To taste or not to taste? That is the question

Posted on 21 February 2012

As an avid traveller I believe that in order to really discover and explore a place while traveling, you should try to walk the walk, talk the talk and taste the goods on offer. Why bother going to Japan and having a burger or saying you’ve roughed it in India while eating a chicken salad?

I have eaten live octopus tentacles in South Korea, snake and scorpion in China and Mopani worms in Zimbabwe. However, there are just some things that I would not touch. Like centipede on a stick, peri-peri cockroaches, sheep’s balls and a local delicacy of dog meat. How far should one go to really experience a place as a local? Would you be able to eat some of the world’s weirdest delicacies?


Calf brain burger

Long before the Mad-Cow Disease pandemic, a sandwich was served in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Made from fried calves’ brain, the filling was thinly sliced and placed between white bread slices. With a mushy texture and very little flavour, no wonder it was served with copious amounts of sauce. If only it helped the consumer to get enhanced brainpower …

It’s a bug’s life

Forget Fear Factor where you force foreign insects down your throat to win money, bugs actually serve as a source of nutrients for many people around the world. Vendors sell crickets, spiders, worms and various beetles along streets of Bangkok, Thailand as if they are marketing chocolates and chips for passersby. Let’s hope vendors in South Africa aren’t shouting, ‘Ice-cold cold drinks, crunchy sweet spiders, long white worms!’ at rugby games anytime soon.

Rocky Mountain oysters

If you are thinking, fresh water oysters from in the hills of the serene Rocky Mountains served with lemon juice and wine, think again. This is the fancy name given to deep-fried testicles of buffalo, bull or boar. Also called prairie oysters, this delicacy is enjoyed in the USA and Canada where the testicles are peeled, boiled, rolled in flour, fried and served with a cocktail sauce. Mmmm chewy!

Tingling fish

Eating Fugu, the Japanese poisonous puffer fish, is more about surviving the experience as opposed to tasting flavours. This relatively bland fish is filled with the poison tetrodotoxin, which is lethal. It takes the most qualified and specialised chefs to prepare the dish so that just enough poison is left behind to give consumers a tingling sensation on the tongue and lips when dining.

Larvae cheese

A cheese that is home to live insect larvae, this delicacy deliberately has these maggots added to it to promote the level of fermentation, almost to the point of decomposition. The tiny translucent worms can escape and jump up to 30 cm if disturbed. So people just dust off the maggots and then enjoy a spoonful of the pungent cheese. Crackers and cheese anyone?


This delicacy from the Philippines is known as ‘the treat with feet’ or ‘the egg with legs.’ A fertilised duck or chicken egg, almost a fully developed fetus, is boiled alive and then eaten. So next time before you crack open an egg for breakfast, check for any signs of a beak, feet or feathers on your plate.


With the consistency of cottage cheese and a unique buttery and slightly nutty taste, Escamoles are the eggs of the giant black Liometopum ant. The most popular way to eat this dish is in a taco with guacamole. So, if you’re in Mexico it’s likely that you may eat these ant eggs without even noticing them.


This dish could also be called rotten shark, but Hakarl is far more tempting. The shark meat is put through a fermentation process by covering it in an airtight plastic. After a few weeks it is hung up to dry out. It is eaten without anything else, like biltong. How about beer and shark meat at the next cricket game?

Head cheese

Head cheese is not actually made with cheese but with head. After the head of a sheep, pig or cow is skinned, all organs are removed and the head is cooked in a pot of water until tender. Thanks to the collagen in the marrow of the animal’s head, the entire mix congeals into a gelatin and can be sliced and served on a sandwich. At least no one at school will want to steal or share your sandwiches at break time.

Frog sashimi

Only found in a select few Japanese restaurants, frog sashimi can be ordered. The chef will cut the live frog open in front of you and grab its beating heart with chopsticks for you to savour. Said to improve virility, the frog is then diced onto a plate for you to enjoy the rest of the meal.


This list is hard to stomach and many people cringe at even seeing these dishes. However, these dishes become local livelihoods and what people rely on, prepare and eat.

If your survival depended on you eating one of these things, which would it have to be, and which is the one that you would NEVER touch no matter the consequences?


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