New York. Paris. Tuscany. Hong Kong. A big part of why these places have become worldly is because of their gastronomic scenes. They host some of the best eateries in the world, and are definitely a must-visit for any traveling foodie. However, if you really want to travel around the world to sample some of the most unique foods that are hard to find everywhere else, here’s a list of 7 destinations to challenge your taste buds, and satisfy your hunger for travel:
Would you rather be the “guinea pig” in sampling the exotic food in Ecuador, or would you rather just eat the guinea pig? Cuy, or guinea pig, is a popular traditional food in the Andes, so much that it’s depicted in an 18th-century painting of The Last Supper. The furry critter is meticulously prepared in the kitchen, where it’s skinned, gutted, seasoned, and baked or broiled to perfection. It tastes like rabbit — or even a little like dark meat turkey — and it definitely goes down better when you ignore that you’re actually eating a rodent.
Think eating in the Land Down Under is all about Vegemite sandwiches? Well, with all the kangaroos hopping everywhere, it’s no wonder that some consider them to be a food source — and quite a delicious one too. Similar to venison or roast beef, kangaroo fillets and steaks are tender and juicy when prepared well.
In what sounds like it started as a dare, eating scorpions on the streets of Bangkok make for a crunchy and chewy treat — just watch out for the tail. You can find grilled scorpions served on a skewer in several Asian countries (e.g. Thailand and China) as a late night snack — or any time of the day for that matter. It doesn’t sound so disturbing to eat one when you realize that a scorpion is an arthropod, just like its distant underwater relative, the lobster.
In rural villages throughout sub-Saharan Africa, mopani worms provide protein for nourishment — and a bit of flavor. These savory grubs are actually the single-most harvested edible insect in these parts, more than grasshoppers and termites. But you don’t have to rough it in the bush to try this delicacy; at The Boma, a tourist restaurant near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, mopani worms are served in a classy setting — and even stewed with onions, garlic, and tomatoes.
Sardinia sounds like it’s the place to go for sardines, but this Italian island in the Mediterranean is gastronomically known for its cheese. Known by many as “maggot cheese,” casu marzu is a pecorino cheese fermented so long that that maggots start developing inside the rind. This is no mistake; the larvae are introduced in the cheese-making process for they squirm inside and eat away the fats to make the cheese even livelier — and by lively, I mean that quite literally, because they are still moving around in the cheese as you eat it.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? There’s no debate when you eat balut, a delicacy in parts of southeast Asia, like Vietnam and the Philippines. Grab what looks like a hard-boiled egg, crack it open, and inside you’ll find a chicken (or duck) embryo, along with savory, pre-natal goodies. While this sounds and looks disturbing, the taste is like eating a savory chicken stew — and in a convenient single-serving casing.
While technically dead, sannakji, or octopus in Korean, is still very much alive when it’s prepared fresh from the tank. The muscle movement in the octopus legs remain active for quite some time, squirming like worms on a plate, with their suction cups still very active. They cling onto the plate, the table, the chopsticks — even the roof of your mouth if you don’t chew them down before swallowing. But the experience is worth it; you’ll never have sushi this fresh!