If you're a foodie, then international food items generally hold lots of special appeal. International foods are where things get really fun, out of the ordinary, delicious, and sometimes… disturbing!
Food, and whether it's good or not, is quite a subjective area that really comes down to personal opinion and also what one's most used to. What tastes great to me might be underwhelming or even gross to you. We all have different preference and opinions about food and what tastes good. This gets even more pronounced when it comes to international foods!
Some dishes that an entire country may celebrate and chow down on regularly, may be, to another person, perfectly abhorrent. And other international foods may be common fare to people who eat them all the time, but we may be ready to cross oceans to get some… For example, authentic pizza has probably secretly (and not so secretly) inspired many a Mediterranean holiday.
Seeing as international foods can be such a contentious and debated topic, we decided that it's high time we made a list of the top ten international foods that we would eat and recommend to adventurous foodies AND a list of the top ten international food items that, to be honest, can simply be passed over.
Be prepared to be tempted, possibly nauseated, and definitely informed! Because this list is probably not what you expect.
Spoiler: we're passing on dragon fruit. Shock! Horror! Read on to find out why.
20 Pass: Angulas
Angulas are baby silver eels, which are one of the most expensive foods in Spain, costing as much as 1,000 euros per kilogram. With this price tag, one would assume that angulas must be epically delicious. Something must make them worth forking out for.
But no, from many accounts, it appears that once cooked, baby silver eels are practically tasteless. The more polite foodies have described their flavor as 'delicate,' but the more outspoken have opted for a verdict of 'flavorless.'
So foodie friends, this is an international dish that we're gonna pass up—if only to protect out wallets.
19 Eat: Vorschmack
Vorschmack is a popular appetizer dish from Finland. It consists of minced beef, anchovies or herring, and onions. It's then served along with a potato in its jacket and pickled beets, pickles, and sour cream. Some have dissed the dish for being too heavy an app, but this isn't really the kind of complaint a true foodie would make!
The combination of beef, fish, and onion, with the pickled sides, we think, makes for a fantastic umami bomb. Beef and fish are both big umami sources, and pickles are also bringers of umami. So, vorschmack, for us, is definitely an eat.
18 Pass: Fried Tarantulas
Fried tarantulas are pretty popular fare in some places. If the idea and the photo aren't enough to put you off, we always have Angelina Jolie’s guidance to follow. The actor turned producer recently shot her Netflix movie And Then They Killed My Father in Cambodia, where she did an interview with the BBC during which she and her kids fried up and ate some tarantulas.
Angelina Jolie's says that they're tasty, but the legs make eating them quite difficult. The chewing is hard, she says. Well, that’s it. What with the legs and all, it doesn’t matter how tasty these spiders are—we're gonna pass.
17 Eat: Goat Meat
The thought of eating goat meat can sound as unpalatable as the idea of eating barbecued guinea pigs. However, according to Gordon Ramsay and Masterchef, goat is actually the most widely eaten meat in the world. So, if you say to somebody hailing from Jamaica, Greece, or India that you don’t eat goat, it's like somebody saying that eating chicken is gross!
The proper culinary term for goat meat is ‘chevron,’ which is, like so many other culinary words, a French term.
It's true that some goat meat, or chevron, can be super strong in taste; however, not all goat meat tastes like this. It's the meat from overly mature male goats that has this terrible taste. Animals that are at the right age to be slaughtered generally yield a pleasant and relatively tender meat.
16 Pass: Cuy Asado
No, you're not seeing wrong. If you think that this picture is of a whole rodent, paired with a side of fries, you're 100% correct. 'Cuy' means 'guinea pig' in the Andes. 'Asado' is the Spanish term for 'barbecue.' Which means that 'cuy asado' translates to 'barbequed guinea pig.'
Barbecued guinea pig is a massively popular traditional dish in the Andes. It's a much-loved entree that's served widely in Peru and the Arequipa region. It's said that the taste is very similar to a blend of chicken and rabbit, and the head section, complete with brain, eyes, and ears, is supposed to be the best part...
Not sure about you guys, but we're gonna sit this one out!
15 Eat: Pork Crackling
Pork crackling has to arguably be one of Britain's favorite snack foods. Also known as pork rinds, pork crackling is thought to have originated in the British Isles through fat rendering.
