Trying authentic local cuisines on your jet setting adventures is a big part of traveling. However, some countries have the strangest local foods. What do you do then? Would you dare to try these weird items or opt for more conventional dishes?
For those brave souls who have an adventurous appetite, here’s a collation by your favorite globe trotters.
Scorpions on a Stick in Beijing by Talek Nantes
Despite the initial “yuk” factor, insects are not only edible, they are actually good for you. They are full of protein and have been eaten in one form or another by just about every culture that has ever existed on earth. One culture that is smart enough to be omnivorous is the Chinese. In Beijing’s shopping area of Wangfujing, there is a market that sells interesting food options you are unlikely to see in the West. One of the most striking is the scorpions-on-a-stick. I tried it and it tasted a little like shrimp. It was chewy but not objectionable. You just have to get over the cultural aspects that makes you recoil.
Don’t knock insects! Scientists say it may be the food of the future.
Mämmi in Finland by Jacky
Considering the Finnish climate, it isn’t surprising that the Finnish cuisine includes several bizarre items. After all, not much can grow under such harsh climatic conditions and throughout the centuries, Finnish cooking adapted to what was available. However, some Finnish foods are simply strange, such as Mämmi. Mämmi is a kind of pudding made from rye, malt, and water. Today, it may also be sweetened with dark molasses. The consistency and color of the pudding are particularly unappealing as there is really no nice way to describe it. Mämmi is traditionally eaten during Easter and often served with either vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on the side. It’s widely available in supermarkets during that time, but, with some patience, can also be made at home.
Fried Crickets in Mexico by Claudia Tavani
One of the ultimate things to do in Mexico is trying all the amazing food. It is so good and unique that it has even been enlisted by UNESCO. One of the most unique and bizarre things to eat in Oaxaca is chapulines, which are fried crickets. Not the most appealing food to see, they can be seen in the markets, sold by the bulk at various stands. They are often eaten to accompany tequila or mezcal shots, and used to add an extra touch to guacamole.
Fat-Bottomed Ants (Hormigas Culonas) in Colombia by Gia
It’s hard to imagine how to eat ants. You’re probably thinking that they are too small and they taste horrible, right? While travelling in Colombia, we came across fat-bottomed ants also known as hormigas culonas, which are considered a local delicacy. They are literally fat-bottomed and don’t look like the normal sized ants that we know. Apparently, these ants are high in protein and low in saturated fat. My husband and I tried these fat-bottomed ants in the small colonial town of Barichara. The ants tasted something like fried peanut skin – it wasn’t bad at all! If you’re not up to eating them straight, a few restaurants serve these ants with steak. Now, that sounds appetizing!
Rat in Vietnam by Lindsay Mickles
While I was traveling in Vietnam with a couple of friends, we did our very best to remain adventurous with our eating habits. My friend had heard of a very specific delicacy in Vietnam and we finally found a decent place to try it out on our last night. We ate rat. I will say it again – we ate rat. Now, this isn’t your typical garbage-eating rat; these rodents feed on the rice paddies along the Mekong Delta. I’m here to tell you, it was pretty darned good. If you’re a fan of duck, then it’s definitely worth trying! Along with most other foods in Vietnam, the cost was minimal, and the food was exquisitely prepared. If you’re gonna give it a go, definitely ask around to find recommendations from locals, and you won’t be disappointed!
Yak in Bhutan by Alex Reynolds
Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan mountain kingdom sandwiched between India and China, is not known to be a meat lover’s paradise.
Because most Bhutanese are Buddhist, people assume they are also vegetarian. But many Bhutanese have no qualms about eating meat, so long as the animal was not slaughtered in Bhutan itself. There is one notable exception, though: the yak.
This cute, furry cow-buffalo hybrid is incredibly important to the mountain dwellers of Bhutan. Their fur provides warm clothing and rainproof tent material, for instance. It’s also an important source of protein, something hard to come by in the sparse Himalayan mountains.
Luckily for tourists, you don’t have to trek up a mountain for several days to find some succulent yak ribs (although there is yak sausage to be found at the Royal Highlander Festival). The Zone, a popular restaurant in Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, does a mean yak burger and yak ribs. If you fancy some of Bhutan’s finest homegrown meat, make sure to check it out.
Tarantula Donuts in Cambodia by Kylie Gibbon
When visiting Siem Reap in Cambodia, on our must-do list was a visit to the Bugs Cafe, a restaurant serving….bugs! The Bugs Cafe is the brainchild of a French restauranter who teamed up with an ex-Sofitel chef to find tasty and safe ways to serve insects. Some of the delights on the menu include wild ant spring rolls; pan-fried scorpions marinated in garlic, parsley and cashew nuts and savoury cupcakes – olive and parmesan cupcakes garnished with crickets and silkworms.
Probably the weirdest thing we ate though was tarantula spiders. Even our kids tucked into the tarantula donuts that consisted of whole marinated tarantulas coated in tempura batter and deep fried. They were also part of an insect skewer served alongside a giant water bug, capsicum and onion. It was certainly an experience visiting the restaurant and thanks to the delicious flavours that were teamed up with the bugs it wasn’t too challenging once you got your head around what you were actually eating! The cost of a small discovery platter serving 1-2 people is $14 USD and a large platter serving 3-4 people is $25.
