Unusual and Delicious Food from Around the World
Expand your palate with these interesting international dishes
Wanderlust will get you everywhere—literally. But what will you eat when you arrive? Rice and vegetables are a simple solution when you’re abroad. But for the more adventurous palates, the options are endless.
And what better way to learn about a far-off land than by eating its food? Celebrity chef Guy Fieri agrees. In a recent interview with Michael Mooney at Success magazine, Fieri states, “Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat.”
So leave your fast food cravings behind and dive into these unusual—and delicious—dishes from around the world.
UK – Haggis
A national dish of Scotland, this sausage is the poster child of waste not, want not meats. It’s heartily composed of sheep’s liver, heart, kidneys and lungs minced with beef or mutton and oatmeal. Lovingly seasoned with onion and pepper, it’s encased in the sheep’s stomach lining and boiled to perfection. The locals love it, and people travel far and wide to taste the best.
Veggie lovers need not worry, though. There are tasty vegetarian options available.
Thailand – Durian Fruit
Wander the streets of Bangkok and you’ll likely start to smell something curiously foul. Nope, it’s not sewage. It’s just the locals proudly chopping into their favored stinky fruit—the durian. In fact, the smell is so offensive that the fruit isn’t allowed on many forms of public transport, like subways and taxis. But once you get past the odor, one bite into this superfruit could leave you wanting more. Just be sure to have a mint handy. Your friends will thank you later.
France – Escargots
Snails might not be the most exotic item on the list, but the idea of eating them still tends to make some people squeamish. But that doesn’t change the fact that escargots have historically been regarded as an upper-class delicacy.
Once you’ve mastered their hard-to-handle exterior and slightly slimy nature, it’s difficult to resist the rich, buttery white wine and garlic broth they’ve been patiently marinating in.
Japan – Medama (Tuna Eyeballs)
Japan has a history of serving some of the world’s most exotic foods. And medama (aka tuna eyes) certainly stacks up as one of the most interesting. But unlike many of its ancient contenders, medama has gained edible popularity only since the early ’90s.
Previously, the eyes of tuna were tossed away as waste. Now they’re enjoyed as a fried, stewed or steamed snack and served in bars all over Japan and east Asia. Sure, it’s a little strange to see your meal staring back at you, but it turns out this dish is delicious and healthy. It’s super-rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
Canada – Jellied Moose Nose
In the past, the northern climes of Canada proved to provide little mercy to its hunters and gatherers. That’s probably why residents became so familiar with moose meat. It was always available and could feed a family for weeks when the winter winds were unforgiving. And that meant nothing went to waste.
Now considered a northern delicacy, jellied moose nose is exactly what it sounds like. The snout of a moose is boiled with onion, garlic and spices until it softens into a gelatinous texture. You’d be hard pressed to find it in a restaurant. But if you’re ever invited to a potluck party in northwestern Canada, it will probably be on the table.
Mexico – Huitlacoche
This rare Mexican treat is also known as a corn mushroom. Why? Because it’s a fungus that grows on corn. Sometimes called corn smut or Mexican truffle, huitlacoche randomly grows on corn that has not been sprayed with fungicide.
Good news for the farmers, though: This fungus usually sells for more than the corn it corrupts. Pop into any farmers’ market in Mexico to find this fresh fungus, and use it anywhere you’d normally use mushrooms.
Italy – Pani ca Meusa (Sicilian Spleen Sandwiches)
Wander the streets of Sicily and you’ll quickly stumble upon some of the best street food in the world. And this spleen sandwich is no stranger to bustling roadside dining. That’s right. Spleen sandwich. Often served up burger-style between slices of Sicilian bread, this yummy concoction is crafted from cow spleen, topped with ricotta and sprinkled with fresh lemon juice.
Get the most authentic Sicilian experience from a curbside server in the morning. Traffic comes to a complete stop as locals on their way to work line up to wait for these yummy stuffed handhelds.
China – Century Egg
Okay, so it’s not exactly a century old, but it’s old enough. That hasn’t stopped millions from enjoying this well-preserved delicacy. Century eggs are duck, chicken or quail eggs preserved in a fine mixture of clay, ash, salt and rice hulls. The preservation process can last anywhere from weeks to months. When the egg is ready, the yolk turns a dark shade of green and takes on a creamy texture as the white turns to jelly.
Legend has it these green treats were accidentally discovered during the Ming dynasty, and they have been a savored snack ever since.
USA – SPAM®
Widely known as a “miracle in a can,” this canned meat icon came to the rescue during World War II. SPAM was first produced in 1937, and what the name stands for is still slightly debatable. Nevertheless, this edible war hero helped thousands of overseas soldiers in need of sustenance. Nearly 100 million pounds of SPAM were consumed as a B-ration during the Second World War.
Since then, the USA has grown to love SPAM for nostalgia and meals alike. Austin, Minnesota, aka “Spamtown, USA,” is where George Hormel eventually settled his processing facilities. And pairing this paradise in a can with other tasty items has made it possible for restaurant owners in the Hawaiian Islands to devote entire menus to SPAM-inclusive recipes.
So there you have it. Different can be delicious! Still not convinced? Take it from a pro. “Try new things, meet new people and look beyond what’s right in front of you,” says Andrew Zimmern, TV host and author of Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre World of Food: Brains, Bugs, and Blood Sausage. “Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.”
So open your mind—and your mouth—the next time you’re abroad. Who knows? Your taste buds might pleasantly surprise you.
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