The variety of customs around the world creates strange interests in consuming unusual foods that others would find absolutely revolting. In one country, an unusual food item may be a fine delicacy. In another country, it may be considered disgusting to eat it.
Some customs are rather odd. For example, in Iceland, a lamb’s head is cut in half (down the bridge of the nose through the center of the skull). It is boiled and served on a plate offering a profile view of the face. All the parts of the face are eaten, including the nose, lips, cheeks, and eyes. However, the brain of the lamb is not eaten. The Icelanders, who are completely comfortable eating a lamb’s eyeballs, think eating a lamb’s brain is disgusting. In Mexico, they prefer the lamb’s brains (and beef brains also); however, Mexicans do not particularly like eating the eyeballs.
Americans, Canadians, and Europeans have a revulsion against eating insects, however, in many South American countries insects are enjoyed by almost everyone. And in China, the people will eat anything. There is a popular saying in China that goes something like this, “If it flies we eat it, except for airplanes. If it has four legs we eat it, except for tables, and if it swims we eat it, except for submarines.”
Come with us on a culinary tour of the world where we take a look at the weird things to eat, which if you are not used to them, may make you not be able to hold down your lunch.
WARNING: This article contains graphic photos that may be disturbing to some readers. Viewer discretion is advised.
15. Limburger Cheese
First up is the not-so-wonderful smell of Limburger cheese from Germany. Limburger cheese smells exactly like horribly stinky feet. This is because the same bacteria that grow between your toes, called “Brevibacterium epidermidis,” grow on the outer surface of Limburger cheese. Limburger cheese smells exactly like dirty gym socks and “toe jam.” Yuck!
In order for these bacteria to grow, they need a moist, salty environment. Since cheese does not sweat like a human foot does, this means the cheese maker has to regularly rinse the Limburger cheese with briny water to keep it wet. The same bacteria that create the stink, also convert the proteins in the pre-cheese mixture to carboxylic fatty acids, which are what makes milk fats turn into cheese.
If the smell of Limburger cheese is not enough to turn your stomach, you probably have severe nasal congestion. Some people find the best way to eat this cheese is to pinch their nose closed with a finger and a thumb using one hand while using the other hand to put the cheese in their mouth. If you can get past the disgusting smell, Limburger cheese actually tastes rather nice and the texture is very smooth.
Haggis comes from Scotland. It has been banned from being imported to the USA because of its ingredients. Also, beef from the UK has a general import ban by the USA due to the epidemic of “mad cow” disease in the United Kingdom.
If you want to partake in traditionally prepared haggis, you will need to take a trip to Scotland. Perhaps, you may also want to enjoy a round or two of golf on the original courses in Scotland where the game was first invented. You can take along some pints of ale and haggis sandwiches for your lunch.
Haggis is suet mixed with oatmeal, onion, seasoning, and a blend of minced meat from the liver, lungs, and heart of a sheep or a calf. This concoction is stuffed into the stomach of the animal that was slaughtered and cooked by being boiled. The dish has a rather grayish-brown, dull color.
The full traditional Scottish meal of haggis is to serve it along with two side dishes called mashed “tatties” and bashed “neeps.” Tatties are potatoes. Neeps are turnips.
Scots think haggis is delicious. What does it taste like? The main ingredient is the oatmeal, which gives haggis a crumbly texture that is pleasing to the palate, similar to stuffing served with turkey. The wild country-like flavor is spicy and it has a nice peppery taste. If you don’t look too closely or think too much about what it is made from, haggis is very tasty.
13. Pink Slime
You are probably already eating pink slime if you eat any hamburger meat or hamburgers from fast food restaurants. McDonald’s is an exception. McDonald’s was forced to stop using pink slime by a massive consumer action campaign.
Pink slime got its nickname from how the product looks after it is prepared (as you can see in the photo). The technical names for this product include 1) boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT); 2) finely textured beef, and; 3) lean finely textured beef (LFTB). Check the ingredients list on the ground beef products you buy. If any of those things are on the list, you are eating pink slime!
Pink slime is a filler that is added to ground meat and meats that are processed. By adding pink slime, the food manufacturers are able to reduce the fat content of the ground beef. Adding pink slime to a beef product also saves the manufacturers money. Pink slime is cheaper than regular meat and any product made with pink slime can still be advertised and labeled as 100% all beef, since pink slime is derived from beef.
