Weâ€™ve all been offered dishes that make us wrinkle our noses, but etiquette suggests that we graciously accept a taste of whatever food thatâ€™s offered. This becomes an especially important practice when we visit other countries. What seems strange to us is standard fare for our hostsâ€”and who knows, you may like it!
Straight up, this is rotten shark meat thatâ€™s been decomposing underground for months. It reeks of ammonia, so first timers are encouraged to hold their noses when they take a bite of this soft flesh. Some say it tastes like very strong cheese!
Casu Marzu, Sardinia
This tradition is so iffy, itâ€™s been outlawed in Italy, where it originated. Insect larvae are planted in sheep milk Pecorino and they digest it from the inside out. This advanced decomposition earns the cheese its â€śrottenâ€ť name. If the maggots die, the cheese can turn toxic, so beware!
Snake Wine, Vietnam
Thatâ€™s no ordinary rosĂ©! Youâ€™re first hint will be that thereâ€™s a whole snake staring back at you from the bottle. Supposedly a healthful and restorative beverage, this wine even includes the venom! Donâ€™t worry, the poison is broken down and rendered harmless over the months the snake spends â€śsteeping.â€ť
Raw Puffin Heart, Iceland
These brightly beaked birds are so cute, how could anyone ever carve out the heart and eat it raw? In Iceland, itâ€™s a special treat, and the puffin population is so huge that the birds arenâ€™t a protected species. Apparently the heart is very tender and the flavor is fishy and fresh.
Taking eggs to a whole other level, balut is prepared by boiling duck eggs before they hatch. The whole embryo is eaten along with a pinch of salt, or sometimes chili oil. Watch out for the crunchy beaks and feet! These are as popular as hot dogs throughout much of Southeast Asia.
Birdâ€™s Nest Soup, China
In China, rare cave swifts form their nests from their own saliva, in the craggy cliffs of the coast. One of the most expensive animal products in the world to harvest and prepare, it is renowned for its curative qualities. The gelatinous threads of nest are very high in minerals.
Fried Tarantulas, Cambodia
Certainly not a snack for the arachnophobic, fried tarantulas do not leave much to the imagination. The name says it all. Whole, huge spiders are flash fried in oil and garlic leaving a crispy coating and warm, gooey inside.
This oneâ€™s live octopus. Yes, even if you cut them up on the plate, they will still squirm. Be wary of the tentacles that can suction onto your mouth and throat if you donâ€™t chew thoroughly enough; they can be a choking hazard for rookies.
Kopi Luwak, Indonesia
This renowned coffee brew is extremely expensive but still sought after by caffeine connoisseurs. The Palm Civet, an adorable, cat-sized forest critter, lives on a diet of mainly coffee berries. Once â€śpassedâ€ť by the civets, the excrement is collected and the beans are processed into an aromatic, chocolatey coffee.
Thousand Year Eggs, China
Another creative egg dish from Far East, these chicken, duck or quail eggs are packed in clay, salt and ash for months before they are cracked open and enjoyed. The yolk turns a creamy dark green and the white of the egg turns to brown jelly. Add a pinch of salt and a flavor kaleidoscope will explode on your taste buds.
Book your luxury hotel in Italy in search of Casu Marzu, or in Reykjavik on the hakarl trail. No matter where your taste buds venture, Excellent Hotels will help you find the guaranteed lowest rate on your hotel booking.