With Europe in the grip of a horsemeat scandal, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some stomach turning dishes from around the world. What may seem perfectly acceptable in some world cuisines has the capacity to make others feel sick and even horrified. Even if you are an adventurous foodie, I think even some of these stomach turning dishes will make you lose your appetite.
It is not going to surprise you that some of the most stomach turning dishes will come from Asia, and especially China. If you’re in a bar in Shanghai and feeling a little peckish, watch out for the bar snacks. You won’t be served a bag of chips or nuts – it will be some nice juicy duck heads that come your way (complete with brains and eyes).
Warning – don’t read this one if you are a vegetarian! Baluut is a dish from the Philippines which you could call a boiled duck egg. Except, the egg that is boiled has been fertilized and the embryo allowed to grow. When the baby duck is only partly formed, it is boiled alive and eaten. You know how horrid it is when you crunch on a bit of shell that’s accidentally crept into your egg mayo sandwich; imagine what it’s like when you bite down on a bit of beak, feather or tiny baby duck bones.
Europe has some revolting foods too, and this one ranks right up there. In fact, it is so bad it is illegal, although remote villages still make and eat it – particularly in Sardinia. Casu Marza starts off as an unassuming pecorino cheese, but it is deliberately laced with larvae of Piophila Casei – the cheese fly. The cheese is eaten whilst it is crawling with maggots. That’s disgusting enough, but the larvae also has to be chewed well before they are swallowed because they are resistant to stomach acids and have powerful mouth hooks that have been known to lacerate intestinal walls and stomach linings. Delightful!
I’m sure many of you have your favorite hangover cure – that one food or recipe that will make you feel so much better and wipe away the excesses of the night before. In Korea, a favorite is Haejangguk, which translates as “soup to chase a hangover.” Doesn’t sound so bad, eh? That is, until you know it is a spicy soup of vegetables and beef broth. Ok, so it still sounds pretty decent, but what about the addition of pork spine and coagulated ox blood? It sounds like something to make you give up alcohol forever.
Perhaps the western cuisine with the most stomach turning foods is Mexican. As well as serving up deliciously spiced meat combos and floury tortillas, insects feature quite heavily. One such dish is escamoles, also known as insect caviar. Escamoles is ant larvae which has been harvested from the roots of the agave plant, which also gives us tequila. Apparently the consistency is like cottage cheese and it has a buttery, nutty taste.
Monkey brains are believed to help with health issues such as erectile dysfunction and are supposedly eaten for medicinal purposes. Although, again, mostly associated with China, monkey brains are actually eaten in other parts of the world. Remote Amazon tribes will include monkeys in their diet, and as meat is precious, they will use as much of the edible parts as they can – though it is highly unlikely they will consume the brains while the monkey is alive. This issue remains the subject of controversy and there is still doubt about it, and the consumption of live monkey brains may be indeed just an urban myth.
Another of the disgusting foods from Europe is this little charmer. Surstromming is a Scandinavian “delicacy” of tinned fermented fish. The fish has such a strong stench that it is only advisable to be eaten outdoors – open a can indoors and you’d probably have to quarantine your kitchen for a week. Considered to be an acquired taste, surstromming is usually eaten on an open sandwich piled with the fish, boiled potatoes, diced onions, and either sour cream or crème fraiche.
Known as tiet canh in Vietnam, this is exactly as its name suggests. Being very high in protein, it is common in the poor rural communities in North Vietnam where it is eaten for breakfast. The fresh blood of geese, ducks or even pigs is put into the fridge to congeal and is then served chilled with maybe some fresh herbs or chopped peanuts sprinkled on top. Blood pudding (black pudding in the UK) uses cooked blood but blood soup really has to be one of the most disgusting foods around.
I could have included seal penis (China), roast dog (Korea), boiled sheep’s head (Iran), bamboo worms (Thailand), or wasp crackers (Japan) - all of which are revolting foods from around the world. Please note, many of these stomach turning dishes aren’t regular foods seen at a family dinner table. Many are for special occasions and some are only available in specialist restaurants. And, certainly don’t let them put you off trying the more palatable dishes of these cuisines. What foods turn your stomach?