Most of us like to think we are adventurous people–until we encounter certain foods. Meals that are considered inedible or even taboo in one culture might be embraced and considered commonplace in another. Things like unusual cuts of meat, insects and combinations of seemingly unlike things can be simultaneously celebrated in one part of the world while reviled and avoided in another. There are a lot of things that people in the US are actively taught to avoid that other cultures embrace as a nutritious natural resource.
The far corners of the globe are closer than they've ever been for the average traveler, and even those who can't trek to Southeast Asia, the Horn of Africa or other parts of the world can sometimes access the unique delicacies and national favorites of far-off lands thanks to immigrant communities and greater awareness. Some foodies love the challenge of trying flavors and textures that are different from those they grew up with, while others are horrified by the sight, smell or even danger of the special preparations of other countries. Even if it's food we don't think we could get down, we have to admire the inventiveness of humanity and our ability to make use of just about any resource. Here are 25 Pics Of Foreign Food We Would Never Eat In The US.
25 Explaining Escamoles
Most people in the US just can't wrap their heads around eating insect larvae, but the larvae and pupa of ants that burrow into the maguey plant comprise a rather delicious central Mexican delicacy, explains Eat Your World.
The eggs are gathered and tossed in a pan often with butter, chiles and cilantro and served with corn tortillas, and have a crunchy texture.
They're not obviously insect-like, so if a diner didn't recognize the dish's name, they might not be aware of its source.
24 They Shall Not Pass The Balut
Filipino natives love the street snack they call balut, but Westerners aren't so sure. Balut is a hard-boiled duck egg where the embryo has been allowed to develop a few weeks, so that once the shell is removed, the duck embryo is pretty recognizable, according to The Culture Trip.
Vendors know they're best eaten warm; crack a hole in the top of the egg, toss in some salt and slurp up the soupy part first. Then the egg can be peeled away, and the yolk and duck embryo are eaten.
23 Tempting Tarantulas
Local Cambodians love a-ping, and a lot of Western tourists buy the snacks to try. Deep-fried tarantula is a street food that arose from the need of starving people during the time of the Khmer Rouge, as per Munchies.
The tarantulas were plentiful and easy to get and provided the nutrition that people needed.
When tourists came, hunters began trapping hundreds of spiders during the summer season, but now a-ping is getting harder to round up with tourists' demands and deforestation at an astronomical rate destroying the tarantula's natural habitat.
22 Urine Likely To Want These Eggs
The urine of boys under the age of ten is collected by the bucketful in Zhejiang province in China for the purpose of soaking and cooking eggs in as a springtime treat, according to Reuters.
The eggs soak and cook an entire day in urine, and are said to have incredible health benefits.
They're cooked and sold by vendors, although many families collect the urine and cook them at home also. Fans say that not only do they ward off pains and illness, but they taste fresh and salty.
21 Schrödinger's Fish
The Yin Yang Fish is a dish that is prepared so that the body of the fish is deep-fried, but the head of the fish is wrapped in such a way that the fish is still alive when served, according to Insider.
The chef wraps the head of the fish with a wet cloth and fries the body, and the fish is served immediately with gills moving, yet completely cooked. Yin Yang Fish is served in China, and the fish is kept whole and uncut and served with a sauce.
20 Wasp Cracker Wimp Out
While not nearly as popular in Japan as the Internet would make it seem, wasp-filled senbei crackers are eaten in Japan, and the wasps are farmed for that purpose, as well as their larvae, according to News Bug Media.
The wasps are extremely high in protein, and the crackers are slightly sweet, although the wasps have more of a toasted flavor.
These special crackers aren't widespread–they're sold primarily in Nagano Prefecture, but thorough foodies who can't travel to Japan might be able to order them from Amazon.
19 This Vino Needs More Baby Mice
No one can say that human beings aren't creative with their foods, and this is certainly on display in some bottles of rice wine with a special ingredient added–three-day-old baby mice.
Older mice are too furry apparently, and the belief is that the young mice added to the rice beverage become a health tonic, as per Independent.
It's not as common of a drink as it used to be, but is still consumed mostly in Southern China for its purported health benefits, but not so much for the buzz.
18 Don't Sleep On Huitlacoche
Corn fungus doesn't sound like a good thing, but actually Mexican farmers are often happy to discover it. Corn smut–what the fungus is called–only grows on ripening ears of corn after a rainstorm, as per Aqui Es Texcoco.
Huitlacoche actually fetches quite a profit because of its rarity, and cooks in the know explain that it can be used wherever a mushroom might be chosen.
Locals think it's delicious, and researchers have analyzed it and found that it's full of nutrients like the amino acid lysine and protein.
17 Who Knows Where That Kopi Luwak's Been
There's paying top dollar for coffee, and then there's kopi luwak. People in the US definitely have a raging coffee habit, but if someone told us we'd have to fork over major dough for coffee beans that had passed out of the palm civet cat as scat, we'd think they'd been drinking something harder than coffee–but that's exactly what kopi luwak is, as per Most Expensive Coffee.
Something about passing through the civet's gut gives this coffee a truly unique flavor that no other process can duplicate. No kidding.
