10 Unusual Foods You Have To Try When Traveling
Testing out the traditional fare of the region is a quintessential way to step into a local’s shoes. From small food stalls to family-run holes in the wall, asking a local where they eat is the best way to find something delicious. While insects aren’t found on food carts in New York City, they’re a star attraction in other parts of the world, and you can find food on nearly every street corner to help you step out of your culinary comfort zone.
Here are 10 unusual foods to try on your next trip abroad.
Biltong in Cape Town
Don’t be mistaken: Biltong is not jerky, and locals will be quick to tell you so! This South African snack food is popular because of its unique flavor and versatility, and it’s found in market stalls, supermarkets and gas stations. This dried, cured meat is made with anything from beef to springbok to ostrich and is flavored with vinegar, salt and spices.
Escamoles in Mexico City
Escamoles are the larvae of a poisonous ant that lays eggs in the roots of agave or mescal plants. Typically, this luxury food item is pan-fried with butter and spices, and their nutty flavor can be found in tacos, omelets or as a standalone dish with a side of guacamole.
Beetles in Bangkok
Fried up with oil, garlic and chili, water beetles are a popular street food in Thailand, along with other insects like silkworms and grasshoppers. Aside from being high in protein, fried water beetles, known as maeng da in Thai, have a tasty black licorice flavor.
Shark Burgers in Trinidad
Known as Bake-and-Shark or Shark-and-Bake, this sandwich is synonymous with Trinidad and Tobago and is a staple along Maracas Beach. Fried flatbread is topped with deep-fried shark meat, coleslaw, tomato and sauces like mango chutney or tamarind.
Yak Butter Tea in Lhasa
This traditional Tibetan beverage is a necessity for the cold climate, being high in fat and calories, and is always served to guests. Called po cha, it’s made with black tea, thick yak butter and salt, then stirred vigorously to make a hot and foamy drink with a earthy cheesy flavor.
Guinea Pigs in Lima
Guinea pig (known as cuy) has been part of the Peruvian diet for over 5000 years and is served all everywhere. From market stalls where its deep fried to high-end restaurants where diners feast on roasted alfalfa-fed guinea pig. Cuy tastes like a cross between rabbit and chicken, and remember to always order one for yourself; there isn’t enough meat for two people.
Tarantulas in Skuon
Fried spiders are considered a delicacy in Cambodia, and while this dish is abundant in Phnom Penh, Skuon is where you go for plates piled high with tarantulas on every street corner. The texture of a-ping is similar to a soft-shell crab, and it’s tossed in sugar, salt and garlic before being deep-fried.
Balut in the Phillipines
Considered a Filipino treat, balut consists of hard-boiling a fertilized duck egg and eating it directly from the shell. It’s served on every street corner and also in high-end restaurants; while this squirm-worthy dish can be controversial, the flavors of fresh duck and creamy yolk are well-liked.
Tuna Eyeballs in Tokyo
This Japanese staple fried up with garlic and soy sauce. Served whole, the eyes have a taste similar to squid or oyster and can be found at most seafood market restaurants, or grocery stores if you want to try cooking them up yourself.
Surströmming in Stockholm
The smell of this Swedish dish is so strong it’s almost exclusively eaten outside, perfect for a picnic, right? Herring is fermented for at least six months and canned, then served on thin, crisp bread called tunnbröd with butter, potatoes, sour cream and diced onion or dill.
Gabby Peyton is a writer based in Toronto. A photographer, dabbling archaeologist, and Champagne aficionado, Gabby’s travel is dictated by food; her favourite places are Istanbul, Bologna and St. John’s, Newfoundland.