16 weird foods of the world

written by James Rice
updated 2/18/2021
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Weird foods around the world: disgusting, gross or just simply different to what you know? The different ways we put our food together varies tremendously around the world; while travelling, some of us will seize any opportunity to try new tastes, whereas others might simply say 'yuck!' and move on. This article will help you decide for yourself which camp you're in...

There's certainly nothing weird when it comes to our intrigue with strange food. In Sweden, the city of Malmö has its very own Disgusting Food Museum, which explores our fascination with all things edible (and arguably inedible...).

Or are you convinced that you've got a strong stomach? Well, there are loads of weird foods to try – or for want of a better word, unusual food – around the world. Whether you prove yourself right or wrong, there's only one way to find out! From cheese maggots to rotten eggs, these are some of the world's weirdest foods.

1. Shirako, Japan

As euphemisms go, this one’s a corker: Japanese shirako means “white children”. The delicacy it refers to are the sperm sacs of either cod, angler fish or puffer fish. It's a weird-looking food: looking like white blobs of goo or miniature brains, they are said to have a sweet custardy taste. Those who enjoy eating this unusual snackargue that shirako boasts a number of health benefits... tempted yet?

Japan is also home to a number of weird vending machines, serving the likes of beer, bananas and live crab!

Try a Street food-hopping tour in Osaka, the so-called Kitchen ofJapan, 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. They are pretty large, after all! If you dare to try this nasty food, you can find them on menus in izakayas and restaurants throughout the country. There are various tuna eyeball recipes – as you do – but the simplest way of cooking them it to simply boil or steam, and season with garlic or soy sauce. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they taste a little like squid.

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

Fresh tuna eyes on fish market © Orso/Shutterstock

3. Balut, the Philippines

If you're in search of disgusting food facts, look no further. In the Philippines, a popular thing to eat is balut. This fertilised duck egg is boiled alive and then eaten from the shell with salt, chilli and vinegar - including the partly developed embryo inside. 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. It's unsurprising that Filipino balut might not sound overly appealing, but it is a duck egg delicacy for a reason...

Disgusting Food: Balut, a fertilised duck egg, is a delicay in the Philippines

4. Fried 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, fried spiders in Cambodia became popular and are now served as a deep-fried snack throughout the country. Apparently they taste a bit like crab, so they probably look a lot worse than they taste.

Want to give eating tarantulas in Cambodia a go? Or prefer other, lesser-legged snacks? Hop on a Vespa and join a foodie tour in the evening in Siem Reap, gateway to famous Angkor Wat.

Fried tarantula (Khmer word: A-Ping) is a regional delicacy in Cambodia © sakadaphoto/Shutterstock

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5. White ant eggs soup, Laos

One of the world’s more unusual soups, Laos' 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. Still unsure? Just pretend you're eating a bowl of risotto.

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

White ant eggs soup Laos © SUPANSA PORATA/Shutterstock

6. Jellied moose nose, Canada

Just the name of this snack is a strong contender for 'weirdest food in the world'. 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 who find themselves in Canada, maybe try a Craft Beer and Wine tasting tour through Gastown inVancouver?

Weird Food: Jelly Meat © Ivan Azimov 007/Shutterstock

7. Boshintang, Korea

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 in South Korea today, it’s still popular with the older generation and generally agreed to taste better than it smells.

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In-depth, easy-to-use travel guides filled with expert advice.

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

Boshintang © sungsook thanathat/Shutterstock

8. Huitlacoche, Mexico

Corn smut is a fungus that turns normal corn kernels into tumour-like growths covered in blue-black spores. It may look (and certainly sound) like a disgusting food – something like a diseased corncob that needs to be thrown out – but many find it to be a delectable delight. In Mexico it is regarded it as 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 fromMexico 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 (or ayrag) 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. Mongolians have been drinking airag for centuries and is similar to kumis which is found throughout Central Asia.

Big pot of airag - fermented mare's milk, traditional national beverage of Mongolia © T-I/Shutterstock

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. But it's not as unique a delicacy as you might think, with similar variations in neighbouring regions.

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 liquorice all-sorts and has several layers: the skin (which apparently tastes like hazelnuts), the fat (chewy) and the protective layer in between (even more chewy). While you might be quick to pass on this snack, muktuk is a good source of vitamins C and D. But perhaps don’t eat if wearing dentures...

Muktuk, a fresh whale meat in Greenland © Chris Christophersen/Shutterstock

12. Hakarl, Iceland

How anyone conceived hakarl is a mystery, but today it's an Icelandic national dish. 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 - Icelandhas 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! Yet while many disregard it, it's one of those weird snacks that you might just enjoy...

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 Ukraine 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. You can either eat it raw or cooked, and 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 inEngland, 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. It's important to leave the heads on the fish, which poke out of the pie and ultimately give the pie its name – at least its meaning is pleasant enough. Delightful.

Now you're clued up about England's food scene, book your owntailor-made trip with one of our local experts!

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). Many people used to think that insects and bugs were some of the weirdest foods around the world, but they've seen something of a resurgence in recent years – don't be surprised to find them popping up on an increasing number of menus worldwide.

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.

Disgusting food: a big portion of fired locusts (grasshoppers) © Louis Ortiz/Shutterstock

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

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written by James Rice
created 9/6/2013
updated 2/18/2021
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