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James Rice

Reckon you've got a strong stomach? You might reconsider once you've seen these... From cheese maggots to rotten eggs, these are some of the world's weird foods.

1. Shirako, Japan

As euphemisms go, this one’s a corker: shirako in Japanese means “white children” but refers to the sperm sacs of either cod, angler fish or puffer fish. Looking like white blobs of goo or miniature brains, they are said to have a sweet custardy taste.

Try a Streetfood hopping tour in Osaka, the so-called Kitchen of Japan, to explore further.

© patiyodsu/Shutterstock

2. Tuna eyeballs, Japan

It’s waste not want not when it comes to tuna in Japan; even the eyes are plucked out and served up cheap in supermarkets. To cook, simply boil or steam, and season with garlic or soy sauce. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it tastes a little like squid.

If you want to see more fish, join Tokyo's famous tuna auction at Tsukishi Fish Market with a guide.

3. Balut, the Philippines

This fertilised duck egg, with its partly developed embryo inside, is boiled alive and then eaten from the shell with salt, chilli and vinegar. You’re supposed to tap a hole in the top of the shell, sup the savoury liquid and then crunch down the rest of what’s inside – feathers, bones and all. Bleurgh.

4. Crispy tarantulas, Cambodia

Few people would look at a tarantula and think “lunch”, so it’s perhaps no surprise that these spiders were first eaten by Cambodians starving under the Khmer Rouge regime. Bizarrely, they became popular and are now served as a deep-fried snack throughout the country. Apparently they taste a bit like crab.

Prefer some other snacks? Hop on a Vespa and join a foodie tour in the evening in Siem Reap, gateway to famous Angkor Wat.

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5. White ant eggs soup, Laos

One of the world’s more unusual soups, Gaeng Kai Mot Daeng combines a mixture of ant eggs and partial embryos from the white ant, plus a few baby ants to add sourness. If your stomach can handle it, the flavour is supposedly quite tasty: sharp and delicate, and a little like shrimp.

Want to try cooking some Laotian delicacies yourself? Take a tour from Luang Prabang and learn to cook the traditional Hmong cuisine.

6. Jellied moose nose, Canada

Nose isn’t exactly a choice cut, but that hasn’t stopped some adventurous Canadians from experimenting with nasal gastronomy by boiling them up with onions and spices, removing the hair, boiling again, then slicing and covering with a broth that sets into a jelly. It certainly looks as bad as it sounds.

For the less adventurous foodies, maybe try a Craft Beer and Wine tasting tour through Gastown in Vancouver?

© Ivan Azimov 007/Shutterstock

7. Boshintang, Korea

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This supposedly health-giving Korean soup is made with spring onions, dandelions, a host of spices and one infamous ingredient: dog meat. Though you will struggle to find it on menus today, it’s still popular with the older generation and generally agreed to taste better than it smells.

There's certainly better parts to the Korean cuisine and drinks culture, like the traditional liquors and Hanok style restaurants.

8. Huitlacoche, Mexico

Corn smut is a fungus that turns normal corn kernels into tumour-like growths covered in blue-black spores. To most people that’s a diseased corncob that needs to be thrown out; to the Mexicans, it’s a culinary speciality. They call it huitlacoche (“sleeping excrement”) and enjoy the woody, earthy flavour of the fungus.

If you'd rather have a more traditional foodie tour, join an authentic tour from Mexico City to discover the best street tacos and other delicacies.

9. Airag, Mongolia

Glass of fermented horse milk, anyone? In Mongolia, this isn’t an unusual offer at all. They make a kind of beer called airag by taking a mare’s milk and letting it ferment into a fizzy, sour and slightly alcoholic liquid. It’s traditionally served chilled in a bowl-shaped cup; dregs are supposed to be poured back into the main container.

10. Casu marzu, Italy

Known as “rotten cheese”, Sardinia’s casu marzu is made from Pecorino that has gone bad – really bad. The larvae of cheese flies (piophila casei) are added to the Pecorino, hatching inside, burrowing around and digesting the fats. The result is a weeping, tongue-burning delicacy that you can eat with or without the maggots.

And if you prefer a more luxurious dinner, consider wining and dining in one of Rome's most luxurious restaurants.

Cube of "Casu marzu" on a sheet of "Pane carasau", a thin crisp sardinian bread © Paolo Certo/Shutterstock

11. Muktuk, Greenland

A traditional Inuit meal of frozen whale skin and blubber, muktuk is normally served either raw or pickled. It looks a little bit like licorice allsorts and has several layers: the skin (which apparently tastes like hazelnuts), the fat (chewy) and the protective layer in between (even more chewy). Don’t eat if wearing dentures.

12. Hakarl, Iceland

How anyone conceived of this dish is a mystery. To prepare: first gut and behead a Greenland shark, place in a shallow grave and cover with sand and stones. Leave for two to three months, then cut into strips and dry for several more months before serving: first-time tasters are advised to hold their nose and try not to gag.

Smoked puffin, lamb soup, Skyr dessert - Iceland has much more to offer in their cuisine, join a guide and explore the many options.

© IAM photography/Shutterstock

13. Century egg, China

If you discovered a rotten egg, would you eat it? Someone in ancient China did, lived to tell the tale and now it’s an established delicacy. The eggs (also known as hundred-year eggs or pidan) are covered in clay, ash and salt for months, by which time the yolk is dark green and stinks of sulphur. Mmmm!

Curious to find out what the locals of Shanghai eat? Consider joining a guided tour through Shanghai's vibrant restaurant and foodie scene.

© YANGYANG FANG/Shutterstock

14. Salo, Ukraine

Many advocate keeping the fat on meat, but the Ukrainians decided to go one step further and just eat the fat on its own. Usually it’s made into slabs, smoked and left in a cool cellar for a year before being eaten sliced thinly with rye bread. Ukrainians love it so much they even have a festival of lard to celebrate it.

From Lviv, you can join a walking tour to discover the gastronomic treasures of the Ukraine.

15. Stargazey Pie, England

A pie with fish that stare at the sky: Stargazey originates from the Cornish village of Mousehole in England, and is served on Tom Bawcock’s Eve (23rd December). According to legend, this heroic sixteenth-century sailor rowed out one December evening in high storms and returned with a catch big enough to feed the starving residents.

For the less adventurous, London has plenty to offer on gastronomic delicacies, such as the East End Food Tour.

16. Locusts, Israel

Israel has of late been suffering from a plague of locusts, but fortunately this is the only insect to be considered Kosher, so Israelis have been eradicating the pests in a unique way: by eating them. Deep-fried and chocolate-covered locusts are apparently going down a storm (no pun intended).

Besides locusts, there's plenty of Bureka, Hummus, and Malabi to taste (just to name a few). You can find them all over Israel or join one of the foodie tours like the Local Food Experience from Tel Aviv.

© Louis Ortiz/Shutterstock

Top image: Century egg, China © YANGYANG FANG/Shutterstock

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