Strange food from around the world

BAALUT (Philippines) How about that great delicacy of the Philippines - You take a fertilized duck or chicken egg, bury it in the ground for a few weeks and then enjoy.

Also known as "the treat with feet" or "the egg with legs".


Balut are duck eggs that have been incubated until the fetus is all feathery and beaky, and then boiled alive. The bones give the eggs a uniquely crunchy texture.

They are enjoyed in Cambodia, Philippines and the fifth and seventh levels of hell. They are typically sold by street vendors at night, out of buckets of warm sand.

You can spot the vendors because of their glowing red eyes, and the faint, otherworldly sound of children screaming

Tell yourself that every time you crack open an egg from now on you won't be half expecting a leathery wad of bird to come flopping out into the skillet.
duck fetus

Baby Mice Wine

Baby mice wine is a traditional Chinese and Korean "health tonic," which apparently tastes like raw gasoline.

Little mice, eyes still closed, are plucked from the embrace of their loving mothers and stuffed (while still alive) into a bottle of rice wine.

They are left to ferment while their parents wring their tiny mouse paws in despair, tears drooping sadly from the tips of their whiskers.

Wait, it gets worse ...
Do you wince at the thought of swallowing a tequila worm?

Imagine how you'd feel during a session on this bastard. Whoops, I swallowed a dead mouse! Whoops, there goes another one!

baby mice wine from China

BIERKASE (Germany) strong-smelling cheese made with beer yeast (?)

BIRD'S NEST SOUP (China) Made from the nest of a particular kind of cave/cliff swallow. The swallow secretes a substance from a gland (similar to a salivary gland) as an adhesive to bind twigs and leaves and such together to make the nest

BLACHAN (Indonesia) see NGAPI-JAW

BLOOD, JELLED (China) Duck or pig blood; looks like jello, but opaque and salty.

BLUBBER (Arctic Alaska) raw fat from sea mammals

BRAWN (England) see Head Cheese

BULL PENIS (Asia) Hmmm.....

CAMEL'S FEET (France)  It's not really fair to include this as French, but my favorite recipe from the Larousse Gastronomique is _Pieds_de_chameau_ _a_la_vinaigrette_ (camel's feet).

It begins "Soak the feet of a young camel..."  

You'll find it just before the recipe for camel's hump.

CAMEL TENDONS (China)   These are much better than those cow tendons, I was assured by a chauvinistic northern Chinese friend

CEVICHE (Mexico et al.) raw fish marinated in citrus juice overnight.

Cebiche is the traditional dish of the Mexican coastal towns, where it takes many different guises, the ingredients being as varied as the people that prepare it. Red snapper is the most popular fish used, but cod and haddock can be used instead.

CHEWING GUM (U.S.)  Originally made from chicle, the sap of a Central American tree.  Now made with PVA (polyvinyl acetate) plastic, sugar (or artificial sweetener), flavors and colors.

Some Europeans characterize Americans as dim-witted ruminants because of this habit, which nonetheless spreads worldwide.

CHICKEN FEET (U.S. South and many others) in soup, pickled whole

CHICKEN - FRIED STEAK (U.S. South)  Steak covered with a flour batter and fried, like chicken.  This region is famous for frying everything.

Journalist Bill Moyers, in his TV series "Healing and the Mind," interviewed a heart patient in Dr. Dean Ornish's radically low-fat diet program, who said he was in complete denial for years after his first heart attack. 

"I refused to even look at my cardiogram." "What is your profession?"

"I'm a cardiologist, but I'm a good ol' Southern boy first!  Grits 'n' gravy, chicken-fried steak..." 

CHO DO FU (China) see TOFU

CIBREO (Italy) Cock's combs (the wattly stuff on a male chicken's head, not the plant): reputedly a classic Tuscan dish.

CICADA (Mediterranean)  This is an OLD story, but irresistable...

The French entomologist Henri Fabre reports eating roasted cicada larvae, caught as they were surfacing to morph.

Apparently Aristotle said that this was a delicacy. Although it did not taste too bad, Fabre concluded that Aristotle, with his fantastic record on experimental science, was probably tricked by some rural farmer's opinion.

CINCINNATI GREEK CHILI (U.S. Midwest) also "Skyline Chili, Gold Star Chili"  Usually served over spaghetti or on very small hot dogs.

 Basically, it resembles Tex-Mex or Mexican chili sauces in color  and consistency, but not much else.

Active ingredients appear to be cinnamon and cocoa powder.  Milder, yet somehow more toxic.

COD LIVER OIL (U.S. Northeast)  more medicine than food, but eaten for its huge vitamin A content. 

Polar bears absorb so much vitamin A that their livers contain deadly concentrations, and indigenous people know better than to eat the liver.

It killed explorers.

