Studying abroad over the summer? Excited to eat your way through a foreign country? If you’re feeling a bit adventurous (or insane), consider springing for one of these bizarre, ethnic “delicacies” for the ultimate cultural experience. Who needs gelato when there’s maggot-infested Italian cheese to be tried?
1. Balut – Philippines
What it looks like: Something you’d find in a jar, sitting on the shelves of a mad scientist’s underground lab.
What it is: An fertilized duck egg, usually around 18 days old, boiled and eaten in the shell. The combination of savory soup, meaty flesh and creamy yolk within makes balut a culinary revelation to some—but just the opposite to others.
2. Casu marzu – Italy
What it looks like: An oddly fluffy, squirming… sponge?
What it is: Sheep milk cheese infested with cheese fly larvae. Bring goggles (and maybe a paper bag or two)—the live, writhing worms are known to jump up to 6 inches high.
3. Ika shiokara – Japan
What it looks like: Your favorite cafeteria mystery meat—regurgitated.
What it is: Sliced, salted squid fermented in a paste of its own guts, eaten raw and often immediately followed by a shot of strong alcohol (for good reason, too).
4. Century eggs – China
What it looks like: Jell-O gone very, very wrong—with a rotten-avocado-esque surprise center.
What it is: Duck, quail or chicken eggs preserved in clay, ash, salt, quicklime and rice hulls for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. The whites are transformed into dark amber jelly, while the yolks take on an alarming shade of gray.
5. Sannakji – Korea
What it looks like: Chainsaw Massacre, ft. octopi. On your plate.
What it is: Live nakji (small octopus) sliced into pieces and served immediately (read: still wriggling) with sesame and sesame oil. Watch the suction cups—the fresh tentacles put up a good fight going down the hatch.
6. Hakarl – Iceland
What it looks like: Relatively (and deceptively) innocuous chunks of meat.
What it is: Sleeper shark buried underground to ferment for 6-12 weeks, then cut into strips and hung to dry for several months. The curing process makes the poisonous meat edible (loosely speaking) but also leaves it reeking with ammonia.
7. Rocky mountain oysters – U.S.
What it looks like: Chicken tenders? Deep-frying proves to be a powerful disguise.
What it is: Neither rocky nor mountain-sourced, and definitely not oysters. This popular cowboy dish is made of none other than deep-fried bull, pig, or sheep testicles. Amur’ca.
Prefer to play it safe? We feel that. Check out these articles instead: