Eating local street food can be one incredible experience, a way to get a feel for and be part of a country’s culture, from Bangkok’s noodle soups around Lumphini Park to Nova Scotia’s lobster rolls and Rome’s porchetta. Street food can often mean delicious and inexpensive things, but not necessarily.
Prejudice aside, it was deprivation more than necessity that aided in the invention of these culinary inventions. For most, the following ten foods make up the list of most disturbing Street Foods around.
10. Durian, Thailand
The durian is a truly bizarre and notorious fruit. It is banned from some Asian hotels and public transit systems, mostly due to its horrific smell. It has produced some memorable descriptions, the most famous of which is from American food legend Julia Child who said “it stank to high heaven”; she recalled “”something like a cross between dead babies mixed with strawberries and Camembert.”
9. Tarantulas, Cambodia
It is said that Cambodians started eating these abundant little protein sources during the horrific conditions under the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s, which is no laughing matter. The actual tarantula-eating capital of the world is Skuon, a market town on the highway about 50 miles from the capital Phnom Penh.They are tossed in a mixture of MSG, sugar, and salt and fried in oil with fresh garlic until the legs are crispy, and the abdomen cooks up a bit. Ew!
8. Escamoles, Mexico
Could you eat the larvae of large, poisonous black spiders nested two feet underground on the roots of maguey plants? How about pan frying them with onion garlic and cilantro? Escamoles, AKA, Mexican/ Insect Caviar, have been considered a delicacy since the time of the Aztecs. They are said to have a cottage cheese consistency and a pleasant, nutty flavor. Still the thought of ingesting what are essentially black ant fetuses may not whet every appetite.
7. Sheep’s Head, Morocco
Many different cuisines utilize the sheep head. The Moroccan version makes the list because, as difficult as it is to imagine choking down head meat at any time of day, it’s traditionally served as breakfast on special occasions. It is one of the signature dishes of the legendary Djemaa el Fna, the market in Marrakesh and UNESCO World Heritage site. The instructions on how to eat a sheep’s head begin with “Wait for the vendor to scrape off the fur.”
6. Vastedda, Italy
The Italian kitchen, La Cucina Povera, may be the most diligent of all the so-called ‘Nose to Tail’ cuisines. Every part of every animal will be found a use, and the spleen is such an example. Why it would be considered edible in anything but the danger of starvation is mystifying. A cow spleen sandwich is served with ricotta and caciocavallo.
5. Cobra Hearts, Vietnam
Asia dominates the market in what has come to be called “extreme eating”. Some Vietnamese believe that eating cobra heart is a virility booster. The fresher they are, the theory goes, the more virile the consumer becomes. That means cutting the heart out of a live cobra at the table, tossing it back with a cobra blood chaser.
4. Hakarl, Iceland
Hákarl is a type of ice shark that’s poisonous when eaten fresh. It’s not widely known that Iceland is a Superpower in Disgusting Food. Yet, this local speciality takes a poison fish, sticks it in the ground and lets it putrefy. It’s then dug up, hung to dry for 5 months then served among friends. Its smell is said to be a mouth-watering combination of stinky cheese, rotten fish and ammonia.
3. Balut, The Philippines
Balut is so completely repulsive, you wouldn’t imagine someone could eat this. Balut are duck eggs with a big difference. They don’t have yolks. No, Balut have an actual partially-formed fetus, feathers, beak and all boiled alive. Just peel the shell and pop it in your mouth.
2. Kegog, China
The fondness for dog meat in southeast Asia may be repulsive, but its preparation is what ultimately and unequivocally disgusts, like an animal rights war crime. Discriminating dog meat palates believe that a shot of adrenaline before death gives the meat a little je ne sais quoi, so the dogs are, horrifically, beaten or tortured.
1. Bat Soup, West Africa
Authorities in Guinea had to intervene and ban this popular dish to combat the spread of Ebola. Medical researchers discovered the fruit bat to be one of the main culprits in the transmission of Ebola from animals to humans. The flying mammals are reservoirs for dozens of nasty viruses. The Center for Disease Control says bats carry other viruses such as rabies, SARS and Marburg.