Nasty Food: 20 Disgusting Delicacies from Around the World
Yum tour anyone? If you’re planning to skip a meal get your guts together and follow us through a culinary journey of unexpected cuts (i.e. nasty food) that made it on the plate.
We’ll find the most stinky eggs and will learn that one man’s waste is another’s delicacy; how inventive were people in the times with scarce food and that the saying “you’re eating shit” is very accurate.
1. Casu Marzu (Maggot Cheese) – Italy
Literally translated as “maggot cheese”, Casu marzu is the world’s grossest cheese.
The Sardinian specialty is made from Pecorino cheese that intently becomes the natural breeding grounds for maggots. The top of the sheep cheese block is removed like a lid so that flies lay eggs inside. The larvae of cheese flies is burrowing around and digesting the fats. The process of fermentation is so advanced that it’s close to decomposition and the cheese is developing a soft, liquid texture.
Although this is a generations old culinary delicacy with roots in familial history it does not meet the modern norm of sanitation and declared illegal.
2. Balut – Philippines
Balut is a partially developed chicken or, most commonly, duck embryo, boiled alive and eaten straight from the shell.
This Philippines most famous and iconic delicacy is prepared on special occasion and religious festivals but can also be found at street vendors as it’s a much sought dish by tourists.
To eat Balut you are supposed to tap a hole on the top, slurp the liquid interior with salt and vinegar and then, if you can pass off the little duck face inside, you crunch down the bones, feather and all that’s left.
This staple dish is a favorite among local beer drinkers and is also believed to have aphrodisiac powers. Cheers?
3. Hákarl (Decomposed Shark Carcass) – Iceland
This is a decomposed shark carcass that tastes like strong cheese and smells like urine.
It was invented by the Vikings in a time they had to conserve as much food as possible. They developed a preservation technique that is still used today.
Greenland shark is very toxic to humans so they have to bury it underneath the rocks and sand which presses away the poisonous fluids (the uric acid and the trimethylamine oxide that is). The flesh is left to ferment from 6 to 12 weeks and then is dig up and hang to dry for several months.
The first encounter with hákarl is a full-on assault to the nostrils from a putrid smell so the bold tourists that dare to sample it are advised to hold their breath and try not to gag at the taste of one of the most rancid things on planet earth.
So, if you do want to make the day of a local marketer just by watching your face turning sour, have a bite. If you want to learn more about Icelandic cuisine check out our article about the most popular foods on the island.
4. Jibachi Senbei (Wasp Rice Snack) – Japan
Fancy a snack? This new rice cracker is said to create a buzz on Japan streets.
A Digger Wasp lover group (yes, there are such lover groups) brainstormed with a local biscuit maker and decided to spice things up and came with the wasp rice snack.
The finished cookie ought to have a mild sweet savory flavor, while the wasps themselves could be confused with burnt raisins but with a bitter, acidic note. And wings. And legs.
Whenever in need for protein boost this cracker has you covered because it contains 81% protein comparative to a 20% average stake containing. While heading to the gym consider taking a bag of wasp cookies for energy.
5. Virgin Boy Eggs – China
Don’t be alarmed, it’s not literally cooked as the title implies.
This highly anticipated Chinese spring delicacy, favored by locals, combines eggs with one key ingredient: boy’s urine preferably aged 10 or younger.
Buckets of boys’ urine are collected from primary school toilets in the area and the whole process of cooking takes an entire day.
First, raw eggs are soaked and boiled in the golden ingredient before the shells are cracked and left to shimmer for a few more hours.
You can buy them from the street vendors but locals make them on their home too. According to the tradition this unusual method of cooking the eggs has some health benefits like: promoting better blood circulation, preventing heat stroke and reinvigorate one’s body.
Anybody feeling down?
6. Warthog Anus – Namibia
This one got Anthony Bourdain to his limits and he’s known for eating about everything that he was dared to. He did ate it, there’s no question about it but gracefully declared it was the “worst mean of my life”.
Not that you’re into the detailed recipe but to cook the warthog anus you have to pull it with the last one foot intestine attached, squeeze the feces out and then throw it in the open fire.
Don’t mind the ash and dirt; it’s a part of the process. This is one food you would like to be well cooked but actually it must be al dente and being served right away.
Want some pickles with this one?
7. Cobra Heart – Vietnam
You have to be heartless to slight open a struggling live snake and a brave heart to try this Vietnamese odd food.
OK, enough with the heart jokes but why on the earth eating a beating cobra heart? It seems that man will do anything to acquire more virility.
Being so popular in Vietnam many restaurants have captive cobras for customers to choose from. If you make up your mind to embrace virility go for the shorter and thicker one with a feisty attitude. The heart is cut off and dropped in a shot glass of rice wine and snake blood. Bottoms up, enjoy the drink and feel the beating hart getting down your throat.
