One of the best parts of traveling the world is experiencing different cultures and, of course, the food they offer. Everyone loves food, and at each place, you’ll find amazing, crazy, delicious and not-so-delicious meals as a part of each unique culture. So, make sure you’re hungry to try the best of what each country has to offer!
As expected, some of these foods are really different from the food we’d normally eat at home. Some foods you’ll try, fall in love with, and eat 3 or more times a day each day until you leave. I’m thinking gelato in Italy, ramen in Japan, and tapas in Spain. Some foods might be a little more obscure—perhaps you’ve never ever heard of them, but they sound super delicious, so why not try? Think raindrop cakes, fairy bread, boxty, and fufu. Others, however, will have you thinking, “Do people here really eat this?! … Why?!” We’re talking duck fetus eggs, tarantulas, canned bear, and live octopus.
Pro tip: Probably don’t try the ones that could kill you. Yes, eating potentially lethal foods is actually a thing in some places. Make sure you also don’t try to make some of them yourself at home—like sashimi pufferfish or fermented shark—not that you’d want to anyway.
If you’re feeling adventurous, put some of these weird international foods on your list of things to try the next time you travel to a foreign destination. Some will truly surprise and amaze you. Others might make you queasy with the thought. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
30 Yum: Mizu Shingen Mochi (Japan)
Mizu Shingen Mochi, also known as a ‘Raindrop Cake,’ is made from water and agar powder and appears just like a huge raindrop. It’s presented on a funazara—a bamboo boat plate. It’s super light in texture and holds its shape when your spoon digs in. The actual raindrop cake doesn’t taste like much, but it's often served with kinako (soybean powder) and kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup). It does melt, so it needs to be eaten within 30 minutes, but I’m pretty sure it’ll disappear in far less than that!
29 Too Weird: Duck Fetus Egg (Philippines and Cambodia)
This list of weird international delicacies wouldn’t be complete without featuring the special kind of egg that's loved dearly by many people from the Philippines and Cambodia. The eggs have already been fertilized but are cooked midway through development. Served with a tangy, spicy sauce, the egg is cracked open to reveal a soupy, greyish interior that happens to have a beak. Sometimes, feathers have even started to develop. Honestly, it's quite tasty, particularly with the sauce, but the texture of the beak and feathers is really off-putting.
28 Yum: Ostrich Egg Omelette (Africa)
This big bird produces an egg that can weigh more than 3 pounds. That equals about 24 regular chicken eggs, so it’s best shared with friends (8-12 friends, to be exact)! Ostrich egg omelets are traditionally served plain with butter, salt, pepper, and parsley. They say that it’s the traditional dish for a hangover for those in South Africa. As the largest single cell known to science, the ostrich egg will surely amaze you with its size and flavor. Don’t keep your head buried in the sand—try this delicacy!
27 Too Weird: Angulas (Spain)
Despite appearing like small, thick grey noodles, these little wrigglers are actually baby eels. Upon closer inspection, the noodles look like tiny snakes or worms with small black dots for eyes. If you’ve ever been to Spain, you may have seen these served as Pintxos (small bar snacks). They have a very mild flavor, so their appeal probably emerges in part due to their limited availability—their season to arrive on Spain’s Atlantic shores begins in November. Optimal catching weather is in the middle of the rainiest and coldest night, which is when the tide is strong and the water is rough. Righto!
26 Yum: Creier Pane (Romania)
Creier Pane is a delicacy from Romania made using pig, cow or lamb’s brains. The brain is boiled, then crumbed in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs before being deep-fried. What’s not to like about a golden bite-sized morsel with a crisp and crunchy outer layer and a silky, creamy interior? This slightly odd yet tempting dish is growing in popularity, with many countries in the world catching on. It’s often served with a side of vegetables or a big heap of French fries. Count me in!
25 Too Weird: Canned Bear or Reindeer (Finland)
Nope. Just… Nope. Just like we'd pop open a can of tuna, people from Finland will enjoy a fresh can of reindeer or bear meat. This oddity began from a long tradition of hunting in Finland, where reindeer, bears, and moose are common targets. They say reindeer meat is quite lean and has a rich, gamey flavor. You’ll also find Rudolph in other forms around Finland, be it reindeer kebabs, steak, or cold smoked. While reindeer might be similar in taste and texture to venison, I really can’t understand the appeal of bear meat. How do you explain to your kid that they’re eating Mr. Snugglebear?
