You’ve probably heard the phrase, “one man’s trash is another person’s treasure”, but rarely have you heard it applied to food. Whether or not you’re an adventurous eater or a self-proclaimed foodie, you are likely aware that the food you love most in the world is disgusting to others, and vice versa. Dig deep enough, and things you would never even put in the category of edible are being served at a gourmet restaurant somewhere in the world.
Even in the countries or areas of the world where they are served, some of the foods are considered weird or unusual. In some cases, it’s part of a daring spirit, while in other cases, the taste or tradition outweighs how weird it might appear now. We went out of our way to find the most bizarre and unusual food that would challenge even the most adventurous eater and perhaps will make you second guess calling out your roommate for his weird choice to combine ketchup with mac and cheese. Maybe the outrageousness of some of these foods will force you to try something new, after all, chances are you’ve passed up a dish that wasn’t half as weird as one of these.
How many of the foods on this list would you be willing to try? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
15. Jellied Moose Nose
It should be self-explanatory that this weird dish comes from the great white north, aka Canada. Jellied Moose Nose is a recipe included in the Northern Cookbook, a collection of recipes from the Canadian native population. The book served as a document, but has since grown into a practical guide for the adventurous Canuck looking to spice up their wilderness cuisine. Jellied meat was really en vogue in the 1970s but has since fallen out of style. Made like any other jellied meat by a series of boiling and chilling, this one utilizes the front half of the moose skull. Served as a kind of loaf, it is comprised of both dark and white meat. In a lot of ways, this is just a different variation on a german dish called head cheese, which involves boiling an entire cow’s head. It’s just with a moose.
How weird can a fish be? Well, lutefisk isn’t much to look at, but it has a smell that could knock out a small child. A traditional dish from Norway, it involves treating white fish (normally cod) with lye. It has a weird jello texture and normally takes about a week to prepare and involves soaking the fish in water, and then in lye — which evokes the gelatinous texture. Lye, which is found in some cleaning products, has to be used carefully because if you let it soak too long, it will produce literal soap – we wish we were joking. One of those mystery dishes that we’re not sure how someone ever thought combining food with lye was a good idea. While those from countries that consume it (Sweden and Norway in particular) have stories about its origin, none fully explain the real origin of the dish. The dish is especially popular around Christmas time in Norway — call us crazy, but we prefer the smell of a pine tree over lye and week old fish.
13. Casu Marzu
One of the most commonly known entries on this list due to being featured on Gordon Ramsay‘s hit show The F Word, Casu Marzu is a Sardinian (an island in Italy) cheese served with live maggots. You heard that correctly! Casu Marzu, which translates as putrid cheese, takes blue cheese about one hundred steps further and literally has live, crawling, breathing, moving maggots inside of it. Not only that, it’s on purpose. This cheese moves beyond the stage of fermentation into decomposition, all helped along by a larvae introduced in order to quicken and transform the cheese itself. According to foodie experts, should you run into the cheese and the maggots are dead, it’s unsafe to eat! The cheese is very controversial in the European Union where it has been banned until recently just about everywhere, though due to being a traditional food, it has been since ruled exempt of normal health and safety rules. The cheese also, notably, features all the larval excrement. Food writer, Anna Ward, for her blog World According to Cheese recently tasted the infamous cheese described it as having a flavor with “a strong pecorino, hinted of gorgonzola, and finished with a taste of pepper,” but even hours later she couldn’t shake the fact she had small wriggling maggots in her mouth.
In Japanese, Shirako, translates as “White Children” and refers to the seminal sacks of a variety of different fish included cod, salmon and squid. Considered a delicacy, these little sacks of love, are obular and white with an uncomfortable resemblance to a bleached or marbled brain. Apparently quite delicious, the food is most often served raw or at the most, lightly grilled. It has been described as having a very smooth and buttery texture, and as long as you don’t know what it is, it can be especially delicious and mouth watering. Japan, of course, is not the only country to serve seminal sacks as part of their cuisine, and other countries such as Russia, Romania and in Sicily. They are served and eaten at different occasions in each country, and can be used as a topping on pasta or as it is in Russia, pickled, and served separately from the fish from which it came.