CRIADILLAS (Spain) prairie oysters; the testicles of bull. (If I remember correctly, the Spanish say "Como tu  comes, tu eres" -- "You are what you eat."

CYNAR (Italy) bitter liqueur made from artichokes.  Have you ever left artichokes steaming so long that they go dry and burn the pan.

Then you soak it desperately to clean it, creating a vile-smelling brown liquid  Tastes, smells, and looks just like that.

DINIGUAN (Philippines)  blood stew There is a "Chocolate Pork" recipe, otherwise known as Dinuguan.

The "Chocolate Pork" name cracks me up, b/c it's a nice way to get Filipino-American kids and non-Filipinos to eat what is basically a blood stew made with pork stuff (i.e. pork head, liver, heart, blood).

You can find a recipe in "Galing Galing: Philippine Cuisine" by Nora Daza.

DOG MEAT (Southeast Asia)      Well, not a recipe, but a story:

I was once at a party where I heard a visiting Korean scholar say that at his university when dogs were used in psych experiments (no drugs involved) the dog would be eaten at the conclusion of the experiment by all involved.

Apparently the dog, having been taught behaviors which rendered it useless for other experiments, was considered a perk of sorts.

DRIED FISH (China) Various kinds of dried, salted fish are popular in East Asia.

One particular Chinese dish is made with ground pork and dried fish, steamed.

Delicious, but one of my Caucasian friends says it smells like dirty socks and won't go near it

DROPPED FOWL (U.S. Kentucky) Hang up a fowl by the neck to age until it's ripe enough that the weight of the carcass makes it fall off the head.

DRUNKEN SHRIMP (China)  Live shrimp swimming in a bowl of rice wine. You capture them with your chopsticks and bite the head off. I think you're also supposed to eat the head.

  1. Find and capture a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.
  2. Kill, skin and remove entrails.
  3. Cut into edible portions.
  4. Make a batter of flour, cracker meal, salt, pepper and garlic.
  5. Roll your snake portions in the batter.
  6. Fry in deep fat, heated to a temperature that will ignite a floating wooden match.
  7. Fry until meat is a golden brown.
  8. Eat it!!

RETSINA (Greece)  white wine with pine resin added. 

Legend has it that this was started by religious authorities trying to discourage drinking.  Taxes were levied on wine that wasn't altered.  Then people developed a taste for the cheap stuff with the resin in it. ...

The original retsinas had less than 1/10th the amount of pine resin as do the retsinas today.

A politically influential (and doubtless slightly insane) wine maker in northern Greece got the legislature to mandate his high level of resin in order for a wine to call itself retsina for export, and that is why we are stuck with resin plus a few fermented grapes instead of a wine with a very delicate hint of pine.

SAGO WORMS (Papua-New Guinea)  The sago palm is the host of a worm that feeds on downed wood.  They are roasted like sausages on a spit.

SCRAPPLE   (U.S. Northeast)  meat scraps cooked with corn meal ... I always thought that there was a large measure of brains in scrapple. Along with the other stuff too vile for hotdogs. I love it fried up and maple syrupped along with eggs and/or pancakes.

The Dutch don't waste a thing and I think that this is their invention.

The French Canadians make a *meat* product called *creton* that is not, I believe, a breakfast treat like this. But what could match scrapple?? Maybe even those brains will make you smarter

SHIOKARA (Japan)  Fresh raw fish (usually squid) served in a sauce made of fermented fish/squid guts. Truly awful. I'd sooner eat a quart of natto than down more than 1/2 cup of this stuff

SILK WORM GRUBS (Korea)   Steaming, grey silk worm grubs can be found in vendor's carts on the back streets of Seoul, Korea. 

SONG BIRDS (Italy) roasted and eaten whole.  Hunters have nearly eliminated many of the migratory species.

SPAM (U.S.) Recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.  "SPiced hAM" tinned meat from the Hormel company was named in a contest in 1924.  The handy meat-in-tins became an item of trade prized around the world, while boring and ultimately disgusting U.S. military personnel in WWII. ...

Spam is Hawaii's state food (more Spam eaten here per capita than anywhere else in the country).

Spam Musubi is a favorite finger food here. You slice up Spam, stir fry it in teriyaki sauce (or marinate it), stick it on a block of squished rice and wrap a piece of nori around it, like a giant sushi

STEAK , BLOODY RARE (U.S. West)  Popular in other cultures too. In French it is ordered "bleu" (blue) which puts a slightly ghastly touch on the name.

STEAK TARTARE (France) completely raw beef (avoid the porc tartare!) Also popular in Japan (sesame beef) and many other parts of the world

STINKHEADS (Alaska)  A fish delicacy invented by the Yup'ik Eskimos. 