And this is far from being over. The good intended Vietnamese are still offering shots of drinks. One is made from the bile and rice wine and the other with venom alone. If there are no cuts in the mouth you are safe to drink it as the stomach will process the venom just fine and only kills you if it’s getting straight into the blood. Now begins the saga when every part of the cobra is being processed and served.
8. Ptarmigan Shit – Greenland
In Greenland if you tell someone he’s eating shit he will not be offended and may ask you to join him for dinner.
Ptarmigan is a beautiful white bridled game bird, which predigested willow and birch plant were a source of food in some parts of Greenland when resources where very limited.
Now this is considered a delicacy.
One Ptarmigan defecates like 50 times in one sport so they are easy to gather. Urumiit, the inuit name for the bird’s droppings, is collected in winter when it’s dry because in summer it’s all gooey and unpleasant.
After harvesting them cooking follows in rancid seal oil and chunks of seal meat.
In the old days the woman of the household made a personal touch on this dish by masticating the meat and then spat back in the cooking pot. Sometimes it was mixed with ptarmigan meat or blood.
We only found feedback regarding the smell and it’s compared with Gorgonzola cheese.
9. Medama (Tuna Eyeballs) – Japan
Don’t be surprised when you take a look at the seafood department in a Japanese supermarket and some eyes stare back at you.
That’s because tuna eyeballs are a popular delicacy that can be prepared on various ways: fried, boiled, stewed or lightly steamed.
Medama wasn’t born in a time of poverty when everything becomes food but in a more modern time like the early ‘90s when Japan’s media outspread the benefits of the DHA. In other words Omega 3, which tuna eyeballs seems to contain a high concentration and made them a sought-after ingredient.
Most widely it is boiled in water and seasoned to taste with soy sauce, sugar, sake or mirin (rice vinegar). Under the rubbery shell there is a fatty soft substance whose taste reminds of squid or octopus with a flavor of a hard-boiled egg.
Thankfully we don’t need to rise up the daily use of this food in order to be more intelligent, we can find plenty Omega 3 in many other dishes, even flaxseed.
I’m sticking with these little fellows!
10. Worm Pretzels – USA
You can’t call yourself a New Yorker without trying this squiggly snack first.
Wormzel is a new creation by Gene Rurka, an ecologically-minded exotic-food chef and former chairman of Explorers Club. He concocted the menu for the 100th anniversary Black Tie Gala, legendary for their unusual appetizers served every year. To make the special pretzel he sizzles a dehydrated earthworm contorted in that particular shape and sells them in New Jersey.
11. Pidan (Rotten Eggs) – China
More commonly known as century egg, black egg or millennial egg is a rotten egg that stinks like sulfur.
They are covered in salt, clay and ashes and left 100 days to “cook” on its own. The yolk turns to dark green with a soft gooey center and the egg white is a translucent gelatin resembling soy sauce.
Sounds appealing? It is said that it tastes just like hard-boiled egg only a dozen times greater as the flavor is supercharged.
Century eggs are being around as far as the Ming dynasty but the story of how it was discovered is uncertain. Supposedly a man found some duck eggs submerged in slaked lime and despite their appearance he did think it was a good idea to try one.
Well he did live to tell the story and Chinese people really love it. The eggs too.
12. Fried Tarantula – Cambodia
Would you try a special snack if I tell you that it’s packed with zinc, folic acid and protein?
Fried tarantulas are supposed to be tasty and cheap and can be found on the food market in Cambodia, especially in Skuon.
Although vicious and poisonous when alive, the edible spiders are a true delicacy rolled in sugar or garlic and then deep fried in oil.
The popular attraction for tourists is a recent phenomenon and vendors are selling up to 100 a day. The spiders started to be eaten during the worst political reigns on record and saved Cambodians from starving.
A cross between chicken and cod is said to be the taste of the crunchy tarantula. It must be due to the crispy legs and exterior and the mushy interior of the abdomen that that not everyone enjoys. That is because the brown paste contains organs, possibly eggs and excrement.
The ones who do love it describes it as a delicate meat inside.
13. Jellied Moose Nose – Canada
This Alaskan delicacy comes from determined “wilderness wives” of 1834 whom made the most of it from whatever their husband brought back from the hunt.
Nothing was thrown away and so was the case of the moose’s long, bulbous snout. Before cooking the hair is removed and then boiled with onions and spices. Pieces of meat are let to chill in their own broth to a jellied delight and cut afterwards in thin slices.
It looks at bad as it sounds but the taste was described to be exploding with little flavors ant the texture varies from the chewiness of the nose cartilage to the tenderness of cheek meat.
Curious to have a sniff?
14. Rocky Mountain Oysters – West America & Canada
Who says you can’t have oysters in the mountains. Well, not oysters per se, Rocky Mountain Oysters are in fact young bull testicles but they couldn’t keep that name for a dish to lure anyone.
