Some of the foods that are part of our culture might seem exotic (or downright weird) to our foreign friends, and vice versa. From rotten cheese crawling with maggots to fried arachnids and potentially lethal sashimi, here are some of the ‘exotic’ foods enjoyed by people in different parts of the world.
*Warning: Reader discretion is advised
Thorny and pungent, the durian is beloved in Malaysia and many parts of Southeast Asia, earning the moniker ‘king of fruits’. Not everyone can stand it though – popular food and travel show host Andrew Zimmern describes it as having the texture of ‘rotten custard’, and some establishments such as hotels and public transportation impose bans on carrying the fruit due to its strong smell. That has not stopped the mushrooming of durian-dedicated eateries and shops, serving everything from ice cream to cakes and even durian fried rice!
Its appearance can be off-putting for some, but balut (duck embryo), a common Filipino delicacy sold on the streets, is actually pretty tasty. Crack a hole in the egg and sip on the broth before peeling off the shell. This is where most people get queasy, as the duck embryo is revealed, sometimes with a smattering of down. If you can get past that, the yolk has a soft and creamy texture, while the bones are tender and melt easily in the mouth.
Cambodia: fried tarantula
Fried tarantulas are a common snack in Cambodia, especially in the north. They are ‘farmed’ in holes in the ground, or hunted in the forest. The palm-sized arachnids are defanged, seasoned with MSG, sugar and salt, and deep fried in hot oil, which singes the fur off. The body is where the bulk of the meat is, but you might want to skip the abdomen as it may contain eggs, organs and excrement.
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Italy: casu marzu
This Italian delicacy literally translates to ‘rotten cheese’ – and that’s exactly what it is. Hailing from the region of Sardinia, casu marzu is made from sheep’s milk, after which larvae of a species of fly is deliberately introduced to help in fermentation. The cheese becomes very soft and by the time it is ready for consumption, will contain thousands of maggots. Although European food and hygiene regulations prohibit the selling of casu marzu commercially,it can still be found on the black market or made discreetly in homes.
When eating fugu, or blowfish, each bite might be your last. Its inner organs such as the liver, eyes and heart contain high amounts of tetrodotoxin, a powerful poison. Chefs undergo years of training to gain the necessary skills to remove the toxic parts and avoid contaminating the meat. The fish is served as sashimi (raw) or chirinabe(hotpot), and its preparation in restaurants in Japan is strictly regulated by law.
The poster child (or should we say, animal?) of Australia, kangaroos are sometimes considered as pests by landowners and farmers, as they eat feed meant for cattle and sheep. Long considered food by indigenous tribes, kangaroo meat is now widely harvested for consumption. It has a strong flavour and is tender in texture, and can be used as a substitute for minced beef.