Food, in general, is a pretty popular commodity here on planet Earth. And why shouldn’t it be? It tastes good, you need it to live, and it comes in a wide variety of textures and flavors. In many areas of the world, food is an important part of social occasions, and can be featured in ceremonies and rituals. Food also has an emotional impact – thinking of a favorite dish that your mom used to make can instantly transport you back to your childhood, and a time honored family recipe is often guarded and passed down from generation to generation. Food is a nourishing, comforting, and necessary part of daily life.
Unfortunately, it can also be downright horrifying. For every delectable dish you crave, there exists a repulsive plate full of shudder inducing ingredients that will haunt your dreams and send your appetite running into next week. There’s no one area of the globe that has a monopoly on disgusting foods. Pretty much anywhere you go, you’ll find at least one or two recipes that will make you audibly gag and force you to question your faith in humankind. But that doesn’t stop some of the most adventurous eaters among us from actually searching out some of these culinary monstrosities. These thrill seekers consider the world’s most terrifying foods to be gourmet specialties of the highest order, and they will travel vast distances just to get a taste of something that the rest of us would immediately call a hazardous materials team to dispose of.
Whether it’s slimy, scaly, decomposing, or still moving, here are 15 of the most revolting foods that are considered to be gourmet delicacies. Who knows, maybe one of them will appeal to you! In that case, try to get it to go, so we don’t have to watch you eat it.
Here we are back in Iceland again for a putrid horror show that basically consists of rotting shark meat. Hakarl is made by burying a small shark whole under a few feet of sand or gravel for up to eight weeks. While underground, the shark undergoes a fermentation process. The shark is then unearthed and hung up to dry for several months, during which time a rich brown crust begins to develop. That’s how you know it’s ready to eat! Hakarl is usually carved into small cubes and served on toothpicks like an hors d’oeuvres at a fancy dinner party. The only issue is that it has an overwhelming ammonia taste and smell that has defeated even the most hardcore adventure seeking foodies. Even world famous chef Anthony Bourdain could barely keep it down, and reviewed it as “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he had ever ingested. No wonder Hakarl is often served with a shot of local Icelandic liquor to help you forget that you’re eating near poisonous garbage food.
14. Bird’s Nest Soup
A bowl of steaming hot soup is the go-to food when you’re feeling a little bit under the weather. Locals in Southeast Asia take this concept to a whole new level, however, with the popularity of bird’s nest soup throughout the region. Along with the more pedestrian ingredients of broth and spices, bird’s nest soup features the dried nests of swiftlets, which are small cave dwelling birds native to Asia. Rather than being made of twigs or leaves, the nests are actually just the hardened saliva of the birds, which is strong enough to hang off of cave walls. That’s right, bird’s nest soup is pretty much just a big old bowl of spit. But it’s said to have medicinal properties, and is even rumored to enhance the libido, which might explain why just a pound of swiftlet nests can fetch up to $5,000 dollars. It might be cheaper to just stick to good old fashioned chicken noodle soup if you feel a cold coming on.
13. Duck In Blood Sauce
So…this is pretty much just what it sounds like. In 18th century France, chefs were looking for a new way to shock and awe diners, while also eliminating any potential for food waste during an economically rocky period of the country’s history. So, they invented the duck press, a contraption not unlike a medieval torture device. A duck would be roasted whole and presented to restaurant patrons at the table, at which point the breast and legs would be removed and reserved. The remaining duck carcass, bones and all, would then be put inside the duck press and compacted with a manual crank until a thick, dark red liquid was produced, also in full view of diners. The resulting “duck blood” was then thickened with Cognac and served as a kind of dipping sauce for the succulent duck meat. While duck in blood sauce, also known as canard a la rouennaise, is no longer widely served in modern day France, it is sometimes whipped up for curious tourists with the culinary tastes of Hannibal Lecter.
12. Blood Pancakes
There’s nothing like a big stack of pancakes first thing in the morning to give your day a delightful start. Just whip up some milk, flour, and butter in a hot pan, add some maple syrup, and in no time you have a sweet, scrumptious breakfast, right? Not if you’re in Sweden, because over there they like to add an extra ingredient to their pancake batter that might make your skin crawl. Blodplattar, or blood pancakes, are made with – you guessed it – animal blood, usually coming from a pig or a reindeer. Onion and molasses are often added for a little extra flavor, and the pancakes are then served with a side of meat or sausage and topped with a spoonful of lingonberry jam. It almost sounds like something you would order at your local diner along with a cup of coffee, if you ignore the gory main ingredient that’s straight out of a horror movie.
