The Strangest Foods in the World (That I’ve Tried)

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Byron and I had no idea what we were on for, else we'd not have looked so happy.
Byron and I had no idea what we were on for, else we’d not have looked so happy.

There are countless lists out there describing some of the weirdest, strangest, or most gross foods in the world, but I’ve chosen to write solely about those I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of trying myself.

Some of the below were surprisingly tasty, while others were so revolting that the memory of consuming them haunts me to this day. I’m looking at you, #1. You still give me nightmares, you phallic son of a bitch.

#12 – African Game Meat – Namibia

Vegetarians and animal lovers might balk at the idea of eating animals as beautiful and exotic as the oryx, kudu, zebra, eland, or springbok, but Namibia has turned the eating of delicious game steaks and stir fries into an art form. With a sustainable mindset, the country has managed to foster large numbers of these animals for the purpose of exciting tourists as well as adorning plates.

The one thing all of these animals have in common? They’re delicious!

From mouth-watering oryx steaks to springbok stroganoff, I liked every one of the game animals I had the chance to try. Unlike other countries where such animals are endangered, Namibia’s wild and ‘farmed’ populations are healthy enough to make game meat a guilt free experience in the same way that kangaroo is a popular dish in Australia.

A delicious kudu and cream cheese panini in Windhoek, Namibia.
A delicious kudu and cream cheese panini in Windhoek, Namibia.

#11 – Witchetty Grub – Australia

Speaking of Australia, this one is one that always makes visitors squirm just a little. This creepy crawly is a traditional food among Australia’s indigenous people, and are a remarkably tasty treat despite their ominous appearance.

The larvae of a native species of moth, these guys crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and taste vaguely like almonds. Although I haven’t eaten one since I was five or six years old, I still remember being surprised by just how good they were.

Serving Suggestion. Image from Wikipedia.
Serving Suggestion. Image from Wikipedia.

#10 – Haggis – Scotland

This one seems to be synonymous with ‘gross food’, which is absolutely mind-boggling to me. Haggis is delicious!

A mixture of heart, liver, and lungs minced with various vegetables and spices and then served inside the sheep’s stomach, haggis is a remarkably delicious meal commonly associated with Scotland. While my home-town in Australia has strong ties with Scotland, Australian food preparation laws make having the real thing illegal, so I had to make the trek all the way to Edinburgh to check it off my bucket list.

Totally worth it! Served with mashed neeps (turnips) and tatties (potato) as well as a dram of Scotch, it remains one of my most pleasant dining experiences.

A heaping helping of haggis, neeps, and tatties. Delicious!
A heaping helping of haggis, neeps, and tatties. Delicious!

#9 – Chicken Anus (Dalkttongjip)- South Korea

The last item on this list that wasn’t actually that bad, even if its name does translate into chicken shit house in Korean slang. The sphincter of the chicken is often served on skewers with a spicy dipping sauce, and it’s a chewy delight that tastes quite a bit like liver if you don’t slather it in suspiciously brown sauce.

One might imagine it tastes like shit (haha), but it’s surprisingly inoffensive.

One might imagine it tastes like shit (haha), but it’s surprisingly inoffensive. I ate it on more than one occasion in both South Korea and China.

A delicious skewered chicken anus. Photo by Art of Adventuring.
A delicious skewered chicken anus. Photo by Art of Adventuring.

#8 – Fried Grasshoppers – USA

Eating insects isn’t that weird in most parts of the world, but we in the west tend to avoid eating things that creep, crawl, or buzz annoyingly around our heads.

I was lucky (?) enough to try fried grasshoppers at the Arizona State Fair way back in 2009, but I’ve had them on a few occasions since in Yunnan restaurants across China.

Crunchy and not particularly flavourful, fried grasshoppers are best eaten with something to dip them in. In the US it was (unsurprisingly) chocolate, while the Chinese served them up with light seasoning.

A younger, less bald Aussie on the Road eating some chocolate covered grasshoppers.
A younger, less bald Aussie on the Road eating some chocolate covered grasshoppers.

#7 – Chicken’s Feet – China

A popular snack food in a few Asian countries, I managed to avoid trying chicken feet during the two years I lived in South Korea, only for drunk Chris to eat a whole fucking plateful of the shit one night in a Chinese night club.

While my western readers might blanch at the idea of eating something that has spent years trekking through mud and shit, chicken feet are a popular snack food available in many Chinese & Korean grocery stores, and served up in bars in the same way we might serve up peanuts in the west.

Flavoured with soy sauce, Sichuan pepper, and a variety of other herbs & spices, chicken feet are a flavourful if not slightly difficult eat. You don’t eat them so much as gnaw at them, much as you might eat only the skin of KFC chicken before throwing the ugly, grey mess beneath away.

