Food is a universal necessity and an integral part of every culture worldwide. It brings us together, makes our memories, and makes us feel good. However, what one person considers a delicacy, another may find repulsive. Cultural norms, religious beliefs, environmental factors, and personal preferences all contribute to the vast array of foods that people cannot or will not eat. However, this is not limiting in any regard as it is curiosity that opens the door to begin letting the food in.
Casu Marzu – Italy
Sardinia, Italy is home to a cheese known as Casu Marzu. This traditional cheese is made from sheep’s milk but takes an unexpected twist as it ferments. Casu Marzu becomes “infested” with live insect larvae, specifically cheese flies. While the thought of eating live insect larvae might turn the stomach of many, this cheese is considered a delicacy among some Sardinians. However, it is illegal under European Union food safety regulations.
About 70% of people around the world are lactose intolerant meaning they cannot drink milk but this is certainly on another level.
Fugu – Japan
Fugu, or pufferfish, is an infamous Japanese delicacy, but it’s also one of the world’s most dangerous foods. Certain parts of the pufferfish contain a potent neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin, which can be fatal if not prepared correctly. Chefs must undergo rigorous training and obtain a special license to serve fugu. Even so, consuming this dish remains a risky venture, making it a food that many are understandably wary of trying.
Balut – Philippines
Balut is a popular street food in the Philippines, but it might not be for the faint of heart. This dish consists of a fertilized duck embryo, typically 17 days old, with partially formed feathers, beaks, and bones. Balut is often seasoned with salt and enjoyed as a snack. While it’s a delicacy to some, the idea of eating a partially developed bird embryo is off-putting to many others.
Safe to say, this hasn’t caught on to the Western Civilization, well, not yet anyway.
Hákarl – Iceland
Hákarl is a traditional Icelandic dish made from fermented shark meat. The preparation process involves burying the shark meat underground for several months to break down its toxins, resulting in a dish with a pungent ammonia-like odor and a strong, acquired taste. Anthony Bourdain famously described it as “the single worst, most disgusting, and terrible-tasting thing” he had ever eaten. It is not for the unadventurous eater.
Surströmming – Sweden
Surströmming is a Swedish fermented herring, known for its incredibly strong and pungent odor. The can swells during fermentation, and the process releases foul-smelling gases. Some aficionados find the taste appealing, while others are turned off by its odor, which has led to it being banned on certain airlines. Its unique preparation makes it a divisive food even within Sweden.
Snake Wine – Southeast Asia
In various Southeast Asian countries, you can find snake wine, a beverage containing a whole venomous snake inside a bottle of rice wine or grain alcohol. It’s believed to have medicinal properties and is often consumed as a form of traditional medicine. However, the sight of a preserved snake in a bottle of alcohol might deter those with a fear of snakes or an aversion to unusual drinks.
Not to mention some snakes are endangered.
Most People Won’t Eat Something Because They Probably Shouldn’t
The world is a vast and diverse place, and so too are its culinary customs. We are drawn to very strange things after all. What some may view as a delicacy, others may find repugnant or even dangerous. The foods mentioned in this article represent just a small sample of the many unusual and taboo foods found around the globe.
As you explore different cultures and their culinary traditions, you’ll likely encounter an array of dishes that challenge your culinary comfort zone. While some people may enjoy these unconventional foods, it’s perfectly acceptable to stick to the dishes you know and love – after all, food should be a source of joy and satisfaction, not discomfort or fear.