish eaten in Norway. They remove the brain and fleece from the head and then boil it for a few hours before serving it with potatoes.  Just be careful when looking at the menu at a Norwegian Hotel or on a Norwegian Cruise because you might have a bit of a shock if this turns up!

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Barbacoa - Eaten in Mexico

Barbacoa is one of Mexico’s traditional dishes. This dish involves a whole sheep being slow cooked in a pit until the meat is tender; it is then served on a warm corn tortilla with onions, salsa and guacamole.

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Menudo - Eaten in Mexico

Menudo soup is another traditional Mexican dish. This dish can take some time to prepare and it is believed that the soup tastes even better after it has been re-heated. This soup is made from cow stomach and spinal cord as well as onions, garlic and red chilli peppers for that extra spice!

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Bird's Nest Soup - Eaten in China

Bird’s nest soup is a Chinese delicacy and is made using the nests of the swiftlet. The swiftlet makes its nest from its own saliva which hardens when exposed to air. When the nests have been picked they are then cleaned before being sold to restaurants. Bird’s nest soup is a popular dish in most Chinese restaurants but be warned they come with a very big price tag.

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Century Egg - Eaten in China

The century egg is also known as the thousand-year-old egg because it is preserved for several months in a mixture which includes clay, ash and lime. This mixture turns the egg yolk a dark green colour and gives it a strong smell of sulphur; however, this doesn’t stop them being another very popular Chinese delicacy!

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Sea Cucumber - Eaten in Asia

The sea cucumber is a popular delicacy for most East and Southeast Asia cultures as it is considered to be good for your health. Despite its slimy/slippery texture, the sea cucumber is actually higher in protein and lower in fat than most foods. It is mixed with ingredients like shiitake mushroom and Chinese cabbage at meal times and ingredients like mutton for medication purposes (kidney deficiency).

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I hope this hasn't put you off your lunch too much! If there are any more strange delicacies that you want to see added to the list then just let me know in the comments below. Or if you have ever tried any of the foods mentioned I’d love to know what they tasted like!

 

Community comments (20)

Tried this last year from like www.geocities.jp/hongkong_bird_nest/index_e.htm . Tastes really good... yeah, I thought it was gross at first, but wow, you won't regret it.

mann i love bird's nest soup too even IF its made from spit!!! <333

i eat it like once every monthish and used to bought from website hongkong-bird-nest.50webs.com/index_e.htm sometimes, my mom went back to hong kong and bought a full suitcase of it cause its cheaper there XD

sea cucumber
giant sea slugs

Goat heads, pig heads, cow heads, if cooked properly, are delicious-
the cheeks being the most sought after meat.

Thanks for the suggestions, I've added the sea cucumber to the post, but don't think I'd like to try it!

I've had many of these dishes and want to try the ones I haven't. I'm always on the lookout for unusual cuisine. Some of my personal favorites are stinky tofu, pork blood soup, chicken testicles and haggis. I've written about many of the things I've enjoyed on my blog at www.trippyfood.com. I'd be interested in your individual experiences with the foods you mentioned - let me know!

You should add Century Eggs and Bird's Nest Soup. ;o

Thanks for your comments, I have just added the birds nest soup and the century eggs to the blog post - I’m finding it hard to look at the picture of the century eggs though!

I like to think of myself as an adventurous eater, but I think I would struggle with a number of these!

A friend of mine who was travelling in the USA was offered a 'prairie oyster'. He said "Yes please, I love oysters" and was confused by the response (laughter). He went ahead and tried it, "Wow, that was amazing... but what was that? It didn't taste like oyster"
It was a deep fried bull's testicle. Best to find out after, I think.

Thanks for your comment Victoria and I agree, it’s definitely best to find out after. I have to say the picture that I've added disguises them well so I can see why your friend was willing to try them!

This is a point though, and it's something that Sally raises in the original blog - are we particularly squeamish when it comes to food? Prairie oysters are quite common in the southern US states particularly. What's the closest thing we have to fish eyes? Offal?

I know, I was trying to think of a strange English delicacy but the only thing that comes close is black pudding. I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of black pudding but it is quite popular with a traditional full English breakfast. It doesn’t really compete with the other foods that have been mentioned though!

I regularly have herring sperm (nicer than cod sperm!), rolled in flour and fried in butter with a squeeze of lemon. Serve on toast for breakfast - absolutely delicious . Here in the UK it's mislabelled "Herring Roe" (eggs) but it is in fact the sperm sac. I didn't know that till last year! It's best if fresh but can also be bought in cans in most large supermarkets. The flavour is incredibly delicate and the texture like pate de foie gras.

And someone mentioned horse steaks. These, too are delicious. I prefer horse steak to beef steak and always stock up on frozen cuts when I go to France for a shopping trip. It's also far healthier than beef. The other nice thing is that the horses have lived full lives, they're not usually raised just as meat.

Bon appetit!

Thanks for your comment; I managed to find a picture of herring sperm served on toast so I've added it to the blog for you. Not sure I could bring myself to try it though!

That tuna eyeball is not from China. It has Japanese price tag on it. That says it's Indonesian tuna.
まぐろ "maguro" is Japanese for "tuna".

Sorry about that, I've just made the corrections, it should have read 'Tuna Eyeball Eaten in China and Japan'. Have you ever tasted a tuna eyeball before or any other of the foods mentioned?

In Mexico we eat Sheep's head (as well as most other parts). My favorite is Pancita, where the stomach is stuffed with several other organs that have been ground up with spices and rice, and then it's all cooked in a pit in the ground and eaten on weekends commonly as a hangover cure. The entire Sheep is used, and it's called Barbacoa.

Aside form that I have eaten the tuna eye (didn't seem all that special to me) and Salmon Roe. It's quite salty and fishy. Kind of like a softer Caviar.

Another popular dish in Mexico is Machitos (bull's testicles), and Menudo (a soup made from cow stomach and spinal cord). Then there is the usual crew of bugs (escamoles, or ant eggs, grasshoppers, worms, etc)Yum. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Hi Genom, thanks for your comments. I've added Barbacoa and Menudo soup to the blog. I’ve also read that both dishes are popular hangover cures in Mexico, which one would you recommend?

Genom, are they eaten just as a normal food or do they claim to have health benefits? I'm fairly certain that Barbacoa is where we get the English word barbecue from.

All of these things look disgusting - can some of them be quite tasty? The strangest thing I've had (unwittingly) was a horse cutlet in a hotel in Moscow. Anyone else had food foisted upon them without knowing what it was, only to later find it was something you wish you'd rather not had?

This dish: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smalahove is also kinda strange

I agree that the Smalahove dish is very strange - so a great one to add to this blog post! Thanks for your comments.