11. Tuna Eyeball
This takes sushi to a new, disturbing level of extreme. Imagine your dinner staring straight back up at you in a cold, dead, unblinking gaze. That’s the experience of eating tuna eyeball, which is a relatively common food in Japan. It’s available there in major supermarket chains, and it’s literally just a raw tuna eyeball. Nothing else. To eat it, you simply fry or boil it for a few minutes, season it with a little lemon juice, wasabi, or chili sauce, and dig in with some chopsticks. Fans of tuna eyeball rave about its rich, fatty flavor, while others who don’t enjoy it quite as much say that it’s tough, rubbery, and reminds them of a more more unpleasant version of squid. But whether you love or hate the taste of tuna eyeball, it seems like it would be hard to get past the feeling that your meal keeps staring up at you in silent judgement as you devour it.
10. Puffin Heart
Puffins are widely considered to be one of nature’s most adorable creatures. Their bright orange beaks, multitude of feathers, and waddling walk make these seabirds an irresistible sight for tourists in Iceland, where puffins are known to flock in the thousands. Unfortunately for the puffins, some Icelandic locals seek them out for a different reason – puffin heart is considered a delicious delicacy throughout the region. Hunters will catch several birds at once in a large net, skin them, cut out the heart, and eat it raw. If they’re really feeling fancy, they may smoke or pan fry it for a bit of extra flavor. Puffin heart is said to have a pleasantly lean, mild flavor, like steak or chicken. It almost makes you want to hop a flight to Iceland and try it for yourself! Just kidding. Why would you possibly want to eat a puffin, you monster? Just look at them. They’re freaking adorable.
9. Rocky Mountain Oysters
Rocky Mountain Oysters – that doesn’t sound so bad, right? Who doesn’t enjoy a batch of freshly fried oysters right out of the ocean? The only problem is that Rocky Mountain Oysters aren’t actually oysters. They’re aren’t seafood of any variety. Here is what they are: mammal testicles, most often that of a bison, pig, or sheep. Usually they are prepared by lightly rolling them in flour with salt, pepper, and spices before frying them a crispy golden brown. It almost sounds downright delicious, until you remember that those little suckers were near the business end of a barnyard animal not too long ago. This dish is most popular in the western U.S. and parts of Canada, where it was developed by ranchers who needed a cheap yet nutritious food source. Rocky Mountain Oysters are said to have a chewy, rubbery texture, almost like calamari. Maybe they’re worth a taste – if you have the balls! Hahahaha! Sorry.
8. Fried Tarantula
Tarantulas are creatures that, if you saw one in your house, would probably make you scream in terror and then try to smash with a really big shoe. The thought of putting one in your mouth most likely hasn’t occurred to you. But that’s exactly what some locals in Cambodia do with these little eight legged freaks. Deep fried tarantula, otherwise known as a-ping, are a cheap and wildly popular street food in the region. The spiders are rolled in spices and cooked in oil until the legs are stiff and crunchy. Oh, and by the way, they’re the size of your palm. Think of them as a kind of potato chip, only wrenched from the depths of your most hideous nightmares. The legs of deep fried tarantulas are said to have a mild, fleshy taste, almost like cod, while the abdomen contains the organs, and sometimes even an egg sac for an extra fun surprise. Probably best to just stick to potato chips.
7. Poop Coffee
Okay, so poop coffee is technically known as Kopi Luwak. But, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s derived from the excrement of a cat-like animal native to Indonesia known as the Luwak. In its raw state, coffee actually grows on bushes in the form of a fruit, known as a coffee cherry. Coffee cherries happen to be a favorite food of the Luwak, and it will happily snack on as many of the ripened fruits as it can. The only problem is that the Luwak can’t digest the coffee beans that are inside the fruit, and so they are excreted whole. These undigested beans are said to have a delectable aroma and flavor, and the resulting coffee grounds are among the most expensive in the world. It’s not uncommon for a pound of poop coffee to command upwards of $300, and that’s if you can find it, as it’s a hot commodity among java aficionados. Or, you can just stick to your cliched yet poop free pumpkin spice latte.
Food stuffed with other food is a time honored tradition that’s usually a guaranteed winner. Just look at the turducken, a now classic Thanksgiving dish featuring a chicken stuffed inside a duck, which is then stuffed inside a turkey. Unfortunately, there’s also a bizarro version of the turducken lurking out there, and it’s known as kiviak. First developed in Greenland, this dish features a hollowed out seal carcass stuffed with several hundred dead Auks, which are small, penguin like birds. The stuffed carcass is then covered with rocks and buried underground for up to 18 months like some kind of zombie pinata. At that point it is dug up and the Auks inside can be eaten whole, thanks to a fermentation process that takes place inside the fatty seal carcass. Kiviak was devised by hunters as a way to ensure that food would be available during the harsh and unforgiving Greenland winters, which makes sense, since it’s something you would only consider eating in a dire survival situation.
