We too often think that whatever looks good is going to taste good, and vice versa. Just think about it. When we go to the grocery store, we’re not going to pick out the fruit that looks discolored or deformed. Heck, even when choosing a cereal we’ll gravitate towards the one with the most eye-catching box or price tag.
But how many yummy foods are we missing out on just because they don’t look appetizing to the eye? There are tons of foods out there that people are missing out on just because they’re turned off by the look of it. But they say never to judge a book by its cover, and the same can definitely be said about food. Just because something doesn’t look like how we’re normally used to or has an unusual smell or shape doesn’t mean we should kick it to the curb. Rather, use it as an opportunity to expand one’s taste palette. Who knows, it could be your new favorite food!
That’s why we’ve put together this list of 25 food items that are strange and unusual looking, but still well worth a try! Read on to discover what foods you should give a chance. It doesn’t have to be your new go-to meal, but there’s nothing wrong with trying something at least once.
How do you feel about eating something with a face?
Granted, if you’re a meat-eater, then many of the things you ingest once had a face. But it's an entirely different story when the thing you’re chowing down on is served to you with its face staring up at yours. And if you order a monkfish in a restaurant, that’s exactly what you should be prepared for. Monkfish are often used in France's cuisine and have been compared with lobster for having a similar taste. Though only the monkfish tale is edible, the fish is often served with its huge head and mouth upright, giving it an eerier appearance. But at least it tastes good, right?
24 Custard Apples
You can never go wrong with an apple, right?
Most apples tend to look the same at the grocery store, minus their variations in colour and size. But we say that only having never seen a custard apple for sale in the produce section. These unique-looking apples kind of resemble an artichoke or a dried up soccer ball - neither of which sounds very appetizing. Despite their unyielding appearance, custard apples are also known as sugar apples for their ultra-sweet taste. They’re extremely popular in Asia, so make sure to give one a try if you ever come across it.
This might be the closest you’ll ever come to eating a sea urchin!
Rambutan is a medium-sized tropical tree that people have been eating for centuries. This intriguing plant is native to areas in Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia and Malaysia. It is related to fruits like the lychee, mamoncillo, and longan. The fruits are commonly sold fresh in markets or also used to make jams. Unfortunately, rambutans haven’t caught on in popularity throughout the West, likely due to their eyebrow-raising exterior. Still, this fruit is high in vitamin C and is said to have a unique flavor, so we definitely recommend checking it out if you get the chance.
Mushrooms all look the same, right? Wrong!
You’ve never seen a real mushroom until you’ve come face-to-face with a morel. These unique mushrooms have become well-known for their honeycomb appearance. They a common feature in gourmet cuisine, particularly in France, and have actually resulted in a multi-million dollar industry. Who would’ve thought? Gourmet chefs tend to love morels for their various health benefits. They’ve got great nutritional content, offering significant amounts of iron, copper, and calcium, just to name a few.
21 Buddha’s Hand
A fruit has got to be exceptional if it’s named after a religious figure. And Buddha’s hands sure won’t disappoint... once you get past its interesting exterior.
Originating from China, these funky yellow fruits were named for the fact that its branches kind of resemble a person’s fingers stretching outwards. They’re known for their sweet smell and seedless, citrus taste. Most fans of this fruit compare it to lemon. Buddha’s hand has got a ton of health benefits that make us surprised that it’s not more popular in Western cuisine- it’s known for relieving pain, improving the respiratory system and immunity, and regulating blood pressure.
So many people refuse to try octopus since when it’s served it looks so similar to, well, an octopus. There’s something unnerving about knowing putting tentacles in your mouth. At least you’ll never be able to watch The Little Mermaid the same way ever again.
Still, octopus is a favorite seafood delicacy for a reason. Many people compare the taste to crab or lobster. And there’s also a lot of research that suggests octopus has a lot of health benefits. “Octopus is low in saturated fat and contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for cardiovascular health,” Shape magazine explains. “It is a good source of iron and contains many other vitamins and minerals, including A, C, B, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and selenium.”
Tempeh never looks very appetizing - after all; it looks like a mixture of beans with sticky white mush in between them. But there’s a reason this food is so popular in other parts of the world.
Originating from Indonesia, tempeh is a traditional soy product that is a staple source of protein in many cultures. It's similar to tofu in that it’s made from soybeans, though it has different nutritional values and texture. Specifically, since it’s a whole soybean product, it has a higher content of protein, fibre, and valuable vitamins. It has a firm texture and earthy flavor but can take on the flavor of what its cooked with, also similar to tofu.
18 The Ugli Fruit
Given that its name hints that it’s not the prettiest fruit around, we don’t blame anyone for having low expectations when trying this fruit out.