Just cut the heads off several fish (traditionally salmon), bury them in the ground for the summer, then dig them up and have a chewy treat! Getting it past your nose is a serious problem, but the result is reportedly somewhat hallucinogenic. 

Given that there are no natural substances that grow in the northerly parts of Alaska that can be made to produce alcohol or other mind-altering substances, it was the best they could do.

 Stinkheads are often used as a rite of passage to test "gussaks" (foreigners) who claim to want know more about native culture.

 Few pass the test, but the natives have a lot of fun administering it.

TEA WITH YAK BUTTER (Tibet, northern India)

TEMPEH (Japan et al) deliberately moldy TOFU (i.e. ROTTEN bean crud)

TEQUILA WORMS (Mexico)  the little worm (gusano) that lives on the agave plant gets stuck in the bottle.  Mmmm. 

There is even a special brand sold in 2-ounce bottles called "Dos Gusanos" (two worms) for those who can't get enough. ...

 Locally, which is to say in North America, a not too uncommon confection is the tequila sucker -- a tequila flavored lollipop, complete with worm.

The first two ingredients are listed as "High fructose corn syrup, insect larva

TRIPE (France, many others) lining of cow's stomach.  Famous recipe from Caen.     ...     Not particularly French. 

Tripe and onions is a traditional British dish, and tripe is an important ingredient in much of the cuisine of Africa (e.g. Fetra Desti).

TURKEY , DEEP - FRIED WHOLE Justin Wilson ("Cooking Cajun") did this on one of his TV shows. 

He did the cooking outside using a large, portable gas burner and a very large stock pot, the kind they use for fish fries down south. 

The bird actually looked pretty good when done, although I wince at the calories.

WITCHETY GRUB (Australia) In Oz now it is considered patriotic to eat Witchety Grub, a plump insect which has become the symbol of Aboriginal cuisine.

It is served in fancy restaurants, but I don't think many Oz have actually screwed up the courage to sample it

YULE BROD (Denmark)  also (?) ALE BROD  a sort of stew of beer and old bread. 

It made a striking appearance in the film _Babette's Feast_ as the staple food of some dreary religious colonists.

FIDDLEHEADS are the immature leaves of the ostrich fern. They are harvested in the early spring before the leaf starts to uncoil, and so have a curled shape reminiscent of the end of a fiddle or violin.

Fiddleheads are a traditional food along the Canadian East Coast, and New England, USA. Originally a favorite of the local native tribes, the white settlers quickly developed a taste for this peculiar green delicacy.

ROAST PIGEON BRAINS (China)  The skull is crunchy and you suck the brains out


Pacha only reveals its terror gradually. Sure, maybe you can get around the fact that you're eating face.

But, the more you eat it, the more bone is revealed, until you give a final burp and set your cutlery down beside a grinning ivory skull. Its hollow eye sockets stare back at you with a look of grim damnation.

"Burp while ye may," the sockets say, "for the same fate will happen to you--and all too soon."

We wonder why the Iraqis keep blowing themselves up? Wouldn't you, if every evening meal was a festival of death? boiled pigs head

PYROGY    (pe roh gee). (Ukrainian) Thin dough that is stuffed with boiled potato, cheese, sauerkraut, cooked bacon, or any combination thereof and boiled. Served with caramelized onions, heavy fried beef and/or pork (25% bear, 25% pork and 50% beef sausage is also to die for) sausage, and sour cream.

RICE BUGS    (Thailand) There are insects in Thailand the GIs called "rice bugs".

I believe the Thai name translates to "bug that eats rice". They are huge insects, four to six inches long and look like giant white cockroaches. They fly around lamps outdoors like moths. 

They are called "rice bugs because they eat rice. They don't eat the insects, but rather pop the heads off and suck the rice out. Disgusting!

CHOW TOFU (Taiwan) Not sure how to spell it. It's tofu that's combined with shrimp or fish brine, and then allowed to ferment for 6 or 12 months. It is covered with kim chee to keep the smell down.

MOUNTAIN OYSTERS (USA) In the Western and Southern US, mountain oysters (aka Rocky Mountain Oysters) are a staple.

Mountain oysters are the testicles of young bulls. Cattle ranchers only need one or two bulls for a herd of cows, so the extra bulls are castrated at an early age. Most of the beef that comes to your table is from these steers.

Most folks fix them by battering and deep-frying them. I find the taste and texture similar to calamari when fixed this way. Others boil or pan-fry them. Folks also eat the testicle meat from buffalo, lamb, turkey, etc.

PICKLED DUCK EGGS (Philippines) Its pickled (I think or rancid or something) duck egg. But the duck inside is almost fully formed. It was all crunchy and feathery.

TIET CANH (Philippines) Congealed duck blood on a plate (red and round like a pizza), with lemon, herbs, and a sort of rice cracker