Traveling has always fascinated me. Bag-packing and heading in unknown directions, meeting strange people and exotic cultures is a treat. But what really thrills me is venturing into dark allays and risking my dear health by trying the local cuisines.
Nothing beats trying a new dish abroad and discovering a food you never knew existed, and when I look at a menu in a restaurant, I always search for something I never have eaten before. As a result, I’ve tasted many strange foods. Here are just a few examples. WARNING: Squeamish people should not read beyond this point.
Nicknamed “Cambodian cheese,” Prahok is a fermented fish paste that can take years to prepare. Fresh fish are ground and left in the sun for a full day, then salted and sealed in salt-filled jars. It can be eaten after just 20 days, but the higher quality stuff is left to sit for up to three years.
11| Ikizukuri (Live Sashimi)
Your eyes don’t deceive you. The fish in this video is alive — even though its meat has been sliced away from its body and rearranged in macabre fashion atop it. The preparation of live fish for sashimi, called ikizukuri, is understandably controversial and many people see the practice as cruel. It’s prohibited in Australia and Germany.
It takes a strong stomach to order hakarl, a Icelandic delicacy of shark that’s been let ferment for four to five months. Even natives admit the dish, which smells strongly of ammonia, is an acquired taste.
9| Drunken Shrimp
This popular Chinese dish isn’t for the faint hearted. Forget cooking, these fresh-water shrimp are often eaten alive — after they’re marinated in a strong liquor, which stuns them.
8| Dancing Squid
Unlike the octopus in a previous slide, the squid in this one isn’t among the living. It’s only been recently killed, but nerve cells in its tentacles are jolted to life when sodium-rich soy sauce is poured over them. The result is a bit unsettling: A dancing squid!
Balut, a popular street food in Southeast Asia, looks like a grocery-variety egg on the outside, but it may make you squirm once the shell is cracked open. Within is a fertilized duck embryo, developed often to the point of having a pointy beak and feathers. Diners who enjoy this delicacy eat it boiled, often seasoned with ingredients like chili, garlic and vinegar.
6| Thousand-Year-Old Eggs
OK, so these eggs aren’t actually a thousand years old, but they have been preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime and rice hulls for anywhere from a few weeks to several months. The result is a brown, jelly-like white and a creamy, almost green yolk.
Stinkhead, or tepa, is traditional dish of the Yupik Eskimos made with fermented whitefish heads. The heads and fish innards are placed in a wooden barrel, covered in burlap, and placed in the ground for as long as a month, or even longer. It’s then dug up and eaten raw and frozen.
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