There are many unusual foods from around the world to try on your travels. I love food and I love travel and tasting the local food can really add to your whole experience of the culture, which is why I always make it my mission to try the local dishes wherever I am. Obviously one person's 'unusual' dish is another person's ordinary feast but some dishes can be eyebrow raising to people who aren't accustomed to these unconventional culinary practices. Here are some unusual foods from around the world to try on your next globe-trotting adventure.
Table of contents:
- tong zi dan
- black ivory coffee
- tepa (stinkheads)
- century eggs
- puffin heart
1 Tong Zi Dan
A delicacy and local tradition in the city of Dongyang in China is boiled eggs. Nothing unusual about that right? Well, Tong zi dan, which translates as 'boy egg,' is made by boiling eggs in the urine of prepubescent boys which has been collected from the local elementary school. The shells are then cracked, which allows the eggs to become infused by the urine, and they are then boiled and soaked anew in the waste matter. They are reported to be delicious but you can't argue with the fact that it is a rather unconventional preparation technique. This is one of the more unusual foods from around the world.
2 Black Ivory Coffee
Like many, my morning begins with a cup of coffee to kick start my brain into action, but I'm assuming the coffee beans that my delicious hot beverage consists of haven't passed through the guts of an elephant. Yes, you heard correctly, Black Ivory coffee is made from coffee beans which have been eaten by Thai elephants and then promptly picked out of their poop! The coffee's unique taste is attributed to the beans passing through the guts of the elephant, which is where the magic happens and how they acquire their unique flavor. I don't think Starbucks will be serving this anytime soon but if you're traveling in the Maldives, Thailand or Abu Dhabi, you will be able to get your hands on this unusual brew.
As a Brit, fish and chips is one of my guilty pleasures, but when I tuck into my haddock or cod, I am safe in the knowledge that it doesn't contain any life threatening poisons that could kill me and for which there would be no antidote. Fugu (blowfish), on the other hand, is a Japanese delicacy which, if not prepared correctly by one of the few chefs trained in the art of Fugu preparation, could be contaminated with toxins more poisonous than cyanide, from its ovaries, liver and intestines. According to figures, 23 people have died in Japan eating this fish since 2000, but the majority of these deaths are the result of untrained people preparing their catch at home. Dicing with death is quite pricey too, with a serving in a restaurant costing around $120!
4 Tepa (Stinkheads)
This is basically fermented fish heads and is a traditional delicacy in Alaska, where no part of the fish is wasted. The heads of salmon are buried in the ground in fermentation pits, put into bags or barrels and left to ferment for several weeks. The name gives you a clue about the unusual aroma which is a result of the fish decomposing.
5 Century Eggs
This is another Chinese delicacy and they are basically preserved eggs. However, they aren't preserved for as long as the name suggests. The preservation process can take as little as several weeks. The eggs are soaked in a saline solution consisting of clay and salt, which transforms the texture and color of the egg white. Another unusual way to eat your eggs!
Shiokara is a Japanese dish and is made from marine animals which have been heavily salted and mixed with the guts of the fish. It is reported to have a similar taste to anchovies and is traditionally followed by a shot of whisky, which doesn't fill me with much confidence about its taste.
7 Puffin Heart
This is actually a delicacy in Iceland and Gordon Ramsey was criticized in 2008 for eating the raw heart of a dead puffin on his program the 'F Word' in the UK. It wasn't the fact that he had eaten it which caused the fuss but the fact that the hunter he was with killed a bird and then pulled its heart out and ate it raw. Gordon was then handed another raw puffin heart which he happily consumed. Of course, the furor died down and no publicity is bad publicity, right? Gordon Ramsey controversy aside, puffin is considered a local delicacy in Iceland where they grant licenses to cull them. In the UK, however, they are a protected species.
I love tasting foods from around the world and I'm not criticizing these dishes at all, as many people may think that the foods I eat are strange and unusual. But all this talk of food is making me rather hungry! Is anyone tempted to try any of the dishes above or maybe you have already and would like to share your experiences? What are some of the most unusual foods you have tried on your travels?
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