Ugli fruits hail from Jamaica and are a cross between oranges, tangerines, and grapefruits, which leads to its infamous exterior - a bumpy, wrinkly, and slightly discolored peel that doesn’t make the fruit look too appetizing. However, looks can be deceiving because once you cut into an Ugli fruit, you’re met with juicy, tangy goodness. So, if you ever stumble upon one of these fruits in the supermarket, don’t judge it until you try it. And our guess is that you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
At first glance, this green and brown dish looks like something that’s been sitting around for too long. But, nope - this is what it looks like fresh out of the pot!
Callaloo is a famous Caribbean dish made from a leafy vegetable like amaranth and taro root, though it can also be made with spinach or okra. It’s said to have a similar taste to that of spinach, just a bit creamier. This healthy dish has been praised as a ‘superfood’ for its countless nutritional benefits. It’s a high source of protein, iron, and fibre, thus helping build muscles and improve the immune system. This is one food you’ve got to try if you’re looking to improve your health!
Is it just us, or do you also see a dozen tiny eyeballs when looking at noni?
This interesting fruit might be unsightly to look at, but it has tons of health benefits that can’t be ignored. While it doesn’t have a great smell and it boasts a bitter taste, noni has historically been a staple food. It earned the name “starvation fruit” after Indigenous people relied on them during times of famine. Nowadays, noni has been incorporated into juice drinks, powders, and even cosmetic products. It can either be eaten raw or uncooked. The seeds are also edible after being roasted.
15 Basil Seeds
Basil seeds tend to look like frog eggs when submerged in water, but that hasn’t stopped tons of people from utilizing the health benefits of these tiny seeds.
Basil seeds are found in the Ocium sanctum plant and have been used for centuries due to their numerous health properties. They’ve been known to reduce inflammation, improve the immune and digestive system, and have cardiovascular benefits. Likewise, some have suggested they also helped in reducing stress and aiding in weight loss. Nowadays, you’ll often find Basil seeds used in desserts and drinks. Are the benefits enough to make you try this interesting food out?
14 Tapioca Pudding
Tapioca pudding looks like something you might vomit after a long night out- aren’t we right? But despite its questionable appearance, it’s actually a sweet treat that many have loved throughout the years.
All you need is tapioca mixed with milk, cream, or even coconut milk to create this tasty dish at home. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that tapioca is loved by health nuts everywhere for its nutritional content. Tapioca is free from cholesterol and low in sodium and is a high source of fibre, calcium, and folate. Plus, its easy to digest, so it’s perfect for anyone with allergies or someone who’s getting over being sick.
Once someone tells you that mussels look like aliens, you’ll never be able to look at this delicacy the same way again.
Still, the questionable appearance of mussels hasn’t stopped them from amassing a ton of popularity. Mussels have been a popular seafood for hundreds of years and are eaten all across the world. During World War II, mussels became a staple food in diners and restaurants across America due to the little availability of red meat at the time.
Nowadays, mussels are a delicacy you can find in most restaurants specializing in seafood. They can be smoked, boiled, steamed, roasted, or even barbecued.
It’s hard to make anything fermented popular, but Kefir is rising in popularity as a healthy alternative to classic milk!
This white drink originated in Russia and is made from the bacterial fermentation of kefir grain. Health gurus praise it for being a rich source of probiotics. “They offer probiotics and are commonly eaten in many indigenous diets,” dietician Jill Weisenberger told Shape magazine.
The jury is still out on whether this is as tasty as milk or not. But it could be a great option if you’re looking for a milk substitute that isn’t almond, soy or rice milk.
11 Jerusalem Artichoke
While a Jerusalem Artichoke kind of looks like a mangled ginger root, it's important to know the difference! This artichoke may look unappetizing, but its filled with tons of valuable minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients that make it a healthy option- and a yummy one, if you cook it correctly.
“It’s an especially notable source of iron, a mineral that’s challenging to get enough of for many women. The other main nutrients in Jerusalem artichoke are potassium, magnesium, and fibre, “ says Shape magazine. “The many benefits these nutrients provide include maintaining good digestive and immune system functioning and potentially lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.”
10 Vegetarian Mock Duck
Nowadays, there are tons of meat substitutes that can offer vegetarians and vegans the taste of meat while still eating something plant-based. And while many of these options look tantalizing, we’re not sure that mock duck is one of them.
This gluten-based vegetarian food is crafted from wheat gluten, salt, soy sauce, and oil. The dish gets its flavour from stewing the gluten in soy sauce and MSG. It has an infamous, albeit artificial ‘plucked duck’ texture to it, leading to its comical name. While fans of this dish say it’s a great alternative to meat, somehow we’re not as convinced.
9 Stinky Tofu
Yes, this is something that actually exists!