Before the industrial revolution, Europe relied largely on animal fats such as pig lard for cooking. To get at the lard, pig rinds had to be cooked until most of the fat had rendered out and only the crispy structure of the skin was left. Hello, pork crackling!
If you've never had crackling before, this may sound a little gross. But trust us, pork crackling is so crispy, so savory, and just oily enough to be delicious that every foodie has to give it a try.
14 Pass: Durians
Durians make for a definite PASS for one simple reason: they stink to the heavens! No, actually, to the moon. Darth Vader could probably smell the durian fruit all the way from the Executor—that must be why he was so sour all of the time!
Okay, maybe that’s taking things a little too far. But durian fruit really does stink. Originating from Southeast Asia, it's been described as smelling like ‘turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock.’ This definitely doesn't sound like something we want to be trying anytime soon.
Some people enjoy them in smoothies and with ice cream. But unless you're prepared to eat with a clothespin squeezing your nostrils shut, it may be best to steer clear.
13 Eat: Moules Frites
Calling all mussel lovers! Mediterranean style food at its best, Moules Frites, as you've most probably guessed, is mussels served with a side of chips. Moules Frites is popular in France and Jersey and is thought to have originated in Belgium, where it's the national dish.
Although moules frites seems a pretty stylish dish now, in the past, mussels were one of the cheapest and most abundant foods on the Flemish coast. Fried potatoes were another low-budget fare, and so the pairing of chips and mussels was inevitable—just another example of how scarcity can lead to great things...
12 Pass: Dragon Fruit
A quick delve into the 'Gram and food trends will show that the dragon fruit is enjoying a spot in the limelight of healthy eating. It's super pretty to look at, and it photographs amazingly, hence perhaps the Insta takeover!
The problem with dragon fruit, however, is that while it looks like it must be simply bursting with flavor, in actuality, dragon fruit is pretty bland. It really doesn’t taste like much! If you want to use some to bulk up a smoothie or make a fruit salad look bomb, by all means...
But if you're going to pay top dollar for some out-of-season dragon fruit and are expecting them to be deliciously well worth it, we'd suggest you pass.
11 Eat: Biltong
If your path and that of biltong happen to cross and if you're a self-respecting foodie, you have to try this food out. Biltong is a South African snack, very similar to beef jerky. It's essentially cured meat that's seasoned with salt and coriander seeds. It's cut into thin strips and often enjoyed with a beer as a savory snack.
Biltong is often made using beef, but it can also be made from game and antelope meat or chicken. The chicken variety is usually spiced up to the max with chili and delivers quite a kick.
Besides being eaten as a snack, biltong can also be put into sandwiches, salads, and wraps or used as a delicious pizza topping.
10 Pass: Deviled Kidneys
If you enjoy kidneys, we apologize. But for the lover of food and flavor, deviled kidneys are not where things get good. Deviled kidneys are a marginally popular dish in Britain, where they're traditionally eaten at breakfast.
Many people prefer to stay away from eating organs simply because of the concept of them. However, barring being gross to think about, some organ-bearing foods can taste reasonably good, such as liver pate.
Kidneys, on the other hand, are a different story. Why? Because they can taste faintly of… urine! Why anybody would want to eat anything that tastes remotely of urine is beyond us. SO, let’s just leave it at that!
9 Eat: Bunny Chow
Despite its name, bunny chow doesn't involve bunnies or rabbit meat of any kind. Bunny chow is a South African food that consists of a hollowed-out bread loaf, filled with anything your heart desires. The origins of the name are uncertain, but whether it's worth a try or not is crystal clear. If you're a carb-loving foodie, bunny chow is where it's at.
Typically a worker’s meal, bunny chow can consist of meat stew and bread, curry and bread, or the ultimate: chips in bread. While the stew and loaf combos are probably healthier, chips stuffed into a half bread loaf, drizzled with vinegar and sprinkled with salt, are the carb combo of dreams!
8 Pass: Salty Licorice
If you've never eaten salty licorice and happen to have some offered to you, you're in for an unpleasant surprise. Salty licorice is REALLY salty. Hardly sweet at all as well as being salty, this weird licorice is also pretty bitter.
