Everywhere your travel may take you, regions have their own flare and twists incorporated into the local cuisine. While the more widely popular tend to circulate across the globe, such as pasta or sushi, there are many other regional delicacies that have not quite struck the palates of the world at large. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, make sure to keep an eye out for these strange and sometimes shocking local foods!
1. Crispy Tarantulas, Cambodia
Using local spiders called “a-ping”, who are theorized by some experts to actually be Thai zebra tarantulas, this palm-sized creepy crawlies are coated in a mix of sugar and salt, then added along with garlic into frying oil until perfectly crisp. Generous mounds of the crisped horrors for sale can be commonly found in local street markets.
The taste is described as relatively bland, with some claiming it is similar to chicken or cod, and others likening it to crab-like. The legs, head, and body are the more feverishly munched upon bits, as there is some debate as to whether one should bite into the abdomen, which contains a somewhat offputting paste of organs, excrement, and even occasional eggs.
2. Wasp Crackers, Japan
Utilizing the traditional rice cracker recipes, areas around Japan have made some waves with their winged additions to the crisp. The wasps in question are baked whole into the cracker, not ground up in an attempt to hide their usage. Wings and all are clearly displayed in each cracker, making for a rather startling visual impact.
The wasps used are farmed in Japan specifically for human consumption. As far as taste goes, the rice cracker itself is relatively bland, if a bit sweet, while the wasps are said to give a mildly bitter, acrid bite to the overall delicacy. Not to mention, who doesn’t love the crunch and squish of biting into a baked insect?
3. Hákarl, Iceland
This somewhat infamous national dish consists of Greenland shark, placed into a shallowly dug hole in the ground before being covered in sand and gravel, topped with stones for pressing, left to ferment for up to twelve weeks, then eventually dug back up, cut into strips, and hung to dry for months on end. The end result contains a very high level of ammonia and is served in small chunks.
The taste has been most politely described as acquired, and most bluntly put as disgusting by outsiders. Upon getting past the sharp, powerful scent, those who have stomached hákarl have described it as tasting like very strong cheese and fishy.
4. Muktuk, Greenland
This traditional Inuit meal is made up of whale blubber and skin, usually of the bowhead whale. It typically is served raw, though in recent years others have experimented with frying it and serving it with a dip such as soy sauce, or even pickling it.
When it is eaten raw, the skin remains quite rubbery while the blubber gives off an oily, nutty taste. It is usually presented in cubes or sliced strips and is a surprisingly good source of vitamin C.
5. Balut, Philippines
Eating eggs isn’t something that is too foreign to most, but the eggs in our grocery stores are unfertilized, unlike the eggs that make up balut, a common street food found in the Philippines. Balut is a boiled fertilized egg, containing the embryo of a bird, usually a mallard duck.
Preparation involves an incubating process, something that usually takes 14 to 18 days in the Philippines, but can vary locally. The egg is kept buried in sand, in a basket, or in the sun to keep the embryo growing during this time. Once the incubation is complete, the egg is boiled and typically served with salt or a mix of garlic, chili, and vinegar.
6. Escamoles, Mexico
Escamoles are the larvae of ants, often simply referred to as ant eggs. Locals harvest these larvae from plants in the area, usually choosing to panfry them with garlic and various spices. They were especially considered a delicacy by the ancient Aztecs, but are still widely served today.
Commonly described as tasting better than you might think, those that have dared to try the local fare have described these ant eggs as tasting buttery and nutty, often enhanced by flavors of garlic and cilantro. The texture is sometimes likened to that of cottage cheese.