1. Balut (Philippines)(via)
Often seasoned with salt or chili, garlic, and vinegar, balut is a developing duck embryo that’s boiled. The egg/embryo, shell still on, is typically cracked, juice sipped out, and subsequently peeled and eaten.
2. Bird’s nest soup (China)
Made from an edible bird’s nest, composed of “interwoven strands of salivary laminae cement” (that’s bird saliva, in case you couldn’t tell), bird’s nest soup is a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. The bird’s nest itself typically sells for an average of $2,500 per kilogram.
3. Escamoles (Mexico)
While appearing rather unremarkable in the picture above, escamoles are actually the larvae of Liometopum ants. Eaten in many of Mexico’s central regions, escamoles were considered a delicacy by the Aztec people. The ant larvae are often included in tacos and omelets but can also be served solo.
4. Lutefisk (Norway)
Its English translation should give you a hint as to its pungent odor — “lye fish.” Typically made from dried cod, lutefisk is prepared with water and lye before being cooked. It’s often accompanied by side dishes, which include green pea stew, gravy, and potatoes.
5. Casu marzu (Italy)
This dish looks rather innocent. Its English translation, “rotten cheese,” says otherwise. The Sardinian sheep milk cheese is notorious for containing live cheese fly larvae, which aid the fermentation process of the cheese. Some diners remove the larvae before eating; others do not.
6. Fried tarantula (Cambodia)
Known as a-ping in Khmer, fried tarantula (yes, the ones you might have gotten to hold as a youngster) is eaten all over Cambodia, but the town of Skuon is the center of the food’s popularity. Many tourists make a stop in the town just to have a crunchy bite of tarantula.
7. Century egg (China)
Also referred to as thousand-year-old-egg, century egg is made by preserving an egg (quail, chicken, or duck) in a clay, ash, salt, and quicklime mixture before rolling it around in rice hulls. Over time, the yolk and white change colors (and the egg gets a pleasant ammonia and sulfur-like smell). The eggs are eaten on their own or served as a side dish.
8. Haggis (Scotland)
Loved and hated by locals, haggis is a “pudding” made from the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep. The organs are minced and mixed with suet, oatmeal, onion, cayenne pepper, and other spices. Traditionally, the mixture is stuffed in the animal’s stomach and simmered for hours. The proper drink pairing? Scotch, of course.
9. Snake heart (Vietnam)
Not too far from Hanoi sits the Snake Village, and backpackers visiting the capital often make trips here for an evening. Why, you might ask? Because gastronomes get a chance to try snake, offed right in front of you, served several ways. The luckiest guest gets a chance to eat the still-beating heart.
10. Sannakji (Korea)
Korea’s version of a raw octopus is a little…livelier. The octopus, still alive, is cut into small pieces, lightly dressed with sesame oil and seeds, and served up immediately. The octopus segments will typically still be squirming on the plate in front of you. Urban legend maintains that multiple diners have been choked to death by a vengeful tentacle.
11. Hákarl (Iceland)
Hákarl is an Icelandic food made from shark, in which the meat is cured and fermented before being hung up to dry for nearly five months. The food carries a heavy odor of ammonia. Upon trying it, Anthony Bourdain once referred to hákarl as “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible-tasting thing” he’d ever tried.
12. Stinky tofu (Taiwan)
Stinky tofu is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The tofu is fermented, giving it a stronger flavor and smell. The stinky tofu in Taiwan is served deep-fried, grilled, or added to a soup with goose blood, pickled mustard greens, and pork intestines.
13. Witchetty grub (Australia)
A well-known bush food, witchetty grub is a large, wood-eating moth larvae found in central Australia. It’s said that the taste is similar to scrambled eggs, though that description is up for debate. A video of Bear Grylls eating one can be found on the internet, but it might ruin your appetite.
14. Tiết Canh (Vietnam)
A traditional Vietnamese meal, tiết canh is a soupy dish of raw blood and cooked meat — the most popular is tiết canh vit, duck blood soup. The final dish is sometimes said to have an appearance similar to pizza. The same can’t be said of the taste.
15. Rocky Mountain Oysters (United States)
This one’s a bit closer to home for American readers, but don’t be fooled by the innocuous look of the fried objects above — the protein here is bull-calf testicle. The dish is commonly served at festivals around the American West.
16. Raw puffin heart (Iceland)
Why are you looking at a cute puffin right now? Well, they’re a delicacy in Iceland. The puffin is killed, skinned, and the heart is eaten raw. The meat of the puffin is often smoked. Gordon Ramsay was criticized in 2008 for eating one on his show.