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Foreign foods you probably won’t be going for this summer

  • 22
  • 08
  • 2016

Summer is here and as many of us plan trips and travels abroad, thoughts of indulging in scrumptious foreign street foods under the sun, by the sea, or lounging in an exotic park somewhere are getting increasingly more distracting.

That’s all very well if you are in, say, a town in Italy or on a Greek island. But there are some places in the world where you might want to think twice before heading to the local market for lunch.

We love street food because of its authenticity, because it’s a fundamental and unique part of the culture of the country we are visiting. But it isn’t always so romantic.

Street food in Asia
Spoilt for choice with street food markets in Asia (palindrome6996/Flickr)

In many parts of the world, traditional cuisine was borne out of necessity and eating essentially whatever would hang around long enough for you to catch – think bugs and dogs in Asia or fermented fish in Iceland. Then there are some bizarre and rare ‘delicacies’ that seem to have no explanation at all.

Here are a few that even the most jet-setting of foodies might struggle to stomach.

1. Century egg

Chinese century egg with pickled ginger
Would you like your eggs fried, scrambled, or preserved in ash? (Alpha/Flickr)

This curiously-named aubergine lookalike is actually an egg that has been preserved for several months in a mixture of clay, ash, salt and quicklime, which apparently gives it a more intense flavour and a creamier texture, but a pretty strong smell of sulphur. It’s a popular dish across Asia, mainly China, and is often served up with picked ginger, spring onions, tofu or soy sauce. If that helps.

2. Balut

Balut duck egg
A little bit of rogue shell isn’t the only thing giving this egg a bit of a crunch (Jerick Parrone/Flickr)

While you might be able to get around the idea of the smelly ash egg, perhaps this is taking it a step too far. Popular in South-east Asia, including Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines, this is simply a boiled duck egg with a difference. While most of us are used to eating unfertilised eggs, they don’t bother with that little detail here. Instead, the egg is cooked with the partially formed duck embryo still inside and then eaten whole from the shell.

3. Shirako

Sushi topped with shirako
Just to give your sushi a little extra flavour (LWYang/Flickr)

If you are still in the mood for a lesson in reproductive biology with your meal, then you might be interested in this. Shirako, or ‘milt’ in English, literally translates to ‘white children’, which with a little imagination might give you a hint towards what it actually is. Cod sperm sac. Yep. It is considered a delicacy in Japan because of it’s creamy texture and taste. I’ll pass, thanks.

4. Fried tarantulas

Fried tarantulas
Don’t worry, they won’t bite! (Paul Mannix/Flickr)

Even though people in Cambodia first started frying spiders during food shortages in the past, they seem to have developed a taste for them and they are still one of the most popular street snacks. Apparently they are nice and crispy but can ooze a dark sludge from the abdomen made up of…well, you can probably imagine.

5. Bird’s nest soup

Bird's nest soup
Did someone spit in my soup? (stu_spivack/Flickr)

Just a glance won’t tell you what’s in this Chinese delicacy, and you are probably better off not knowing. This soup is made using the nest of the swiftlet, a tiny Asian bird that lives high up in the walls of caves. But rather than building its nest out of the usual twigs and leaves, it prefers to use strands of its own sticky saliva that then harden with air. Deaths are not uncommon as harvesters have to climb up sheer rock to get at the nests, making the dish pretty expensive (so admittedly not really a street food).


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