We humans are a resourceful bunch. Needing food to survive, and being perhaps the least fussy species on earth, the stuff that we’re happy to put in our mouths is at times stunning. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at 5 of the strangest foods in the world.
Keep that sick bag handy, the next few minutes may test the most fortified of stomachs.
1) Balut – The Philippines
How can you tell if an egg is past its use-by date? Sure, you could see if it floats in water, but there’s probably no need if you can see that the egg has been fertilized and forming a chicken embryo inside it. ‘No matter’, say Philippinos, ‘let’s chow down anyway’.
Balut, a delicacy in the Philippines and a few surrounding countries, is nothing more than a boiled fertilized egg. But the visuals of a bird embryo falling out of a veiny egg white are enough to put off even the most adventurous of visitors.
2) Sannakji – South Korea
While Ozzy Osbourne famously did it with a bat, and the good people of Jackass with a goldfish, putting a live animal in your mouth isn’t usually associated with fine dining. Not so in South Korea, where people will queue up for the chance to experience Sannakji.
Live octopus. Of all the live animals they could have chosen to make a delicacy, the Koreans chose octopus. An experience you won’t soon forget, the octopi in Sannakji have the fun tendency to suction onto your teeth, tongue and the roof of your mouth while you try to ingest them.
3) Surstromming – Sweden
A food so horrendous that some airlines have policies built around it, Surstromming could well be a joke gone horribly wrong. The story goes that Vikings were trying to offload some rotten fish, and explained to some Swedish locals that it was actually a delicacy. To their surprise, when the Vikings returned a year later the locals came begging for more. And so Surstromming was born.
Fish fermented first in barrels and then in cans, Surstromming has been found to have one of the most putrid smells known to man. Cans are banned by many airlines for very good reason - as food critic Wolfgang Fassbender noted, ‘the biggest challenge when eating Surströmming is to vomit only after the first bite, as opposed to before’.
4) Casu Marzu – Sardinia
On we go to Casu Marzu cheese, found in Sardinia. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? But the translation to ‘rotten cheese’ begins to give you a sense of what we’re dealing with, and in reality that description doesn’t really scratch the surface.
From a base of sheep’s milk, the larvae of the cheese fly are introduced, which ferment the cheese as they digest it. Maggots. We’re talking maggots. The worst part? The cheese has to be eaten while the maggots are still alive, as it becomes toxic if they’re dead. Who thinks of this stuff??
Image + source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Casu_Marzu_cheese.jpg
5) Century Egg - China
Why oh why can’t people just be happy with a fresh, unadulterated egg? To China we go, this time in search of what’s known as a Century Egg. Do you hate it when the yolk of your egg is bright yellow, and the white of the egg is actually white? Wouldn’t you rather both be dark green or gray? It’s your lucky day.
Century Egg is made by placing a perfectly good duck, chicken or quail egg in a mixture of clay, ash and salt, before letting it rot for months on end. The resultant delicacy somehow manages to look as bad as it smells.