Hey, as long as we’re in France, you may as well be subjected to another edible monstrosity. An ortolan is a tiny songbird native to the southern coast of France, and for the past few hundred years, they have been a prized delicacy in chic Parisian restaurants. However, ortolan has been the subject of recent controversy due to the way the birds are killed and eaten. Hunters use traps to capture the birds, and they are kept in cages and force fed until they increase in size. The birds are then drowned and briefly cooked in a liquor known as Armagnac. While the method of killing the birds is pretty depraved, what’s even more repulsive is they way they are consumed. Diners eat the birds whole, organs and all, save for the feet, and often do so with a napkin draped over their head to avoid splattering their fellow restaurant patrons with putrid bird gore. While there’s something to be said for the show of etiquette, perhaps the French should consider switching over to a dish that they don’t have to cover their heads in shame to eat.
4. Jellied Moose Nose
Please don’t confuse this with the classic lemon and lime flavored Jello desserts of your childhood. This is far more shudder inducing. Jellied moose nose is a favorite among the locals in some regions of Canada, and it’s made by cutting off the nose of a freshly killed moose, boiling it with some herbs and spices, and setting it overnight into a jelly until it solidifies. There are many versions of the recipe for jellied moose nose available online, and virtually all of them remind you to remove the nose hairs before preparing and serving this dish to your guests, lest you need more convincing that this culinary mutation should only be attempted if there is literally no other food available and your only other option is resorting to cannibalism. And even then, you’d have to think about it for a minute. It’s okay to admit it. On the other hand, if you’re ever invited to a potluck dinner party with people you despise, this is a guaranteed way to make sure you never hear from them again.
3. Fruit Bat Soup
Coconut soup, ginger, and chopped vegetables sound like a great way to start off a recipe for a sweet yet savory bowl of soup. But that’s a little boring for the locals in Guam, so they like to toss in a little extra ingredient, in the form of a whole, unshaven fruit bat. As in, the animal that hangs out in caves, hunts bugs at night, and is a co star in virtually every vampire movie ever made. Fruit bat soup has long been considered a delicacy in the region, and it’s thought to cure a variety of ailments, including arthritis. That’s pretty ironic, considering that actual scientific evidence exists showing that eating fruit bats can cause a whole host of medical problems, including brain damage, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. This is because fruit bats are known to dine on plants that are highly toxic to humans, so if you consume one whole as part of your lunch, you’re probably asking for trouble.
Eggs are arguably one of the world’s most perfect foods. They can be fried, poached, or scrambled, mixed with a plethora of ingredients like meat or cheese, and are delicious any time of the day or night. One important element of the egg that we tend to overlook is the fact that they are usually eaten before they are fertilized and can begin to form into a baby chick. That’s generally considered a good thing, since staring back at a half baked chicken fetus while you make breakfast isn’t considered appetizing. Unless you’re in the Philippines, that is. Over there, fertilized chicken and duck eggs are boiled right before they hatch and sold as a popular street food known as balut, which means that your on the go snack comes with a hearty helping of fully developed beak, eyes, and feathers. Try not to look it in the eye as you devour it.,lest it haunt your soul.
1. Worm Cheese
You’re probably imagining the worst, and your instincts are spot on. Worm cheese is an accurate and terrifying description of a black market delicacy in the Sardinian region. To make worm cheese, otherwise known as casu marzu, you take a perfectly good wheel of Pecorino cheese, deliberately inject it with fly larvae, and leave it outside in the sun for a few weeks. The result is a rotting, maggot infested nightmare that become soft and liquified as the larvae gorge themselves on the fatty acids of the cheese. For some reason, a few people decided that worm infested cheese is delicious, and so casu marzu can be sold for up to hundreds of dollars to anyone with a strong gag reflex and a death wish. That’s right, this cheese has been outlawed because it has the potential to be fatally toxic, especially if it’s eaten after the larvae have died. So to survive your tasting of casu marzu, better catch those maggots while they’re still alive and feisty, and be sure to wear sunglasses, because they’re known to jump out of the cheese up to six inches. Or, just buy some Cracker Barrel at the grocery store and start reevaluating your life decisions, you maniac.