24 Yum: Ostrich (Worldwide)
Yes, again with the big feathered bird that can’t fly. What's flying, though, is how quickly eating ostrich meat is catching on around the world. Eaten in various places in Europe, the UK, and Asia, it’s super low in fat and still has that rich red-meat taste. It’s often marinated and barbecued, resulting in an extremely soft and tender meat that cooks very quickly on the grill, the barbecue, or a pan. Although it might be a little hard to get past the whole large-bird thing, it’s worth giving a try and seeing what you think!
23 Too Weird: Ackee Plant (West Africa)
This vibrant plant often replaces eggs at breakfast and is commonly served with fried onion and tomatoes. However, if the fruit isn't properly matured, consuming it can kill you. It’s toxic due to the presence of a compound named "hypoglycin A," which can cause severe drops in blood sugar by inhibiting the liver from processing glucose. This can cause permanent brain damage or can even be fatal, but on the bright side, the mature fruit is high in Zinc, Vitamin A, protein, and essential fatty acids. When it’s ready to be eaten, it splits on its own, displaying 3-4 large black seeds. So, although it’s unlikely you’d get confused, I’m not sure it’s worth the risk.
22 Yum: Crickets (Southeast Asia)
These crunchy little snacks are actually more nutritious than you may think. High in protein, iron, and calcium and low in fat, insects are actually a great alternative to eating the stock standard meat we’re used to. Those from Southeast Asia love frying up these buggers and dipping them in a sweet and zesty sauce. Having tried crickets multiple times, I can guarantee that they actually don’t taste gross at all. They’re just crunchy. Plus, because they’re so widespread and accessible, they’re a cheap source of food, potentially helping combat malnutrition in some areas.
21 Too Weird: Tripe (Worldwide)
You may have heard of or even eaten tripe, but it deserves a place on the list as it's literally the stomach lining of cattle or sheep. Most cultures from Eastern Europe and Asia will have some sort of tripe dish in their repertoire, probably due to the desire to limit waste. Those furry-looking noodles in your Vietnamese Pho? Probably tripe. They say raw tripe is quite smelly, so it needs to be washed with vinegar and rinsed. My stomach churns at the thought of eating intestines, but hey... respect for minimizing waste.
20 Yum: Frogs' Legs (France)
Known in France as Cuisses de Grenouilles, frogs’ legs are one of those dishes that we all know about and are simultaneously a little weirded out by. The texture is quite similar to chicken, but the flavor is a little fishier. Cuisses de Grenouilles à la Provençale is a popular dish made with frogs’ legs. The legs are coated in seasoned flour, sautéed in butter and garlic, and topped with some parsley. They can also be breaded and deep-fried if that tickles your fancy—or you know, your throat—a little more.
19 Too Weird: Tarantula (Cambodia)
When food was scarce, people from Cambodia decided to think outside of the box and into their garden by cooking up tarantulas. For some reason, this really took off and has remained a key part of cuisine from Cambodia. Crispy on the outside, with white meat in the head and the body, tarantulas provide a rich snack. However, the body is very bitter, so it's not for the faint-hearted. When in Siem Reap, I mustered up the courage to try just a leg. I don’t regret eating it, but I can’t say I’ll be going back for seconds.
18 Yum: Kangaroo Steak (Australia)
Eating one of Australia’s most loved native animals for dinner is growing in popularity Down Under. Although some people from Australia have an ingrained reluctance to consume their national emblem, restaurants and butchers all around are bringing Skippy to the table. High in protein and iron and low in fat, kangaroo has a similar texture to beef and a more gamey flavour. Kangaroo meat can also be processed into ‘Kanga Bangas’—slang in Australia for "kangaroo sausages." It's said that hunting the marsupials is more sustainable from an environmental perspective—bonus!
17 Too Weird: Drunken Shrimp (China)
My first assumption about this dish was that the sauce placed on the well and truly dead shrimp was alcohol-based. I was incorrect. Shrimp are actually placed completely alive into a pool of strong liquor. They actually become drunk and, therefore, become easier to handle. It’s your job to decapitate the still-wriggling crustacean and pop it in your mouth. Putting aside matters of animal cruelty, this dish isn’t particularly safe to eat due to the risk of food poisoning from eating raw seafood. Nice.