For some reason, the folks in Northern Europe really like this stuff. And we really can’t quite see why, as there isn’t anything redeeming about salty licorice that we know of—except perhaps the health benefits of the licorice (if it's naturally flavored). But even those aren't worth struggling through a mouthful of this bitter and salty ‘candy.’
7 Eat: Baklava
Baklava has to be one of the best international desserts ever. We were almost going to go with tiramisu on this one. However, tiramisu is so popular all over now that baklava has taken its spot as most delicious lesser-known international dessert.
Baklava is commonly made in Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, and a number of other countries. Ingredients can vary depending on which country it's made in. But the basics of the dessert is a multilayered section of phyllo pastry, combined with chopped nuts and honey or syrup. The result is a super flaky and crispy topped dessert with a deliciously gooey and sweet base.
6 Pass: Maggot Cheese
Maggot cheese is a real, much-celebrated cheese officially called "casu marzu." It hails from Sicily, and it's thought that originally the maggots were by accident, thanks to a lack of refrigeration in ancient times. Over the millennia, however, the maggots have become an integral part of casu marzu. It's thought that the acids that they ‘excrete’ while burrowing around in the cheese wheels make the cheese taste good.
If the thought of eating maggots in your cheese isn't enough to stop you from trying out this gross international food, be aware that the EU food hygiene health regulations have now banned this cheese for safety reasons. We can totally see why...
5 Eat: Parmigiano-Reggiano
While Maggot cheese is a definite pass, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is a whole other story! Parmigiano Reggiano is Parmesan cheese. And not only is it what we know as Parmesan cheese; it's also the original Parmesan that's produced in a specific region (and none other) in Italy.
The cheese and its name are so sought after and protected that EU law stipulates that the names ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’ and ‘Parmesan’ can only be legally used for the Parmesan that's made in specific regions in Italy. For this reason, Kraft had to change their labeling in Europe from ‘Parmesan’ cheese to ‘Pamesello.’
Parmesan cheese, as we know, is already a reigning favorite. So, if you get a chance to sample the real Parmesan from Italy, you have to!
4 Pass: Parma Ham
Parma ham is one of Italy's iconic food products, and you may be wondering why we're committing the blasphemy of putting it on the 'pass' list.
The reason why it may be best to 'pass' the parma ham when sampling international cuisine is this. Genuine, well-preserved, and well-stored parma ham is amazing. It's incredibly aromatic and adds massive umami to just about anything it touches. Unfortunately, if parma ham isn't stored properly, it can develop a terrible smell.
While not off, the smell of the ham can be so strong that it can really ruin one's meal if you aren't used to it. So, unless sure of the source, it may be best to veer clear of the parma if you're eating at an untried restaurant.
3 Eat: Salami From Italy
When in Italy... salami is a must. If you've never eaten authentic salami, some would argue that you've never lived. Especially if you're a foodie!
This salami comes in a wide variety, but there's one common factor among the different varieties. They're mainly high quality and made in the traditional way. The making and curing of good salami are somewhat of an art and one that the people in Italy have been perfecting for thousands of years.
Unlike parma ham, most salamis don't stink, and if you do come across a variety which does smell strong, there will undoubtedly be other milder ones to try as well.
2 Pass: Marrow On Toast
Marrow on toast is another popular meal in Britain. It consists of cooked marrow bones, which you scoop out, and then the marrow is spread onto toast. While it may be a nutritious meal—as marrow is thought to be full of nutrients—it can tend to be very fatty.
The taste of the marrow is mild but can be off-putting if one isn't used to it. When marrow is cooked into a soup, it spreads out over the dish. But when eaten on toast, the marrow is very much ‘in your face,’ and the mouthfeel is decidedly slimy... and like... well, the way one would imagine marrow to feel!
1 Eat: Marmite On Toast
Marmite on toast is another popular international eat. It's most common in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. In Australia, it's called "Vegemite." It was brought to international attention from the hit song ‘Land Down Under’ by Men At Work.
Marmite and Vegemite are made from yeast extract, dark brown to black in color, slightly bitter, and quite salty. While Marmite can be an acquired taste, it's super high in umami flavors and, if spread thinly, not bad at all.
For a foodie wanting to try out Marmite on toast, the trick is to spread it thinly onto well-buttered toast. This brings out the best of the flavor.