Don’t let this scare you because they say it’s really tasty and similar with venison. Others say it’s more like calamari when fried, because of their rubbery texture.
This delicacy came from a time when the first ranchers from the west needed inexpensive food. They had to experiment with different cuts of meat and found a new purpose for the testicles of young bulls that were removed to prevent aggressive behavior. For the first time they used branding coals to cook them and discovered it was delicious.
Now the cowboy caviar can be prepared in several ways such as marinated, deep-fry or served with cocktail sauce for dipping. Ranchers from Canada braise them in a savory demi-glace and call the dish Prairie Oysters. They are also known as Montana tendergroin, bolloks and dusted nuts.
Even ancient Romans felt nuts for these nuts and considered them to be aphrodisiacs.
15. Black Pudding – Africa, Americas, Asia and Europe
This blood sauce is more common and widely appreciated at the same time as some consider the idea revolting. Black Pudding originates from the UK and Ireland and it’s made from pork blood with pork fat or beef suet mixed with oats or barley and perfectly seasoned with thyme, mint, marjoram and spices.
At the beginning blood from sheep and cow was also used and the nobility only ate Back Puddling made from porpoise, an aquatic marine mammal.
In some parts of England a boiled Black Pudding is consumed as a complete meal with bread or potatoes but in some other parts, Ireland including, a traditional full breakfast has fried or grilled slices.
Novel culinary uses bits of this delicacy on top of ice creams naming them after it and they look just like chocolate chip. There is even a festival held for the ancestor of all sausages.
16. Chapulines – Mexico
Pest control elevated to a gourmet delicacy, these are the grasshoppers from Mexico.
Delicious is what they say and furthermore a nutritious snack that’s much healthier than any fattening, calorie-dense and nutrient-lacking snacks widely consumed today in first-world countries.
Best place to try them is Oaxaca which is well known for the quality and variety of this delicacy. They are collected only at certain times of the year but because it’s cooked with salt that adds long shelf life and can be enjoyed all year round.
Being a source of food in Mexico for thousands of years the recipe adapted through times. Lemons and garlic joined to the recipe along salt and chili only after they were imported from Europe.
Chapulines can be eaten on its own dry as a snack or it can be fried to the point of turning moist but still crunchy and used as an ingredient in tacos and burritos. Or you can sprinkle them on top of your huevos rancheros.
A local saying is that “if you eat chapulines you will return to Oaxaca.”
17. Shiokara – Japan
Like peanuts and beer the Japanese have shiokara for sake.
Only two ingredients qualifies this traditional dish the grossest of all: seafood fermented in their own viscera and salt. It looks like a viscous brown paste and can be made from tuna, crab, salmon or sweetfish.
Cooks are now seasoning it more with shichimi pepper, wasabi, mirin and add grated yuzu for taste and flavor.
Shiokara is more like an acquired taste that was also invented in a time when food was scarce like the 11th century.
The entire fermentation process requires only 7 to 10 days so it was easy to replenish. Primarily eaten with rice this was a good source of protein, fat and vitamin D during winter months. In modern times we find it in pubs consumed with sake, preferred for its salty taste that goes so well and makes you drink more.
18. Bat Soup – Thailand
Usually we eat food that is good for our immune system but this delicacy could challenge it because the main ingredient – the vampire bat or the fruit bat – carry many diseases with lethal potential.
Piece of cake right? Than cook it at low heat and season with herbs and spices. If it happens to emit odor reminiscent of urine garlic, onions, chili pepper or beer can be added to help reduce the smell.
Bats fans can choose from a various listing: grilled, barbecued, deep fried, stews and stir fry. The taste of bat fruits is similar to that of chicken.
19. Witchetty Grub – Australia
Almond taste sound good but gypsy moth larvae not so much. This is “meatbush” that was first eaten by Aborigines in Australia. That’s the taste when it’s raw but when they are lightly cooked the skin crisps like roasted chicken with a scrambled egg inside texture. The freelance photojournalist Peter Menzel seconds this saying:
When you pick your own witchetty grub don’t forget not to eat the head and that as a defense mechanism they secret a brown liquid.
More about this kind of food and others can be found in Menzel’s interesting books.
20. Shirako – Japan
We have saved the best nasty food for last.
But before you rush on this mayonnaise like white paste you should know that in fact is fish semen. Sperm sacs of male code to be more precisely. Ignore the name and may discover that you might like the rich fishy taste.
Translated to “white children” this delicacy is been served on the top of the rice, fried in tempura batter, grilled or on top of custard. But for a first time eater tempura batter is recommended while a more experienced taster can go for raw shirako on top of sushi.
The best season to find it if you plan to visit Japan is in winter from December through February.
We’d love to hear what your top 20 disgusting foods looks like. Please leave a comment below with your favorite ones. If we left out any nasty food you know off please let us know.