As dietitians we love learning about new foods, even they’re a bit…strange, there are countless cultures around the world with their own unique, traditional dishes that you may have seen on TV and some you may not have even heard of, so let’s get into it, here’s 5 bizarre foods from around the globe.
Fugu, a Japanese Pufferfish, is an expensive delicacy that requires years of training to cook and prepare, but why? Put simply, Fugu contains enough poison to kill 30 people and any small oversight in preparation could result in dead customers, not to mention poor reviews.
Hakarl from Iceland
Hakarl is a national Icelandic dish which has a bad reputation among celebrity chefs such as Anthony Bourdain, who describes it as the worst thing he’s ever eaten, and Gordon Ramsay who spat it out in disgust. But why? Well Hakarl is basically rotten shark. Hakarl is sourced from the Greenland shark which, if eaten fresh, is poisonous due to a high content of chemical compounds found in the meat. However, once the shark has been cured through a rigorous fermentation process lasting several months, involving being buried in dirt and then hung out to dry, it is “edible”, I suppose. Most first-time eaters gag or can’t keep it down due to the strong smell, understandably, but Icelanders have grown accustomed to Hakarl and have the pleasure of being able to enjoy it all year as it’s sold vacuum-packed in supermarkets.
Casu Marzu from Italy
What looks nothing more than an unassuming, soft and creamy, specialty cheese is actually regarded as “the most dangerous cheese in the world” and was even ILLEGAL in the European Union for a time. It becomes even more worrisome when you learn Casu Marzu literally translates to “rotten/putrid” cheese…So why the hate for Casu Marzu? Well, it contains live maggots…Yep, maggots. Casu Marzu is a traditional Italian delicacy which is essentially a whole pecorino cheese that has been left outside with the rind removed, to allow flys to lay eggs…The cheese is usually “enjoyed” spread on Italian flatbread with a glass of red wine, I think you’ll need more than a glass to try this though ?
Haggis from Scotland
A recognisable food in popular culture, partly due to the antics of Groundskeeper Willie on The Simpsons, Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish that dates back to the 1400’s. Containing an assortment of vital organs from a sheep (lungs, heart, liver) as well as spices, stock and oatmeal, Haggis is best enjoyed with some mashed potato and a tankard of Scottish Whiskey – and is actually a great source of Iron and fibre. Some people don’t mind a bit of fat on meat whereas others avoid it all together.
Salo from the Ukraine
Salo, a traditionally Slavic dish, is typically cured slabs of pork belly, with skin or without that is often cut into slabs, smoked and stored in a cool cellar for up to a year and then thinly sliced and enjoyed with rye bread. It’s such a famous dish in the Ukraine that they celebrate it with a “Festival Of Lard”. Different regions of the Ukraine often prepare their Salo differently, with some opting for dashing of garlic and pepper and others sticking with a thick layer of paprika. Should the Salo be overaged or exposed to too much light, the fat can oxidize, rendering it unsafe to eat, (I would have wagered it was to begin with) BUT it can be used for household purposes, such as being turned into soap or a water-repellent leather treatment…the more you know.
So there you have it, I hope this list has made you feel like a more, well-rounded and knowledgeable person, be sure to discuss the wonders of Casu Marzu at your next dinner party.