11. Snake Wine
You’ve likely seen images of this bizarre and troubling wine. Snake Wine, which ferments real deadly snakes in rice wine or other grain alcohols. Banned in most places due to its potentially fatal nature, it is drunk less as a delicacy than as a medicine that promises to boost potency and fertility. Found in Asian countries like China and Vietnam. While the wine is not dangerous to drink, it still poses too much of a risk for most countries to allow it. It is very difficult to buy legally, and even so – it’s the kind of thing we can imagine on a shelf on the wall, not something you’d actually want to drink. The history of this one goes far back and is first recorded in 771 BC in Ancient China. This wine is ranked higher than some for the ick factor, but the reality is that this is a popular favourite amongst food daredevils who want to have a thrill without too much of a risk. While the wine is made in different ways, sometimes with the blood or bile of the snake, the most common way is to just ferment the whole snake, along with herbs and sometimes smaller snakes as well.
Keeping with our slithering theme, one of the weirder foods you can eat is cobra. A dish from Vietnam, the whole process of eating a cobra (or any snake) turns into an elaborate show, with the cobra normally being killed in front of you (unless you specify it’s done behind closed doors). Like a number of animals on the list, cobra is considered a powerful aphrodisiac, so if you’re looking to get it on later on that evening, this is the thing to order. Once it’s killed the guest of honor is allowed to eat the snake’s still-beating heart. The rest of the meal is a little more palatable with no part of the cobra going to waste. The only other part that might make you really cringe, is the two shots of rice wine – one blood red and the other green. The former is made with the added blood of the snake, the green one with its bile. The other dishes served include snake soup, dumplings and spring rolls. We figure once you chew on a cobra’s heart, the rest of the meal is basically a walk in the park.
9. Witchetty Grubs
Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King made a pretty good effort at selling us grubs and insects, but we’re not entirely convinced. While bugs are commonly eaten all over the world, and are an excellent source of protein, even if you’ve snacked on snails or crickets – we can’t say you’ll be prepared for Witchetty Grubs. A dish from Australian, these large white larvae that turn into a creepy moth are a thing of nightmares. The origin of this dish is among the most practical, as the Australian Aboriginals living in the desert really didn’t have much to eat – this became an important staple in their diet that helped keep them alive. The grubs can be eaten raw or cooked. Apparently raw they taste like almonds, while fried up, their skin is like roast chicken and their insides something akin to an egg – down to the yellow-y yolk color. At least this one is not normally eaten alive…
Among the more famous weird foods on the list, its relative fame does little to diminish how creepy it is. A balut is a developing bird embryo that is boiled and eaten directly from the shell. This one is haunting more for the idea that one day, however unlikely it really is, you’re boiling or cooking some eggs and you crack it open only to find a very developed egg. Going in actually expecting to have balut is at least a little less unsettling. Balut is fairly common in countries in Southeast Asia and is apparently quite delicious. The food is very controversial for obvious reasons, but also potentially poses a threat for how it can potentially harbour dangerous bacteria. The food actually has a lot of nutrients though, and pregnant women, in particular, are encouraged to eat it. Unsurprisingly, the food is often served with beer — we’d have to be pretty hammered to try this one out.
7. Blood Clams
Tegillarca granosa (aka Blood Clams) are given that name because it contains haemoglobin liquid (the stuff that makes blood look red) inside the soft tissues. A delicacy in China, this dish has numerous dangers associated with it – due to surviving in low-oxygen environments, it is more likely to ingest viruses and diseases such as Hepatitis A and dysentery. In spite of that, back in 2011, The New York Times tried to sell them as something worth trying – though we would like to believe the clams being served in the Big Apple were somehow screened for potential problems (they were apparently from a variety in New England). Writing for the food section of The Times, Florence Fabricant says they “have a deliciously crisp succulence.” For clam lovers, this might be a must-try, but we’re not sure we could get over the bloody appearance.