Liquid Nitrogen balls in Chiang Mai by Jo
My personal weirdest eat was a liquid nitrogen ball wrapped in kiwi foam – can you beat that? First, I waited for my friend Svetlana to gulp one down and after her successful attempt I tried it too. It was like a bubble burst in my mouth oozing of some fresh, sweet goodness (is all I recall). It was gone in seconds.
What’s more this fine dining Italian restaurant called ‘Cuisine de Garden‘ is literally in the middle of a village in Chiang Mai. From outside, you would never know what to expect.
Once in, you will be served with wine a lavish 7 course meal of weird foods. Here I even tried charcoal icecream, eggs on nest and other strangest foods of my life!!! This was quite a thrilling culinary experience which left my taste buds shocked.
Tip : – Even if you are extremely adventurous with your palate, your body cannot always digest these weird foods. To keep traveler’s diarrhea at bay, I would highly recommend trying Travelan. Its a preventive taken before each meal, neutralizing the bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract, before it makes you sick. So say bye bye to bad tummys, aches and diarrhea while traveling the world and enjoying these adventurous eats!
Alligator Bites in New Orleans by Ketki Sharangpani
While we have eaten quite a few weird things during our travels, including camel kebabs in the Middle East – my personal favorite is the alligator bites that we ate during our weekend in New Orleans, Louisiana. When we sat down to an upscale jazz brunch in the French Quarter, I never imagined that I’d be wolfing down alligator tail meat bites within the hour. Our alligator bites arrived crunchy, breaded and deep fried and looked quite surprisingly ‘normal’. When we bit into it, the taste was quite unique, somewhere between the texture of chicken and fish, and slightly chewy! The bites were nicely seasoned with Creole spices and went well with the accompanying tartar sauce – good enough to make us forget that we were eating an alligator!
Egg Coffee in Vietnam by Penny
I think that one of the most interesting things that I have drunk during my travels in Egg coffee. Yes! You heard me right! Egg in the coffee. I had this when we were travelling through and experimenting with the flavour of the food in Vietnam. Now ordinarily I would have thought that the person making the coffee would use the white of the egg because that kind off sounds more bearable. Yet in Vietnam they use the yolk of the egg. I must say that I was very curious. Tasting the coffee first had however took away all my doubts. It probably takes some getting used to but to me it tasted like a liquid tiramisu. The coffee is popularly found in the North of Vietnam more specifically in Hanoi. As you go lower south it becomes more difficult to get it. I know because I tried. If you do happen to be passing through Vietnam, I suggest taking a swig of egg coffee. You may just like it!
Aaruul and Airag in Mongolia by Alexandra Diethelm
On my way from Moscow to Beijing on the trans siberian train, we stopped in Mongolia to stay in a traditional yurt for a night.
In the morning, we were invited by local nomads to visit them in their personal yurt. As a traditional welcome, they offered us Aaruul and Airag.
Aaruul is curd cheese that’s made of the milk of whatever animal the nomads own, be it yak, cow, horse or goat. It’s dried in the sun on the roof of their yurts and is a favourite food for winter as it’s easy to store over a long period. It’s looks a bit like apple crumble (but don’t be fooled!)
Airag is the nomad’s favourite alcoholic drink. It’s milk that is stored in a leather bag until it fermented. As the Mongolians love to drink lots, the bag gets regularly topped up.
I normally love everything that has to do with milk and cheese. But Aaruul and Airag, especially in combination, was a lot for my stomach to handle! To a Westerner, both local delicacies smell and taste like feet, if not worse.
I’m glad I’m living in New Zealand now, where the food is delicious, albeit less exotic.
Raw beef sandwich in Amsterdam by Jodie Dewberry
When you travel to the Netherlands, you probably don’t go there for the food. You also probably know what to expect to be on the menu while you’re there, with Dutch favourites like stroopwafels, pancakes, cheese and bitterballen on every corner. But of all the food in Amsterdam, there’s one that was a real surprise: the raw beef sandwich at Van Dobben.
Van Dobben is as unassuming as the food it serves up. Tucked away on a backstreet of Amsterdam, you’ll find all the usual Dutch delights here – but don’t skip the rest of the menu. The steak tartare sandwich isn’t what the local favourite is known for, but it will be one of the tastiest things you try in Amsterdam (if you can get over the idea of eating raw minced meat!).
Fried Hornets in Myanmar by Sarah Carter
For each place we visit, we make a list of what we should eat that’s truly local. The food of Myanmar was no exception. Our strangest food experience wasn’t on the initial list, but I suspect it may be on future lists!
We’d been trekking in Shan State in Northern Myanmar with a guide, staying in homestays and eating locally. We’d stayed in a makeshift bed in a room with no windows. The closest toilet 200 metres down the mud track, draining onto the vegetable field. We’d eaten some of the vegetables for dinner the night before, but part of our breakfast was provided by nature itself.