16 Baffled By Beondegi
South Koreans like to prepare a snack they call beondegi, but people in the US who are not used to eating this kind of food might have a less kind name in mind.
Beondegi is steamed silkworm pupae that can be served savory or sweet, according to Atlas Obscura.
The little silkworm is a hardworking creature in this part of the world–people were already growing it for its silk-making ability and turned to it as food during a time when a good source of protein was needed.
15 It WAS Your Grandma's Egg
Despite the name century egg–Pidan in Mandarin–these duck eggs are not buried or hidden somewhere for generations and then brought out. They're coated in alkaline materials like quicklime or wood ash and set aside to process for several months, explains The Takeout.
The egg white becomes translucent and the yolk turns an incredible greenish-black. The flavor of the yolk is sharpened and the egg is best enjoyed sliced or diced in the same way that a person might enjoy a strong cheese–in small pieces.
14 Can't Stomach Casu Marzu
Whoever first thought to take a perfectly lovely wheel of pecorino cheese and set it outside to let flies lay eggs in it is lost to the mists of time, but Casu Marzu is a traditional Italian cheese that is best known for the jumping, writhing maggots that give it its very unique flavor, as per Serious Eats.
This sheep's milk cheese is usually served with the maggots intact and very much alive, but can also be chilled to slow down the wriggly guys–and some remove them altogether.
13 Take Another Little Piece Of Puffin Heart
Hunting seabirds like the puffin has been a way of life for men and boys in Iceland and the Faroe Islands for generations. One tradition that has gained some international notoriety is eating the puffin's heart raw, according to The Culture Trip.
This delicacy isn't nearly as widespread as news outlets would have Westerners believe, however.
Eating the raw heart of a puffin is something more prevalent among the older generation. Puffin hunting is legal in Iceland, where puffins number in the tens of millions.
12 So Gross Sago Grubs
Most people look askance at the idea that a squishy larva like the sago grub could not only be a healthy food, but actually quite tasty, yet that's exactly what many people around the world insist on.
The sago grub, in particular, is either gathered or cultivated deliberately in Southeast Asia as a nutritious and delicious source of energy, as per The Conversation. When fried, the grub is said to taste sweet, and some compare the flavor to bacon. It's also eaten raw and said to have a creamy texture.
11 The Bushmeat Bust
Bushmeat is an umbrella term which encompasses a variety of wild animals from lizards to apes that are hunted for sustenance in some regions of Africa and Asia, according to World Atlas.
What many in the US think of when they hear this term is the consumption of monkeys and other large African game.
There is an unusual dichotomy developing when it comes to the practice of bushmeat trade, in that some communities hunt bushmeat in order to survive, while in others it has become an upscale delicacy.
10 The Scent Of Surströmming
There's a right day and a wrong way to eat this Swedish dish consisting of fermented herring, as per The Local Sweden. Swedes like to hold a surströmming premiere on the third Thursday in August.
The smell once the can has been opened is so powerfully awful that locals have techniques for mitigating the stench, including opening the can outside or underwater, or to just take a big whiff right away and try not to pass out or vomit. Luckily, it doesn't taste nearly as bad as it smells.
9 Cherry Blossom Meat Isn't Flowery
There's a legend that the samurai Kato Kiyomasa began the practice of eating cherry blossom meat–horse meat–in the 16th century, but more likely the meat began to enter the marketplaces and restaurants much more recently, according to Japan Visitor.
Cherry blossom meat dishes are most popular in the Kumamoto Prefecture; horse farms populate the countryside, and the cities are home to lunch and dinner establishments that serve up raw cuts of horse meat, intestines and drained blood vessels–and even other parts of the horse.
8 Plagued By Locusts
When locusts–who can eat entire fields of crops in a day–swarmed into parts of Israel several years ago, a number of opportunistic eaters decided to hunt the hunters, according to the BBC.
Four types of locusts are considered kosher, so many Israelis took advantage and cooked them up.
Locusts are eaten in other parts of the world such as Niger and provide a nutritious and much more eco-friendly alternative protein to meat. Collecting and eating them not only provides nutrition but prevents the destruction of important crops.
7 Whose Dragon In The Flame Of Desire Is This
We don't know if the name is supposed to distract us from reality here, but Dragon in The Flame Of Desire is the most euphemistic term for the male reproductive body part of a yak we've ever heard.
This delicacy is served up only in a few places around Beijing, explains The Culture Trip. These phallus dishes are supposed to give the eater strength and virility, and plates like Dragon in The Flame Of Desire (hint: contains no actual dragon) are billed at luxury prices.
6 Have Some Hákarl
Centuries ago someone figured out how to process the Greenland or sleeper shark's toxic flesh over several months and came up with hákarl–rotted and fermented shark meat–and the national dish of Iceland, as per All That's Interesting.
The shark is placed in a shallow grave where the meat ferments in its own uric acid and ammonia, then it's dug up and hung to dry. Makers know hákarl is done by the smell–somewhere between eye-watering and gag-inducing. The crusty outer layer is removed, and it's ready to eat.