Most people love adding tofu to a dish for its flavourlessness and ability to soak up the flavour of whatever it’s being cooked with. But stinky tofu is another story.
This is a type of fermented tofu with as strong an odour as its name suggests. It is actually a delicacy and is commonly sold throughout China at night markets or roadside stands as a snack, rather than as a dish in restaurants. Some brave souls have compared this dish to the taste of blue cheese, and its distinctive smell to garbage or smelly feet. Would you have the guts to try this for yourself?
This dish is what nightmares are made of! Lifrarpylsa refers to a type of Icelandic liver sausage or ‘haggis’ that are produced from the innards of a sheep. Yes, seriously. The ingredient list calls for sheep’s blood, minced sheep fat, chopped onions, oatmeal, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper, amongst other things.
This dish has traditionally been prepared in the fall around slaughter time and was a common meal in many Icelandic homes up until the 20th century. Nowadays, people feel more grossed out by the contents of this sausage than ever, so we can’t say it's as popular as it used to be.
7 Wheat Meat
Seitan has been named the ‘popular wheat meat’- but do you think this could totally replace meat in your life?
This tofu-like substance is something no one is going to be a huge fan of until they try it. It’s got a weird texture that somehow looks like a mix between meatloaf and mushed brains. But the cool thing about it that’s got people talking is how it becomes similar to the look and texture of meat when it’s cooked, which is a huge pro for vegans and vegetarians. Likewise, Seitan has high nutritional value, as it is a huge source of protein making it a true meat substitute.
6 Bitter Melon
‘Bitter’ isn’t the first word that comes to mind when we see this funky-looking fruit, but its (like you guessed it) bitter taste is what helped it earn this less-than-endearing name. Although it's not too tasty to have on its own, the bitter melon is a key ingredient in many Asian dishes.
The bitter melon first originated in India before being introduced to China in the 14thcentury. Nowadays, it’s commonly used in many East and South Asian dishes. In fact, if you’ve ever ordered a stir-fry or Asian-style soup, then chances are you may have already tried this unusual melon.
If you’re a huge fan of seaweed, then you’re going to love this option.
Wakame is a sea vegetable with a similar taste and texture to that of kelp and seaweed. This delicacy has become increasingly popular with foodies who rave about its nutritional content. Specifically, Wakame is high in iodine, which is good for your thyroid, and vitamin K, which is important for bone health. Vitamin K also plays a role in cardiovascular health,” Shape magazine explains. “Sea vegetables are also a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins. They also contain the antioxidant vitamins C and E and the antioxidant minerals manganese and zinc.”
4 Sloppy Joe
To anyone who hasn’t seen one of these bad boys in real life, they might be off-put by the amount of, er, sloppiness of this meal!
Sloppy Joes are famous American-made sandwiches that pair ground beef or pork with onions, tomatoes sauce or ketchup, and other seasonings on top of a hamburger bun. It might look like it’s a total mess, but that’s the beauty in this junky meal- and the taste will convince you that we’re right. Eating this dish with your hands often results in a big mess due to the sloppy nature that its served in. So we recommend using a fork and knife unless you like getting greasy goodness everywhere.
3 Blue Cheese
Let’s be honest: who really wants to eat mould?
There are only a small handful of people who enjoy eating this smelly cheese and all the power to them. But most folks are turned off by its less-than-attractive appearance and off-putting smell. The blue parts of this cheese are in fact bits of mould that began to (intentionally) form during the cheese’s ageing process. Although the mould is obviously safe to ingest, most people can’t get over knowing what it really is. Still, blue cheese is reportedly a lot more nutritious than other cheese out there, and many people love it with bread and wine. Are you one of those folks?
Caviar has gotten itself a reputation for being a ‘fancy person food…’
But a quick look at it will make you question how in the world it ever became synonymous with fanciness. If you didn’t know, caviar is technically fish eggs. It’s often served as an appetizer in high-end restaurants where it is used as a spread for bread- kind of similar to butter, we guess. Interestingly, this delicacy boasts various health benefits. It's rich in major omega 3 fatty acids, selenium, and B12. All you’ve got to do is get over the look and feel that you’re literally eating tiny, jelly eggs. Gross or nah?
If you’re not from Canada, then you’re definitely going to think this guilty pleasure is one strange dish!
Poutine is a Quebec-born delicacy that first became popular in the ‘50s for combining fries with copious amounts of gravy and cheese curds. Its reputation has earned it the name “Canada’s national dish.” It sounds pretty gross on paper, but one bite will have you reconsidering. Nowadays, you can find restaurants specifically devoted to poutine, which will let you put anything on top of your fries concoction, including meat, vegetables, and all different kinds of cheese. What would you order your poutine with?