When it comes to food, it’s all relative. What one culture considers a cute or interesting companion, another culture can turn into a delicious dish that wows visitors and delights the locals. The key when traveling is to keep an open mind when it comes to food…you never know what dish you might love!
1. South Korea: Bosintang Soup (Dog)
Dog meat is the main ingredient in South Korea‘s highly prized Bosintang soup. The dish, which costs around 10 USD, is made from boiled dog bits (lean dogs are considered the most tasty) mixed with spices like green onions, Taro stalk, leeks, ginger, garlic, and perilla, an herb in the mint family that helps disguise the intense smell of cooked dog.
Although Bosintang isn’t necessarily known for its culinary appeal (the meat has been described as having a flaky, gamey dark beef flavor) it is famous for its medicinal value for improving male virility and cooling the body (and centering one’s “ki” during sweltering summer months). Even though the consumption of dog meat has been outlawed in South Korea since 1984, many traditional restaurants throughout the country still serve up this dish.
Image: Walrus Magazine
2. Japan: Basashi (Horse)
Japan is known for some adventurous cuisine, and Basashi is no exception. The dish consists of horse (ba) served raw like sashimi (sashi) with a simple soy dipping sauce on the side. Served around Japan in izakayas (local bars that serve finger food), basashi can be found all over the country, although the cities of Matsumoto and Kumamato are known for some of the best horse meat in the country.
Image: Japan Web Magazine
With a texture that’s described as sweet, smooth, and creamy, it doesn’t seem to be too much of a stretch to turn the delicacy of Basashi into…ice cream! Multiple Japanese companies have their own version of basashi ice cream that are sold with chunks of meat frozen in the carton.
3. China: Snake Soup
Although Snake Soup is a traditional dish eaten all over China, the very best version of this delicacy comes from Kweilin Street in the Kowloon district of Hong Kong. This street is famous for snake that is so fresh, the reptiles are still alive when you pick them. Snake lovers flock to Kweilin street mostly between mid-November to April, when the consumption of snake soup is seen as a necessity by many Cantonese.
In Cantonese culture, many firmly believe that snake soup is essential to provide an “inner warmth that stays with you long after the bowl of soup has been eaten”. This inner warmth is credited with keeping off the cool winter air and keeping you healthy and fortified against winter colds and the flu. Snakes are so popular during the winter months, close to 200,000 live snakes are shipped into Hong Kong every year along with many tons of frozen snake meat.
4. Cambodia: Fried Tarantulas
Although these little guys are fried up all over Cambodia, the Sukon Market is known for serving the tastiest fried Tarantulas and have developed a bit of a cult following – tourists and locals come to Sukon specifically to get their fix. The type of tarantula used for this snack is called a-ping and they are a palm-sized variety that are locally caught by the street vendors who sell them by the hundreds for around 8 cents USD.
To prepare them, the tarantulas are pan fried whole, with their legs and fangs still attached, with only a pinch of garlic and salt for flavor. Even though their preparation is relatively simple, people rave they have a great natural flavor and that their consistency, crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside, is particularly unique and delicious.
5. Philippines: Balut (Duck)
Although Balut is served all over Asia, the Philippines are best known for this snack of boiled, fertlized duck eggs. Balut is prepared by boiling the fertilized eggs around 15 days after they are laid, just a few days before the embryo is ready to hatch. The eggs are then stored in buckets of sand to maintain their heat and are served warm. They are particularly popular as a drinking snack in night markets around Cambodia, not only because some people find them delicious, but because they are said to be a powerful aphrodisiac and improve virility in men.
6. Nicaragua: Green Iguana Soup
Green Iguanas are eaten year round throughout Central and South America, but they’re are especially popular during Holy Week (the week before Lent begins) in Nicaragua. Unfortunately, Green Iguana females ovulate right around April, and so during Holy Week the iguanas are swollen with eggs, making the consumption of them during that time period particularly disastrous for the Iguana population.
Image: Dr. Biggles
For this reason the Nicaraguan government has banned the killing of Green Iguanas, although the traditional preparation of the iguanas into a soupy dish called Indio Viejo, persists.
7. Germany: Hasenpfeffer (Rabbit)
The traditional German dish of Hasenpfeffer consists of a rich rabbit stew made from soaking the rabbits in juices and letting the mixture sit for two to three days. In the traditional preparation of the dish, the last ingredient a cook would add before the soup was served was a few cups of rabbit blood. This last ingredient, which is usually omitted in modern preparations of the dish, was used to thicken the soup to the proper consistency. Proper care and attention to detail was needed however; if the blood was added while the soup was still too hot, the blood will curdle, ruining the soup.
Image: Kent Wang
8. Korea: Baby Mice Wine
Baby mice wine is an incredibly potent Korean concoction that is made of fermented mice fetuses and rice wine. The process for making the wine is simple: mice fetuses are harvested when they are only a few days old and don’t yet have hair or open eyes; then multiple mice are dropped into a bottle of rice wine and left to ferment for at least one year. The resulting wine has been described as tasting like “roadkill mixed with gasoline”. Although that combo may not sound too appealing, Baby Mice Wine is credited by folk-medicine to be the cure to almost any ailment, from asthma to liver disease.
9. Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador: Roasted Guinea Pig
In Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, roasted Guinea Pig has been eaten by the local farming population for over 4,000 years. The guinea pigs, called “cuy,” are a larger variety of the rodent then are kept as pets in the U.S., and they are breed specifically for eating in guinea pig farms in certain parts of Central America.
The animal is almost always served whole, sometimes filleted down its belly and other times skewered like a kabob and fire-roasted. Although it’s a traditional “comfort food” for many people living in the Andes region of Central America, the meat itself can be very sparse, bony, and dry.
10. China: Guilinggao (Turtle)
Guilinggao, also called Turtle Shell Jelly, is a jelly-like dessert made from the powdered shell of the Golden Coin Turtle and is a popular dish at Dim Sum all over China. People enjoy the jelly not only for its taste but for its reported medicinal value. During the preparation of Guilinggao, turtle shell powder is boiled for hours and then medicinal ingredients are added. Eventually all of the liquid evaporates until a jello-like substance is formed.
Image: Eddie Wong
The dish is so popular that canned Guilinggao is mass-produced and is available in Chinatowns across the world.
Image: weird meat
11. United States: Goat Meat Tacos
Goat Meat Tacos have become a staple at many roadside taco trucks throughout the United States. These taco trucks are like mini, mobile, kitchens with the capacity to cook and serve food from wherever the truck is parked. Although Goat Meat Tacos have been a favorite in taquerias in Mexico for generations, their popularity is rising steadily in the United States. The goat meat, which is usually marinated overnight, is shredded and cooked slowly to maintain the goat’s flavor without letting the meat get tough.
Experienced another cultural delicacy you consider a pet? Let us know in the comments!