Try not to think about where they've been. Photo by Gathering of the Vibes
Try not to think about where they’ve been. Photo by Gathering of the Vibes

#6 – Boiled Silkworm Larvae (Beondegi) – South Korea

If the smell of this Korean street snack doesn’t make you gag, the aftertaste almost certainly will.

While I came to love Korean street food and the many new flavours Korean cuisine had to offer, I never did manage to develop anything more than revulsion for this foul-smelling, foul-tasting cup full of horrors.

I never did manage to develop anything more than revulsion for this foul-smelling, foul-tasting cup full of horrors.

For those brave enough to try it, beondegi is (are?) served in a cup brimming with dead baby silkworm boiled in their own juices. Bon appetit!

Foul. Absolutely foul. Photo by Charles Haynes.
Foul. Absolutely foul. Photo by Charles Haynes.

#5 – Starfish – China

Why one would want to eat a starfish, I’ll never know. They’re gorgeous!

But drunk and bored at the God awful Qingdao International Beer Festival, my friend and I decided to sample this unfortunate sea creature and lived to regret it.

My friend described it as:

“Like a stick of chewing gum made entirely from sand”

That’s pretty close to the mark, although I tore the shit out of my mouth trying to chew through the thing’s bone hard armour.

You can see why in the video below:

#4 –┬áDog Soup – South Korea

Before the bleeding hearts leap down my throat, I’d like to make you aware of two things:

a). I didn’t know I was eating dog at the time my friend gleefully placed it in front of me;

b). Don’t be so fucking ethnocentric. Different cultures eat different things. Many might grimace at Aussies eating kangaroo, but they’re perfectly happy to eat animals other cultures find sacred.

That being said, had I known what I was eating and how the Koreans typically butcher dogs, I’d have flung it in my friend’s laughing face and run for the hills.

I have no issue with people eating whatever animal they want, just as long as the animal is killed humanely rather than brutally beaten to cater to the Korean desire for more ‘men’s stamina’.

Not only is it a horrendously unregulated industry, but it tastes like fatty, less tasty chicken.

Don’t eat dog in South Korea.

If having a soul doesn't turn you off eating it, the fact it looks like wet cat fur might. Photo from Wikipedia.
If having a soul doesn’t turn you off eating it, the fact it looks like wet cat fur might. Photo from Wikipedia.

#3 – Drunk Shrimp – China

I tried this Chinese delicacy for the first and last time while visiting Lianyungang back in 2013 and can’t say I enjoyed it.

Tiny freshwater shrimp ‘stunned’ by being poured into baijiu (a strong, foul-tasting Chinese liquor) and then eaten alive.

That’s right, the poor drunk bastards are alive (but paralysed) while you chew on them, spit out their shell, and swallow what little meat is left behind.

It’s like somebody crossed Attack on Titan with Mardi Gras, as poor drunk bastards are eaten alive.

Not only does the meal taste almost entirely like the aforementioned foul-tasting liquor, you’re also basically spitting out 80% of what you eat and putting yourself at risk of paragonimiasus by eating raw shellfish.

It looks far better than it tastes. Photo by Vinnie.
It looks far better than it tastes. Photo by Vinnie.

#2 – Sannakji – South Korea

I was exposed to this potentially scarring (not to mention potentially fatal) dish on one of my first night’s in South Korea. As a young and naive newcomer, I had no idea what I was in for when my boss ordered this raw Korean delicacy.

A live octopus literally has its tentacles cut off in front of you, and said tentacles continue to writhe and squirm for about half an hour. Looking like a seething mass of maggots, the only thing worse is the fact some of them look like they’re trying to crawl away from your fucking chopsticks. Jesus.

The taste is no different than if the poor octopus had been killed and dissected elsewhere, but you do have the added thrill of knowing a tentacle could potentially adhere to the inside of your throat and asphyxiate you.

It seems only fair that if you’re going to brutally murder the poor guy, he has a chance to get revenge.

#1 – Live Sea Cucumber – South Korea

By far the most traumatic dining experience I’ve ever had, it was perhaps made worse by the fact I had to eat it almost immediately after the above.

“It is a great honour to eat the sea cucumber,” my boss informed me, although to this day I’m not sure if he was being serious or just being an asshole to the new guy.

Even so, I picked up the live sea cucumber and deposited its entire length into my mouth. If this sound’s like I’m describing oral sex, it’s because it felt awkwardly like how I imagine giving a blowjob must be.

I could feel it’s pulse on my tongue.

It was soft on the outside with a hard core at its centre.

And it fucking squirted a salty brine solution down the back of my throat when I sunk my teeth into it.

I apologise to all of my ex-girlfriends.

Mmm... looks appetizing!
Mmm… looks appetizing!

Your Say

What’s the strangest, weirdest, or most foul thing you’ve ever eaten?

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