Century Egg

Unusual Local Delicacies

Here is a tongue in cheek guide to 7 local delicacies from around the world that will put the appetite of even the hardiest gourmand or gastronomic connoisseur to the test.

Durian Fruit, Malaysia

Durian Fruit(Image by John Loo on Flickr)

If you have ever been to Malaysia you will have seen the open air Durian fruit stands that are seemingly ubiquitous in urban and rural areas alike. Yet most Malaysians give these stalls a wide berth, some going as far as to cross the street to avoid them. Durian fruits are even banned from being taken onto public transport in numerous countries. The reason? Their ungodly stench. Durian fruits emit an aroma not unlike rotten onions, or used, sweaty socks, only far more intense. Yet the Durian fruit, native to Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia, is also said to taste like custard, with a subtle nut flavour not unlike almond. This sweet, moreish taste ensures that the fruit remains enduringly popular throughout South East Asia, where it is eaten raw, used in ice creams, sold as pastes, and even added to curries to mitigate the levels of spice. Buy it, hold your breath while cutting it open, and savour the delicious, ripe flesh inside. Just don’t take it on the bus with you.

Natto, Japan

Natto(Image by FotoosVanRobin on Flickr)

Japan is well known for its unique cuisine, with delicacies such as Sashimi, thin slices of raw fish, already well known and much loved around the world. Yet some of Japan’s native foods have failed to make the transition to global popularity. One of these is Natto, a viscous, sticky concoction made from fermented Soy Beans. The smell is not unlike a cheese left in the fridge for too long, while the taste is more nutty and salty. It is the texture however, that puts most off. The beans, after fermenting for a period of up to 20 hours, are coated in a gooey, mucus-like slime that hangs around in the mouth for far too long. If you absolutely must consume Natto, make sure you have a bottle of Ichiban beer, or a beaker of Sake, to wash it down with, or you will surely pay the consequences.

Hakarl, Iceland

(Image by moohaha on Flickr)

Many Nordic nations have their own variety of fermented fish; Lutefisk in Norway, Surstromming in Sweden, and the most notorious of all, Hakarl in Iceland. For some reason Icelanders like to gut and behead freshly caught Basking Sharks, place them in a shallow hole in the ground for six weeks, and then hang the rotting corpse up in their attics for four months. The result? A deeply fermented fish that tastes mostly of urine. Wonderful.

Balut, Philippines

(Image by Marshall Astor on Flickr)

You may like your eggs scrambled, over-easy or sunny side up, but have you ever thought about eating one with a fertilized duck embryo inside? This is just what millions of Filipinos do every day, enjoying duck eggs, called Baluts, boiled alive, then sprinkled with salt, pepper and vinegar. In Vietnam, meanwhile, they prefer to age the eggs for up to 21 days so that the duck embryo has developed bones, a beak, and even feathers. These elements are said to add a comforting “crunch” to the dish. I think I’ll pass, thanks.

Century Eggs, China

Century Egg
(Image by FotoosVanRobin on Flickr)

If you thought that was unusual, just wait until you hear how the Chinese prepare their eggs. Originally buried in the ground for months or even years, the Century Egg is a popular delicacy in both China and Taiwan. Modern Century Eggs are made by preserving eggs for up to 12 months in a mixture of clay, salt, lime and rice. These elements introduce sodium and hydroxide into the egg, essentially curing it as you would a leg of Italian ham. Whilst ageing, the yolk turns green while the white morphs into an odd brown jelly. The resulting taste is said to be creamy, slightly sulphurous with a hint of alcohol in there too. Not bad for rotten eggs.

Casu Marzu, Italy

Casu Marzu
(Image from Wikipedia)

Perhaps the most unusual local delicacy in the world is eaten on the Italian island of Sardinia, where Casu Marzu is devoured by the natives for its supposed aphrodisiac qualities. The dish itself is created from a rather plain block or wheel of Pecorino cheese. Sardinians then leave the block outside, with holes puncturing the rind, so that cheese flies can lay their eggs inside. When these eggs hatch, the cheese is partially consumed by the maggots, their stomach acids cooking the cheese to make it runny and soft. And this, in the apparent wisdom of the Sardinians, is when the dish is ready to be cut open and savoured. With the maggots still crawling around inside, of course. The cheese is often spread on flatbread and, along with the live maggots, washed down with a nice red wine. May be something to ask for the next time you visit the local Italian restaurant. Or maybe not.

Deep Fried Mars Bar, Scotland

Deep Fried Mars Bar
(Image by BotheredByBees on Flickr)

Scotland, meanwhile, is blessed with some of the finest fresh produce on the planet; wild salmon swimming freely in its rivers, lobsters and oysters that grow in the shallow, crenelated waters of the West Coast, sprightly deer that make for wonderful venison and lush green crops that grow in the fertile soil. Yet for some reason the one foodstuff that Scotland is most known for is the Deep Fried Mars Bar. First invented, it is said, in a Glasgow suburb, this cholesterol-heavy dessert is seen as the perfect way to finish off a meal of piping hot Fish and Chips. Just make sure to check yourself into the heart unit of the nearest Hospital when you are done eating.

So there you have it, seven unusual local delicacies that either turn the stomach or wet the appetite, depending on where you happen to live. Now, hands up who wants Baluts?

Date posted: 26th August, 2011

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