The way pink slime is made is that the beef trimmings (scrap that cannot be sold) are heated and put in centrifuges in order to remove the fat. The output of this process is treated with ammonia gas and citric acid to kill all the bacteria. The product is dyed pink, pressed into bricks or cylinders, frozen, and then shipped off to meat processing plants for further use.
Pink slime is not allowed in products made for human consumption in Canada and in the EU. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) approved pink slime for human consumption in America during 2001.
During March 2012, ABC News ran a story about pink slime claiming it was used in up to 70% of the America ground beef products at that time. The public reaction was swift and extremely negative. This forced manufacturers to stop using the additive and caused factory closures and losses to the companies making pink slime. The losses are close to $2 billion for the largest company making this product, which is Beef Products, Inc. (BPI). BPI sued ABC News for making false claims about the product. The case is currently still undergoing trial.
Tripe is the lining of a cow’s stomach. A cow has three stomachs. Tripe mostly comes from the first stomach. This kind of tripe is called blanket tripe because it looks like a blanket. Tripe from the second stomach is called honeycomb tripe due to its characteristic look of a bee’s honeycomb. Tripe from the third stomach is called a book or Bible tripe. Tripe from the third stomach is rarely used because it has a tough glandular-like texture.
Tripe is naturally brown-green (khaki) color. Prepared tripe, sold in stores and butcher shops, is cleaned and bleached pure white. Cooking tripe takes many hours in order to make it tender enough to eat. Boiling tripe for three to four hours is usually the minimum needed. Cooking tripe for up to ten hours is possible with no degradation in the taste (which is mild) or texture, so it is almost impossible to over-cook it.
11. Rattlesnake Soup
Rattlesnake is called “desert whitefish” in the Southwest because when cooked it resembles a sinewy piece of tilapia fish. The taste of rattlesnake is rather dull and it is full of tiny bones.
Rattlesnake is routinely eaten by those living in the southwest desert areas because wild game is rare. Native Americans have many recipes for preparing rattlesnake as a soup and as breaded and fried. The cooking of the snake neutralizes any poison in its body.
Rattlesnake soup is easy to make. Simply use any recipe that is your favorite one for making beef stew and substitute the cleaned rattlesnake meat for the beef called for in the recipe.
Rattlesnake skin is a prized material for making cowboy boots, belts, handbags, and other items. If you see a rattlesnake and successfully kill it, you have the soup to look forward to eating and can either sell the hide or use it to make something for yourself.
10. Black Rice – Arròs Negre
This is a gourmet dish that one will find in Spain, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. In Spain, it is a very popular dish in Valencia and Catalonia. In the Spanish language, the dish is called Arròs negre (black rice). It can be used to make seafood paella and that dish is called paella negra (black paella).
The traditional recipe uses squid ink to turn the rice into a dark black color. Added to the dish are cuttlefish and/or squid, garlic, peppers, sweet paprika, olive oil, and a broth made from seafood.
Three things you should know about this food. The squid ink has a distinctive “fishy” flavor, which some may find objectionable. The second thing is that the dish is very salty to the taste. Squid ink contains high concentrations of salt from the ocean. The third thing is after you finish your meal you are going to want to brush your teeth and rinse with mouthwash. If you do not do this, your teeth will be stained by the black ink and your breath will smell like a fish market on a hot summer’s day.
9. Rocky Mountain Oysters
This dish has nothing to do with oysters from the ocean. It is beef testicles. It is sometimes called “sweetmeats,” which should not be confused with sweetbreads. Sweetbreads have nothing to do with bread. They are the pancreas and the thymus gland taken from slaughtered calves. For Rocky Mountain Oysters we are concerned with balls, specifically beef balls.
Rocky Mountain Oysters are available in abundant supply during springtime when the calves, to be raised for meat, are castrated. Not having testicles and the hormones produced by them makes the calf meat (veal) tenderer. For a rancher, it is possible to end up with dozens of these beef balls during this time. Many ranchers have a party to fry them all, so as not to waste good meat, and then freeze the leftovers for later consumption. Beef balls also are available when slaughtering a grown animal that has not been castrated previously.
