What to Eat or Not to Eat? Check, Please! Strange Foods from Around the World
One of the best parts of traveling is getting to experience the local cuisine of a new place. If you go to New England, you’ll want to try the best lobster in the world. In Italy, you’ll be filling up on pasta, wine, and gelato. Everywhere in the world has its own unique type of cooking, and some of the processes used to prepare foods have been practiced for centuries. But with so many types of regional cuisine worldwide, humans have developed some particularly strange eating habits. We at TakeTours have compiled a list of some of the weirdest foods from around the world, in case any of you adventurous eaters dare to try food that you will never forget (even if it doesn’t taste very good). Check, Please! Strange Foods from Around the World:
No, we’re not talking about your email (although this is where the term comes from). Spam is a brand of precooked, canned ham that was first sold by the Hormel Foods Corporation in 1937. Because fresh meat was difficult to deliver to soldiers in World War II, Spam was instead used on the battlefield, which helped boost its popularity. In 2007, the canned meat hit a milestone when it sold its seventh billion can. Given its worldwide recognition, Spam has been referenced regularly in pop culture, most famously by the English comedy group Monty Python. In their sketch, a couple is ordering in a restaurant where every item on the menu contains some Spam, and, eventually, a chorus of Vikings chant, “Spam, Spam, Spam.” Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. You wouldn’t think that precooked lunch meat would cause such a fuss, but then again, there’s an entire museum in Austin, Minnesota dedicated to Spam. Hawaii even has an annual Spam Jam in Waikiki, a street festival celebrating their love for the infamous food. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to pose with the Spam mascot! Like it or not, Spam is an American classic.
Much like Sean Connery, haggis is a source of cultural pride for the Scottish. It is a pudding made from the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep, mixed with minced onion, oatmeal, spices, and other ingredients. All this is then encased in the sheep’s stomach, which makes it look like a lumpy ball. It is commonly served with “neeps and tatties,” mashed rutabagas and potatoes. Though the dish is most popular in Scotland, it is not certain if it originated here, and similar dishes are referenced as far back as Homer’s Odyssey, an ancient Greek story. It most likely became popular for being so economical: it is a very efficient way to combine some of the cheapest cuts of the animal’s meat into one filling dish. Haggis has a nutty texture and a full, savory flavor.
Bird’s Nest Soup
In southeast Asia, there is a species of bird called the edible-nest swiftlet, and it got that name because of the nests these little guys make on cave walls out of their own hardened saliva. These nests are harvested and sold, and the soup that can be made with the nests is considered a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. In water, the nests dissolve to a jelly-like consistency, which gives the soup a sweet and savory taste. The chef should avoid using strong flavors or too many spices to preserve this taste. If you’re in the U.S. and want to try to make your own bird’s nest soup, you may be able to find packages of them at Chinese grocery stores. However, this won’t be a cheap, at-the-counter impulse buy; a kilogram of nests in the U.S. can cost around $2,000!
Americans love their southern-style, deep-fried meats, and in states like Florida and Louisiana, it’s no different with alligator meat. Cuts of gator meat are actually considered to be quite healthy, as they are low in fat and high in lean protein. Even their eggs are regularly eaten. There are a few states where it is legal to hunt alligators, but any gator meat that is available for sale has to come from a specially-licensed breeding farm. This southern favorite holds true to the old expression “tastes like chicken.”
Humans are no strangers to eating fungus. We use mushrooms all the time. Corn smut, however, looks particularly disgusting. It is a disease that causes the kernels of corn and maize to enlarge to a bulging blue. For U.S. farmers, this has been considered disastrous to the crop, as even a single infected kernel can make an entire ear of corn unsellable. However, they are taking a lesson from chefs in Mexico, where the fungus has been a delicacy since the days of the Aztec Empire before Europeans came to the Americas. It has even earned the nickname “Mexican truffle.” The most common method of preparation is to grill the smut and use it as a tortilla filling in tacos, quesadillas, and other dishes.
It is not uncommon for restaurants to serve shark, which tastes like a fishy version of steak. But hakarl is a special Icelandic preparation of shark that dates back to the age of the Vikings. Essentially, it’s rotten, dehydrated shark meat (think “shark jerky”). You start with the Greenland shark, whose fresh meat is poisonous. After cutting the head off the shark, it is placed into a hole in the ground for 6-12 weeks to decompose and ferment, which eliminates the toxins in the meat. After this, the shark is dug up, cut into strips, and hung to dry for a few months. The resulting product is definitely an acquired taste, having been described by celebrity chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay as having one of the worst tastes imaginable. Do you dare to try it?
Because of food safety practices, we pretty much only consume cooked meat, especially from cows. But steak tartare, popular in French cuisine, is a special case, composed of finely minced raw beef, and commonly served with onions, capers, and sometimes raw egg yolk on top. The result is a compact little mound of meat, like an uncooked hamburger patty, that looks as good as it is supposed to taste (presentation is very important in French cooking). Be smart, though, because this is a dish to eat at your own risk: though bacterial infections are rare if the proper precautions are taken, they are not impossible. There are several variations on the dish popular in worldwide cuisines, including Korean, Ethiopian, German, and Chilean cooking.
If you’re on vacation to explore the deserts of the American southwest, like in Arizona, it would be a real downer if you got bitten by a rattlesnake. On the other hand, though, to say that you bit into one of these frightening little beasts would make for a cool story. If you want to do it, there are plenty of restaurants in the region that serve it. Just like alligator meat, the rattlesnake is said to taste like chicken. You can go online to find recipes on how best to prepare these venomous little guys. The most common methods are to bake or fry them.
Well, we don’t know about you, but we sure are hungry now! With TakeTours.com, it’s as easy as a few mouse clicks to book a perfect vacation to just about anywhere in the world, including day-to-day plans and hotel stays. Where is your dream destination? Don’t listen to your heart; what do your taste buds have to say?