Balut, a fertilized duck or chicken egg is a delicacy in the Philippines

What do fried spiders, fermented shark and larvae-infested cheese have in common? Somewhere in the world they are considered delicacies. While there generally aren’t lines out the door for most of these dishes around the world, to certain cultures these meals can seem incredibly rare and delicious. Adventurous eaters may jump at the chance to try these delicacies, though there are some dishes that require truly fearless palates to try. Steel your stomach and your mind before reading on about the eating habits of humans around the world and their unique and unusual delicacies.

Bird’s Nest Soup – China

For thousands of years, Bird’s Nest Soup has been an integral part of their cuisine. It’s often been called the “caviar of the east” and unlike the name suggests, the nests are not make of sticks and twigs, but rather they are crafted from the bird’s saliva. The soup is essentially chicken broth poured over one of these nests. It’s also one of the most expensive foods on the planet with some of the more rare varieties, like the red nest variety, costing upwards of £5,600 per bowl. In Hong Kong, a bowl of bird’s nest soup would cost between £15 and £55.

Hakarl – Iceland

Essentially, Hakarl is rotten shark meat that has been left to decompose while buried under the ground for a few months. After those few months are up, the meat is left on a drying rack for at least two more months. At the end of the process you are left with white, edible flesh. The dish is traditionally served in Iceland during the Icelandic Midwinter Festival in Thorrablot. Interesting to note, while the Greenland sharks that are used for Hakarl are naturally poisonous when alive, after the fermentation process, the meat is no longer poisonous. The flavour is definitely an acquired taste though.

Fried Tarantulas – Cambodia

Shivering yet? This dish was first discovered by Cambodians during the impoverished and bloody Khmer Rouge rule. To prepare this dish, the tarantulas are deep-fried and then seasoned with garlic and salt. The dish is something tourists and locals eat or try to eat regularly, but it also serves as a clear reminder of horrible times endured in Cambodia. The price for this unusual delicacy is very low…about £0.04 per spider.

Balut – Philippines

If you don’t enjoy eggs, now is the time to stop reading. This Filipino delicacy is only for the steel-stomached and adventurous eaters. Balut is a fertilized chicken or duck egg that has an almost developed embryo inside. The egg is then boiled and enjoyed right out of the shell. The snack is pumped full of protein and is available on street carts around the Philippines and is normally accompanied by beer. It will cost about £7 per dozen eggs if you find them to your liking.

Sannakji – Japan

Sushi is a pretty popular dish in Australia and even octopus isn’t that unusual of a menu item, but when you’re in Japan, ordering octopus could mean something completely different from what you are used to. The dish Sannakji in Japan is live octopus. Chefs take fresh baby octopi and cut them up, quickly season them with sesame oil and served to customers while the tentacles are still moving. If that doesn’t upset your appetite thinking about it, consider this: the dish can actually be incredibly dangerous if the octopi suction cups stick to your mouth or throat.

Casu Marzu – Sardinia

Aged cheese can be a delicious and sumptuous treat for dairy lovers, but Casu Marzu takes the aged cheese process to a whole new level. This Sardinian specialty is rotten sheep’s milk cheese that has been decomposed within a pecorino rind. Doesn’t sound too strange right? Well, the cheese also contains live insect larvae and the cheese must be consumed while the larvae are still alive, otherwise the cheese is considered to be toxic. Since the larvae can jump if they are disturbed, those who choose to indulge must shield their eyes. Health issues have arisen in relation to Casu Marzu, so if you are offered the delicacy, your best bet to staying healthy and happy is to pass on the opportunity politely.

Feeling hungry? Pack your bags and your antacid before trying any of these unusual delicacies from around the world. Always consider the health implications of your meals and if you know of any existing food allergies, be sure to keep important information with you at all times. Add extra protection to your holiday by booking international travel insurance now. Travelling to these countries will always be a new and exciting adventure—especially if you choose to expand your culinary choices and try any of the dishes listed above!

Image courtesy of Flickr user Gordon Wrigley

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