The most popular way to prepare this dish is to cover the balls with batter and deep fry them. They can also be braised (lightly fried, then stewed), grilled on skewers, or cooked in a soup. They taste like beef liver or the sweetbreads mentioned above. They are rich in the male sex hormone testosterone, which is why they are considered an aphrodisiac by men in China. Women should not consume them due to the side-effects of the testosterone on females.
8. Pork Entrails and Intestines
In the southern part of America, a favored dish is “Chitterlings” or “Chittlins” for short. This dish is part of the southern traditions amongst African Americans called “soul food.” It is prepared from a pig’s small intestines. The intestines are cleaned and washed several times. After that, they are boiled for many hours with a half of an onion in the pot to reduce the pungent unpleasant smell that occurs while they cook. Chitterlings can be fried after sufficient boiling has made them tender enough to eat. They can also be battered and then fried.
During the colonial times, when slavery was still practiced in the USA, hogs got slaughtered in December for the holiday meal. The slave owners kept the best cuts of meat for themselves and gave the unwanted things to the slaves, such as the snot, the pig’s feet, the ears, and the intestines. The slaves came up with clever ways to cook these parts. The result is a wide range of “soul food” cuisine made from the unwanted parts of a pig.
In China, both the small and the large intestine of the pig are eaten. The large intestine has lots of fat and has a strong odor. It is usually chopped into rings to be used for stir-fry dishes or in soups. The smaller intestine contains a white powder or white pasty substance. It is usually chopped into tubes and then boiled. It is served with a dipping sauce.
7. Bird’s Nest Soup
This is among the most expensive gourmet dishes in the world. A small bowl of bird’s nest soup can cost up to US$100. This soup uses the edible nest of a specific type of bird, called the “cave swiftlet.”
The swiftlet forages for insects, worms, and whatever it can find, partially digests them, and then regurgitates the mix, spitting it up in a pattern in order to make it into a delicate bird’s nest. Usually, the swiftlet makes these nests in small holes in the rock wall or in caves that have their entrance on the side of a very high cliff that is extremely difficult to reach.
The nests are sturdy when collected; however, when they are added to boiling water, they dissolve into something that looks like snot and tastes like glutinous, gel-like soup. Because of the difficulty of collecting these nests using very high ladders, the harvested nests can sell for as much as $10,000 per kilogram. This is quite a price to pay for something that looks like snot and is made of digested worms and insects and is spit back up by a bird.
6. Dog Meat
There is no way to say this nicely. Some Chinese eat dogs. They even have an annual festival where an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 dogs (and some cats also) are slaughtered and eaten.
Many animal rights activists protest this festival, which is called the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, also known as the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival. Lychee is a small sweet fruit that is served along with the dog meat.
Pet owners in China who live near this festival area, abhor the festivities. They must guard their pets carefully; otherwise, they will be stolen to be slaughtered and sold as meat for the festival
The practices of how the animals are kept for this festival, in small cramped cages and then brutally beaten to death make people who love dogs cringe with horror. Some dogs are even skinned while still alive.
Dog meat is popular in South Korea as well. Many restaurants serve dog meat in the capital of Seoul, South Korea. Some specialize in dog meat. Estimates are that there may be up to 6,000 restaurants serving up to 90,000 lbs of dog meat each year in South Korea.
Dog meat is also popular in Indonesia and the popularity of eating it is increasing. Dog meat is less expensive than other kinds of meat, such as beef. Dog meat sells for around the equivalent of US$2 per pound. Dog blood is sold to restaurants for use in recipes. Dogs are also eaten in the Philippines and Vietnam.
5. Live Monkey Brain
Monkey brain is consumed in China, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. Those who eat monkey brain prefer to eat it right after the brain is removed from a live monkey.
Westerners first became aware of this practice by seeing it featured in the gruesome 1978 film entitled Faces of Death. The Director, John Alan Schwartz, recreated a scene based on a true account of the practice. In the scene, a live monkey is brought to the tableside in a restaurant. Then, it is put under the table in the center and held in place by restraints, so that just the top of its head is showing above table level. The guests take hammers and tap around the monkey’s skull breaking it open. The server takes a spoon and scoops out the monkey’s brain to put it on plates to serve the guests. While this is going on, the monkey is screeching and writhing in pain.