16 Yum: Boxty (Ireland)
Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake, dumpling, or bread. Yes, it’s that versatile! It’s made by grating raw potato and then mixing it with mashed potato. To make boxty dumplings, the mixture is combined with flour and salt and boiled before being sliced and fried in butter. For pancakes, the potato mixture is added to a pancake-like batter before being pan-fried. Boxty bread is simply that pancake mix in a loaf tin, then sliced and fried. Who would’ve thought there’d be so many ways to make it, but boy, do they all sound delicious!
15 Too Weird: Haggis (Scotland)
Again, this list just wouldn’t be complete without featuring Scotland’s national dish. Haggis is basically meat pudding filled with sheep liver, heart, lungs, and other organs mixed with beef and oats. The mixture is spiced, then stuffed into sheep’s intestines and boiled. It’s certainly very affordable and nutritious, but the whole organs-stuffed-in-intestines thing makes me queasy. I’m sorry; I just can’t get past it. If you can, they do say it’s quite tasty and is packed with a whole lot of nutrients!
14 Yum: Chicatanas (Mexico)
Chicatanas, or flying ants, are a special delicacy in Oaxaca, Southern Mexico. Families often collect and prepare these ants themselves, awaiting the rainy season to catch them as they emerge from the ground after the heavy rains. They’re used to make a spicy, garlicky salsa that’s typically served with tortillas and cheese. They say the entire town is filled with excitement when the flying-ant season begins. Catching the ants is also a family activity. Any food that gets people this excited must be pretty good!
13 Too Weird: Mopane Worm (South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana)
Some say it’s tasty, but some can’t get past the fact they’re eating a worm—mixed reviews, to say the least. A popular delicacy in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana, moping worms are plucked from trees and bushes. You squeeze the guts out and boil the worm up with other ingredients or quickly fry it and eat it straight from the pan. Believe it or not, it’s a popular snacking food! This worm is actually a crunchy caterpillar, which will turn into a moth if it’s not eaten first. It’s a staple food in rural areas and a delicacy in some cities. Interesting, but no thanks!
12 Yum: Vorschmack (Finland)
Vorschmack is a traditional Finnish dish that can be made in multiple ways but is typically made with minced lamb and pork meat, anchovies and/or herring, and onions and spices. The meats are roasted with onions, then ground with the fish and allowed to simmer for some time. It’s usually served with beetroot, pickles, sour cream, and baked potato. You'll just know it’s made with love! It's a very interesting and perhaps odd combination, but they do say it’s delicious and just works so well.
11 Too Weird: Fresh Octopus (Korea)
This one may seem a little too far-fetched, but trust me—fresh octopus is a delicacy in Korea. By fresh, I mean alive. And by alive, I mean still wriggling, squirming, and sucking. The tentacles are cut and eaten immediately, or you can eat the octopus whole. That being said, it’s a pretty dangerous dish that's been known to have fatal consequences. Because they’re still functioning, the tentacles can latch onto a person’s throat and choke the diner due to the powerful suction. So chew well!
10 Yum: Vegemite (Australia and New Zealand)
Vegemite is a salty spread made from leftover yeast extract from breweries. It’s thick, dark brown, and perhaps, not that visually appealing. But there’s just something about that bitter saltiness that drives Aussies wild for the stuff. No, you don’t eat it straight out of the jar. How it’s eaten is important in this culinary experience. Lightly toast some white bread to your liking, smear a tonne of butter on it, and add just a slither of vegemite. Not to mention, it’s rich in B vitamins including B1, B2, B3, and folate. Salty deliciousness!
9 Too Weird: Snake (Cambodia, Vietnam and USA!)
In Cambodia and Vietnam, snake is often eaten as a snack or as part of a main meal. You’ll also find it in street food stalls, barbecued and served on a skewer. As it’s so well cooked, it’s quite similar to jerky and has that chewy texture and meaty flavor. But before we get too weirded out by the thought of eating the slithering reptile, this delicacy is served closer than you may think. Deep-Fried Rattlesnake is served in areas of Alabama and Arizona, USA and is actually quite popular!
8 Yum: Fairy Bread (Australia)
Ah, fairy bread... a childhood favorite from Australia. Deemed by some as the epitome of authentic cuisine from Australia, fairy bread warms the hearts of kids and adults alike. It’s no culinary masterpiece, though—it's simply white bread slathered in butter and doused in rainbow sprinkles (or hundreds-and-thousands, as the Aussies call it). So yeah, it’s basically bread, butter, and sugar. But this chewy, sweet, and creamy deliciousness is all the rage at the kids' parties and even more so at any ‘grownups’ event for their nostalgic delight.