6. Soup Number Five
Many of the aphrodisiacs on the list are not a huge stretch of the imagination. We can understand why a snake, by virtue of its phallic shape, might be good for virility. An egg, similarly, as having the power to boost fertility, seems incredibly logical. But these foods are beating around the bush compared to the humbly named Soup Number Five. A Filipino dish that also claims to be an aphrodisiac that will boost your s*x drive, this soup is made with the p*nis or testes from a bull. This one is not a rare delicacy either, but a fairly common food served on the streets of major cities in the Philippines. One of the reasons this one isn’t listed higher is that looking at it, you could easily imagine it’s a normal meat soup. At the very least its rather harmless appearance will make it a little easier to swallow.
5. Deep Fried Tarantula
Arachnophobes, stay away from this one! A delicacy from Cambodia, these spiders are bred specifically to be fried up for locals and especially adventurous locales. While it’s not altogether clear where this tradition came about, some trace it back to the nightmarish Khmer Rouge rule, where food was scarce. Usually fried up with some MSG, sugar and salt, fried tarantula apparently has a very mild flavor like cod or chicken with a nice crispy exterior. It’s often recommended to not eat the abdomen, which is filled with a brownish meat consisting of the spider’s internal organs, eggs and sometimes its excrement. We’d personally sit out eating this completely because spiders are creepy. Luckily for the masochists out there, there are hundreds of videos on YouTube of tourists trying out this bizarre and skin crawling dish.
4. Century Eggs
Who would have thought eggs, that most delicious food at the heart of the best brunches and crucial to carbonara, could be so creepy. First the balut, and now the Century Egg. A century egg is a Chinese dish where an egg from a quail, duck, chicken or pheasant is preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt and rice hulls over a number of weeks or months. Over this period the yolk takes on a greyish green colour and the white becomes a translucent dark brown. On top of that, due to the development of ammonia the eggs themselves take on a strong scent of urine – leading some to believe, the process involves horse pee. Century Eggs can be eaten on their own or as a part of a larger dish, and are usually served at special events. While it apparently tastes a lot like a normal hard boiled egg, it’s hard to escape its very powerful smell, making this as bad (or maybe even worse) even if you close your eyes.
3. Tiet Canh
For whatever reason, Tiet Canh Vit has been compared to a pizza – but it’s nothing like a pizza. Nope, not at all. This Vietnamese dish is made primarily from duck blood, that through some carefully orchestration, is turned into a sort of pancake soup that is not quite liquid and not quite solid. Made from raw blood with some peanuts and herbs, and is typically served as a protein-rich breakfast dish in the northern parts of the country. Once the blood is drained from the animal, it is quickly mixed with some fish sauce to prevent the blood from coagulating. It is usually eaten right away, or stored in a fridge so that the dish doesn’t return to its bloody liquid state. Call us nuts but, we’d rather stick with cheerios and coffee for our morning pick-me-up.
2. Tong Zi Dan
Tong Zi Dan roughly translates to ‘Virgin Boy Egg’, which only begins to explain what this delicacy really is. Sold in Dongyang, Zhejiang in China every spring, these eggs might look normal on the surface – but are actually cooked in the urine of prepubescent boys. With urine collected from school toilets especially for this day-long process. For hours in the morning the eggs are soaked and boiled, and sometime near midday, are removed from their shells – only to continue to cook in the young boy’s pee. Considered lucky and good for promoting health, they have been consumed for centuries in the village. While most people buy them from street vendors, others go the extra mile – collecting their own urine and preparing the eggs in their own homes. The Chinese government has even protected the tradition as a part of cultural heritage of the area.
1. The Sour Toe Cocktail
Asia has done a good job dominating this list, but leave it to Canada to present the grossest entry of them all. Served in the far reaches of the country, up north in the tundra of the Yukon, the Sourtoe Cocktail is the one alcoholic drink we would definitely turn down. With a legend going back to the 1920s, this cocktail includes a real human mummified toe. While you’re not encouraged (or even legally allowed) to consume the toe, having it float around in your drink, only to be scooped up and used again is not our idea of a party. The Sour Toe Club where the drink is served actually has ten different toes that they’ve collected over the years (all by donations) – or so they say. They even have a catchphrase to help the whole thing go down smoother (or not): “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips have gotta touch the toe”. Back in 2013, the club ended up one toe short when a patron downed the drink toe and all – necessitating he pay a $500 fine, which he was more than happy to do.