Like air and water, food is the substance of life. However, what is considered edible in some cultures may be regarded as disgusting or taboo in others. Yet the culinary diversity of our planet means that world travelers are not likely to run out of new, exotic dishes to sample. While some regionally popular foods like pizza and Nutella now have a global following, there are other dishes that remain obscure despite their avid local enthusiasts. In recognition of this fact, here is a sampling of strange and unique dishes from around the world.
This is a type of Scottish sausage that is made out of a sheep’s chopped up heart, liver, and lungs. The aforementioned organs are then blended together with oatmeal, onions, and spices. Finally the mixture is boiled in the sheep’s stomach lining. Haggis is usually served with a side of mashed turnips and potatoes as well as a glass of whisky. This dish was mentioned as early as 1430 in a cookbook from Lancaster in northern England and it is eaten to this day by Scots. Modern versions sold at the supermarket and at other retailers come in manufactured casings. Fast food restaurants serve often serve haggis with chips instead of vegetables.
This Icelandic entrée no doubt started as a way to render the Greenland or sleeper shark edible, because it was known to be poisonous fresh. The fish is traditionally buried underground and left to ferment in its own juices. In modern times, the meat is wrapped in plastic first in order to keep out any germs. A few weeks later, the meat is unearthed and hung up so that it can air dry. Harkarl has a strong flavor. Travelers to the country are known to sample it in small cubes, but the locals eat in in a manner similar to any other kind of jerky. Harkarl allegedly smells like rotting seafood on a hot summer day and may trigger a gag reflex, so those sampling it should proceed with caution.
If a food item can be fried prior to consumption then cooks tend to find a way to do so, which leads to unusual things such as Twinkies, Coca-Cola, and Snickers bars being dunked into hot grease. Fried milk is yet another example of that fact. In this delicacy, milk is cooked with cornstarch into a paste and then frozen overnight before being cut into cubes. These cubes are next dipped into batter, then skewered and fried. On the outside, fried milk is chewy yet it has a sweet flavored center. This dish can be found in China and several other Asian countries. A similar recipe is popular in Spain, where the milk is mixed with flour and sugar in order to form a batter prior to being baked. It is then dusted with cinnamon and sugar before being eaten.
It allegedly tastes like chicken, but then so do a lot of other bland foods. According to various recipes, those seeking to prepare this culinary delight should first find and kill a rattlesnake. They should then skin the snake and remove all its entrails. The meat should next be cut into bite-sized portions, then dipped in a batter of flour, salt, pepper, garlic, and crushed crackers. Other versions of this recipe say rattlesnake can be breaded with cornmeal instead. Finally, the breaded meat should be fried until it is golden brown in color and eaten when it has cooled enough.
This Canadian dish is one that most people either find intriguing or slightly gross. No doubt it is laden with calories and is dieters’ worst nightmare but the ingredients are relatively ordinary on their own. However, when combined the thick French fries, light gravy, and bite-sized cheese curds make this popular side item a bit peculiar. Poutine is served in a number of fast food restaurants, small diners, and pubs throughout Canada. Common additional toppings include smoked meat, chicken, caramelized onions, and bacon. There are a great many variations on the traditional poutine such as substituting the potato fries for sweet potato fries, using a sauce other than gravy, or using heavier gravy than is otherwise typical. Diners should note that the squeakier the cheese curds are when bitten, the fresher they are.
Also known as Akutaq, this Alaskan treat is made from whipped reindeer fat, berries, and freshly fallen snow. In some locations, sweeteners are added to make the dish more palatable but others prefer their icecream unaltered. Traditionally this dish called for seal oil, but modern cooks typically use Crisco instead. Other versions of Eskimo icecream have fish as an ingredient as well. A variety of recipes can be found throughout Alaska, where it is popular with the locals.
Forbidden on public transportation, airplanes, and hotels in some countries due to its strong and typically offensive odor, the durian is native to Asia. These fruits show a good deal of variety in color, smell, taste, and size. Certain cultivars, such as the Mon Thong type, are preferable to others due to their less pungent aroma. Durians are said to have a mild, creamy taste and are widely regarded as delicious if one can get past their scent. These spiky, round fruits are ingredient in both savory and sweet dishes throughout Asia.
What are some of your favorite strange or unusual dishes from around the world?