7 Too Weird: Casu Marzu (Italy)
Casu Marzu officially takes the cake for the weirdest, most gross international delicacy on the list. I think that’s fair, especially considering this 'rotten maggot cheese’ is now banned in the EU. Casu Marzu begins with filling sheep’s milk cheese with live insect larvae. The maggots digest the cheese and cause it to ferment to decomposition, leaving behind a liquid textured residue. If you’re adventurous, you can find this illegal cheese, but there are some important safety precautions. Firstly, the maggots should be alive as a sign that the cheese is still good. Secondly, you can remove them, but eating the maggots is said to enhance the flavour. Just make sure you close your eyes before biting into them, as they can jump into your eyes. Finally, chew them up really well, as otherwise, they can survive in the stomach and burrow into your intestines. Pass!
6 Yum: Okra (Africa)
It’s believed that this small, green, lengthy vegetable has been used for centuries in Africa. With a thick, slightly furry skin, seeds on the inside, gooey juices, and a slimy texture, it might not be the first vegetable that really tickles your fancy. It may certainly take time to grow accustomed to the texture, but it’s actually really tasty. It’s known as being a key ingredient in gumbo, as its juices act as a thickener. It can be cooked in a thick stew, stir-fried, or dried to be eaten as a snack.
5 Too Weird: Fugu (Japan)
Fugu, which is a pufferfish, has long been a Japanese delicacy, with about 3,800 restaurants serving Fugu around the country. It’s usually eaten raw, cut into thin slices. Just like the rotten maggot cheese from Italy, Fugu is banned in the EU. This is because it naturally contains a deadly poison—tetrodotoxin—which is found in the skin, the skeleton, the ovaries, the intestines, and the liver of the pufferfish. In Japan, preparation is controlled strictly by law, with chefs going through lengthy and rigorous training to achieve the certification necessary. Accidental consumption of the poison results in a terrible death, as there's no antidote. Yikes!
4 Yum: Fufu (Ghana)
Fufu, not to be confused with the Fugu of Japan, is a type of doughy bread-like ball that's eaten regularly in Ghana. Starchy vegetables such as yams or cassava (which is a dense, sweet-tasting potato-like vegetable) are pounded down and added to plantains before being boiled and pounded again until they form a doughy ball. They’re traditionally eaten with soup or a sauce, like we often do with bread! Similar to Fufu, Ugali is made with corn flour instead and is eaten in Southern and Eastern Africa. Ugali is often served with Matumbo (Tripe) stew!
3 Too Weird: Fresh Carp (Czech Republic)
This fish is as fresh as it gets—it’s a Czech Christmas tradition to buy a live carp for the family up to a few days before Christmas. They're purchased from stalls featuring large plastic barrels of water filled with live carp. Once sold, the carp is taken home, the bathtub is filled, and the fish has a temporary new home. The entire family, pets included, delight in having a new pet for a few days. This part all sounds great—until the killing and eating come around. They say it often tastes like fishy mud, but hey, at least the family is together enjoying the tradition.
2 Yum: Dulce De Leche With Mendicrim (Argentina)
Dulce de leche literally means “sweet of milk,” but you can also call it "Christmas in your mouth." It’s basically a thick, liquid caramel, and it's completely delicious. People from Argentina sometimes mix it with mendicrim, which is a type of sour cream. It seems bizarre. Would you put sour cream in your toffee?
Despite the odd combo, they actually work fantastically together. The mendicrim makes the combination even creamier. When making a chocotorta (chocolate cake from Argentina), adding dulce de leche with mendicrim is a key part of the deliciousness.
1 Too Weird: Hákarl (Iceland)
Hákarl is Iceland’s national dish of fermented and dried Greenland shark. The sound of it doesn’t exactly tickle your taste buds, but it’s a meal that's been around for centuries. Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay weren't fans, to say the least. In the process of making Hákarl, the shark carcass is buried in shallow holes for 6-12 weeks in order to drain off poisonous compounds, then prepared and dried for several months. You know it’s ready when it smells like rancid cheese. Let’s leave this one to the Icelanders!