Liveleak.com has a video entitled Men eat a monkey brain, for those with a strong enough stomach to view this grotesque practice. The video is very disturbing.
4. Grilled Scorpion
In Beijing, the capital of China, there used to be a popular night market called Donghuamen full of stalls selling the most unusual food items. The market’s lease ran out during 2016 and it is now closed. All of the items that used to be sold at this market are still available. They are found in various restaurants in the area and in other parts of the city.
Chinese people say that the Donghuamen Night Market was just a tourist trap and that regular Chinese people do not have a habit of eating things like scorpions. Nevertheless, the Chinese do eat a lot of weird stuff. In case you are curious, scorpions can be eaten grilled, fried, roasted, and for the very brave, eaten while still alive. Scorpions taste somewhat fishy.
Other strange food items that are available in China include snakes, starfish, sea horses, silk worms, iguana, goat’s lungs, dung beetles, fried sparrows, dog brain soup, and dog liver with vegetables.
3. Sheep and Fish Eyeballs
As mentioned at the start of this article, a popular dish in Iceland is svio, which is half of a sheep’s head that has been boiled. When this dish is served, it looks like the sheep is staring at you. Everything from the sheep’s head down to the bone is eaten, except for the brain. They consider that taboo. Eating the eyes, ears, nose, and face is no problem though.
The Chinese have a tradition of offering the guest of honor the eyes from a whole cooked fish that is served. They put the fish eyes in a wine glass and the guest must drink them down. If you bite down on the eyeballs, they are salty when they pop and a bit chewy.
Japanese people like to eat tuna eyeballs. Tuna are a very large fish. The eyeballs are the size of golf balls. They are sold in most Japanese grocery stores that have a seafood section. The eyeballs, when sold, are surrounded by fat. They are easy to cook. Simply boil them and then season them to your taste.
2. Horse Penis and Other Private Animal Parts
The Guo-li-zhuang restaurant in Beijing, China serves mostly penises and testicles. Besides the popular varieties and recipes for horse penis, they also serve dog, yak, donkey, oxen and even Canadian seal penis (when ordered in advance).
For newcomers to this specialty gourmet food, the restaurant staff recommends the hotpot, which is a dish containing six types of penises, and four types of testicles, all boiled in chicken broth. The offering includes penises and testicles from a mixture of these animals; 1) Russian dog; 2) Oxen: 3) Deer; 4) Mongolian goat; 5) Xinjiang horse, and; 6) Donkey.
This restaurant is frequented by businessmen who are trying to impress their clients, while the businessman’s company picks up the tab. The Chinese people believe that eating penis and testicles is like taking natural Viagra® because of the testosterone they contain.
The dog penis is the only one with a bone in it. The bone is given to the restaurant guest at the end of the meal to be kept as a good luck charm. That people think this could be a good luck charm is just like westerners who have a lucky rabbit’s foot.
1. Poop Meat and Poop Cookies
Mainstream media such as FoxNews, the New York Daily News, and the International Business Times, plus many others all got duped by an outrageous story about a Japanese scientist who created edible meat from human sewage, entitled, “Japanese Scientists Create Meat From Poop.” The story went viral during 2011 when many of the news outlets ran a feature story on this topic. The YouTube video showing the supposed research scientist Mitsuyuki Ikeda at his Okayama Laboratory received millions of views.
The whole thing was a hoax, yet it was a very good one because so many millions around the world were contemplating what is would be like to eat something made from human excrement.
Not to be outdone, Walt Disney World stepped up to the plate, with baked goods and candies offered in the Harambee gift shop found in the Animal Kingdom area of the theme park located in Orlando, Florida. The menu at the gift shop offers the “Know Your Species” series of sweet things to eat that were made to exactly resemble the poop of the large animals featured in the Animal Kingdom. The choices included elephant poop, giraffe poop, hippo poop, and tamarin poop. It is sad to report that due to complaints, Disney removed the poop cookies/candies from the menu.
Someday there may be real poop cookies. The question is, would you be able to eat one, knowing what it is made from?
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