Fried tarantulas – Cambodia
An arachnophobe's worst nightmare comes fried and crunchy in Cambodia. In Phnom Penh markets and in the town of Skuon, locals deep fry spiders for locals and adventurous tourists alike. Buy one of these crispy snacks from a wandering hawker and you may even get to play with a live tarantula before tucking into one of his hairy brothers. The abdomen is only for the truly brave and is said to taste like "licking damp cobwebs."
Cuy (guinea pig) – Peru
They may look cute in the classroom but a guinea pig on your plate looks less adorable. Peruvian families keep guinea pigs as they are a good source of protein for villagers living up in the Andes. Cuy, as they are called, are generally roasted before they are served with all limbs and the head attached. There is not a great deal of meat on them and the skin can be rather rubbery but otherwise they taste similar to rabbit.
Casu marzu – Sardinia
This is a Sardinian speciality that comes with a health warning. Most food that's crawling with maggots finds its way into the bin but the decomposition of this "rotten cheese" is positively encouraged. Pecorino Sardo is set aside so that cheese flies can lay eggs inside the rind which then hatch into crawling maggots. These feed on the cheese, aiding fermentation and producing a pungent smell. Officially banned in the EU, the maggots are eaten live with the cheese, assuming they haven't jumped away first – some can jump up to 15cm.
Civet excrement coffee – Asia
Considered a delicacy in parts of Asia, these coffee beans are roasted after passing through the digestive system of a civet. Farmers on coffee plantations allow the weasel-like creatures to eat their crop in order to collect their bean-filled droppings for a steamy and surprisingly chocolatey beverage. While it has yet to make the menu at Starbucks, the beans can be bought in shops in London, including Selfridges.
Fugu – Japan
Certainly not as repugnant as some of the other dishes on our menu, fugu – or puffer fish – has nevertheless become a notorious delicacy thanks to the fact that eating it can be fatal unless it is properly prepared. The fish's liver, ovaries and skin contains large amounts of the poison tetrodotoxin and there is no known antidote.
Balut – Philippines
Sometimes described as "eggs with legs", Balut is an utterly gruesome – by some Western standards – delicacy from the Philippines. A common, everyday food, it is a fertilised duck or chicken egg containing a nearly-developed embryo – including feathers, feet, et al – that is boiled and eaten straight out of the shell. If you're not too squeamish, there are plenty of videos on YouTube.
Chicken feet – Worldwide
A common part of Asian, Jamaican and Peruvian cuisine, chicken feet are often served in soup or with black bean sauce. The foot is largely cartilage, while there are lots of small bones, so they certainly aren't for everyone.
Live octopus – Japan and Korea
Many Westerners would find the practice of eating squirming octopus legs particularly hard to digest. It can seem cruel to the bystander, especially when the octopuses wrap themselves around the diner's chopsticks in an attempt not to be eaten. According to one diner's report, the wriggly bits can taste like "a party in your mouth" – but the suckers can be dangerous if they stick on the way down.
Scorpions – China, Vietnam
Like tarantulas, scorpions are usually eaten fried, though are also served coated in chocolate or in a soup. They are said to possess medicinal qualities, and are popular with tourists at Beijing's famous night market, alongside crickets, sea horses and countless other appetisers.
Witchetty grub – Australia
An Australian term for large, white moth larvae, witchetty grubs are a staple in the Aboriginal diet. They can be eaten alive or cooked and are an excellent source of protein. They are said to taste like almonds.
Durian fruit – Southeast Asia
The smell of durian is so disagreeable that it has been banned from taxis, hire cars and public transport throughout southeast Asia. The novelist Anthony Burgess described it as "like eating sweet raspberry in the lavatory".
Seagull wine – Arctic Circle
Not something you're likely to find down your local Brakespeares, seagull wine is an invention of Inuits in desperate need of a drink during those cold Arctic nights. Simply stuff a dead seagull (in bits, or whole) into a bottle of water and leave in the sun.
Rat – Vietnam, China, Thailand, Laos
Rats destroy crops in rural Vietnam so farmers catch them, wrap them in banana leaves and sell them as a dinnertime treat. A roasted version can often be seen on the end of a stick in Thailand. Bats on a stick are also popular.
Kumis/Airag – Central Asia
Made from fermented mare's milk, Kumis is an important drink for many Central Asian cultures. It is sour, slightly alcoholic and a rich source of vitamins and minerals – ideal for long treks across the Steppes.
Bull's penis – China
A traditional aphrodesiac – for obvious reasons – bull's penis is eaten in various parts of the Far East. It was revealed last year that China's Olympic athletes even requested bull's penis soup on their weekly menus. Whether this contributed to their record haul of 51 gold medals, we'll never know.
Seal flipper pie – Canada
Commonly eaten at Easter, seal flipper pie is a traditional dish from the Canadian province of Newfoundland. The internet is awash with recipes, usually featuring root vegetables, pork fat and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.
Smalahove (sheep's head) – Norway
A traditional Christmas dish, Smalahove is made by boiling a salted lamb's head (minus the wool and brains, thankfully) for around three hours. Etiquette dictates that the ears and eyes are eaten first, while they are still warm, before the rest of the head is consumed, from front to back. The tongue and eye muscles are considered the prime cuts.
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