More of the vegetables, eggs, rice and a plate of fried hornets. They were, I have to say, delicately fried, not deep fried. There was a crunch to them. They were still very distinguishable as hornets. If I was at all uncertain I could just look at their mildly angry relatives buzzing around the kitchen to check. The taste was chicken-like (isn’t everything?) and with a lot of hot sauce and mixed in with my eggs, it was a good source of protein.
We can do the world a favour by eating more hornets. They’re a source of protein, the World Health Organization suggests that we can increase our protein intake by eating more insects like hornets, which are a subset of the wasp. They do eat pests like aphids, but are a natural predator of the honey bee – sometimes eating up to 50 a day!
Deep Fried Frog in Chiang Mai by Suewan
When we were in Chiang Mai, Thailand we met up with some local friends who wanted to take us to a traditional Thai restaurant. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to try some authentic, thai dishes. When the dish was put on the table we thought it looked like fried chicken. However, when we asked our friends they told us it was in fact deep fried frog!
Always willing to try new things I decided to have a piece. I know it’s what everyone says about all foods but it genuinely tasted like chicken! The only thing that put me off was that there were teeny, tiny frog bones inside the meat which you had to spit out. I don’t think I’d have it again but I’m glad I can say I’ve tried it.
Cows Tripe Soup in Romania by Bruna Venturinelli
Hearty and delicious food, that’s what I heard about Romanian food. And it’s true indeed, their dishes are delicious. Well, most of them…cow’s tripe soup isn’t really my thing, or in Romanian, Ciorbă de burtă.
When I searched the dish on Instagram it looked amazing, however, the moment I smelled it…well, it smelled like tripe. Duh! What was I expecting?! Honestly, I have no idea but I tried my best to really experience the local culture (and food).
Apparently, this is the most traditional dish in the country, that’s how I could tell the waiter felt a bit offended. I felt terribly sorry for that, but not all tastes please all people.
Ciorbă de burtă isn’t expensive, like any dish in Romania actually. The whole menu including entrance and a drink cost me 23 lei, around 5 euros. The restaurant Hanu’ lui Manuc was excellent and we enjoyed the other courses a lot as well as the service.
What’s the takeaway? Trust you common sense, not a photo!
1000-Year Egg in China by Vicki Franz
The Thousand-Year Egg, also called Century Egg, is a typical delicacy in China. It’s an egg (from a duck, chicken or quail) which preserves within a mixture of different ingredients during several weeks or even months. When the Thousand-Year Egg is ready to eat its inside has turned greenish brown while the outside is dark brown and reminds a little bit of jelly.
The recipe of this dish has probably been created already 600 years ago during the Ming-Dynasty.
I’ve tried this dish when eating out with Chinese friends during my Internship in Beijing. Even though I didn’t order one for myself I was allowed to try some of my friends’ thousand-year egg. After having a little bit, I was absolutely happy I didn’t order one for myself, though.
Wood Worms and Crocodile Meat in Philippines by Lavina Dsouza
When I knew I was going to the Philippines, I was excited to try some of the delicacies there, which were quite popular with the locals: wood worms and crocodile meat!
I was unsure of how it would taste, but I was still keen to try it!
Wood-worms belong to the Oyster family, and while slimy in texture they are supposed to taste naturally smoky and slightly sweet. They’re found in dead mangrove trees and are to be extracted and eaten fresh as they die instantly once extracted, hence it’s a rare delicacy here. Wood worms are usually dipped in vinegar with some chillies on the side.
Having them the natural way was a little shocking to me so I had them the way you’d have calamari, deep fried. They tasted just like soft squid.
Raw Herring in Amsterdam by Maria & Rui
This typical Dutch delicacy can be found on stalls all around the streets of Amsterdam. It is traditionally sold in small paper plates with raw onions. It is very popular as a hangover cure, but I personally did not have any hangover to cure when I tried it – maybe that’s why I did not love it. For me personally, the issue was not its strong and salty fish flavor, but rather how cold it is when served! Since we visited Amsterdam in the cold Winter months, it ended up being a very weird street food to try at that specific time. Still, I will definitely try again once I visit in the Summer! People in Holland have been eating raw herring for over six centuries, so it’s a very traditional experience to have.
Whale meat and Blubber in Faroe Islands by Allison Green
Recently, I visited the Faroe Islands and when I was on the island of Suduroy I signed up to have dinner in the home of a local. Little did I know that on the menu that night would be one of the Faroe Islands’ most controversial dishes, whale meat and blubber. The Faroe Islands gets a lot of flak for its whaling practices from activists. In reality, the whales are hunted in sustainable numbers, with humane slaughtering practices, in keeping with tradition since at least 1300. Whaling in the Faroes is not commercial, but community-based and not for profit: the meat from the hunt is shared with all the people in the village. That said, while I’m okay with the Faroes hunting whales as part of their tradition and heritage – the taste of it is amongst the grossest things I’ve ever tasted. I tried a dried piece of whale meat, kind of like a jerky, and that was pretty bad… but even worse was the blubber, squishy and rotten-tasting! It’s something I won’t be trying again, for sure!
So how many of these strangest foods have you tried already or dare to? Share in comments below.
Read more at: https://www.wanderwithjo.com/strangest-foods/