World's Strangest National Dishes

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Alessandro D'Adda

1 of 12

From
brain tacos to duck embryos, these freaky favorites are served proudly around
the world.

“I would taste
any food at least once,” says Stephen Brooks, cofounder of Kopali Organics and
host of the Travel Channel show Edible Adventures. “That’s why I opt not
to be vegetarian or restrict my diet in a finite way. For me part of getting to
know a culture is trying the food.”

Though many
bizarre foods served around the world inspire comparisons to the chilled monkey
brains shown in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, national dishes
aren’t meant to frighten away foreigners. On the contrary, in the planet’s
esoteric back alleys of gastronomy, indigenous and ethnic groups proudly
narrate themselves through flavor. If you choose not to indulge, you’re missing
out on a crucial travel experience.

While many of
these culinary ambassadors may seem bizarre to us, they’re often delicacies in
their homelands. It’s not always our fault that we find them strange. Ethnic
specialties are often made more palatable as they travel overseas. We may think
we know everything about a country’s cuisine, but our domestic versions may
barely resemble the originals.

“Many of the
foods we identify as Korean or Mexican or, say, French are in fact an American
interpretation of food from that culture,” says Brooks. “And they might even be
frowned upon by the originators. The Chinese have never heard of General Tso’s
chicken or fortune cookies.”

Take
comfort, hesitant eaters. “Strange” goes in both directions. Dairy, for
example, isn’t widely consumed in Asia. One
interesting exception is Mongolia's airag, a carbonated alcoholic drink
made from fermented mare’s milk. It’s the Budweiser of Ulaanbaatar.

It’s not
just “exotic” or “remote” cultures that have strange national dishes. Black
pudding—also known as blood pudding—is a sausage-like combination of blood and
fillers that’s served alongside eggs, beans, tomatoes, and mushrooms to create
the quintessential “full English breakfast.” No Englishman worth his salt will
start the day until he’s had his morning fry-up—and black pudding is part of
the deal.

Some national
dishes are products of a gastronomically restrictive environment. Muktuk has been
vital to the traditional diets of Greenland’s Inuit for thousands of years.
Made from the blubber and raw skin of whales (and particularly of the narwhal,
sometimes called the “unicorn of the sea”), this local delicacy is usually
eaten raw—but may also be frozen, boiled, or even fermented.

These national
dishes may seem strange (at best), but keep an open mind. When you travel to a
new place and eat a strange local dish, you are experiencing nothing less than
the interconnectedness of the human race.

World's Strangest National Dishes

From
brain tacos to duck embryos, these freaky favorites are served proudly around
the world.

“I would taste
any food at least once,” says Stephen Brooks, cofounder of Kopali Organics and
host of the Travel Channel show Edible Adventures. “That’s why I opt not
to be vegetarian or restrict my diet in a finite way. For me part of getting to
know a culture is trying the food.”

Though many
bizarre foods served around the world inspire comparisons to the chilled monkey
brains shown in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, national dishes
aren’t meant to frighten away foreigners. On the contrary, in the planet’s
esoteric back alleys of gastronomy, indigenous and ethnic groups proudly
narrate themselves through flavor. If you choose not to indulge, you’re missing
out on a crucial travel experience.

While many of
these culinary ambassadors may seem bizarre to us, they’re often delicacies in
their homelands. It’s not always our fault that we find them strange. Ethnic
specialties are often made more palatable as they travel overseas. We may think
we know everything about a country’s cuisine, but our domestic versions may
barely resemble the originals.

“Many of the
foods we identify as Korean or Mexican or, say, French are in fact an American
interpretation of food from that culture,” says Brooks. “And they might even be
frowned upon by the originators. The Chinese have never heard of General Tso’s
chicken or fortune cookies.”

Take
comfort, hesitant eaters. “Strange” goes in both directions. Dairy, for
example, isn’t widely consumed in Asia. One
interesting exception is Mongolia's airag, a carbonated alcoholic drink
made from fermented mare’s milk. It’s the Budweiser of Ulaanbaatar.

It’s not
just “exotic” or “remote” cultures that have strange national dishes. Black
pudding—also known as blood pudding—is a sausage-like combination of blood and
fillers that’s served alongside eggs, beans, tomatoes, and mushrooms to create
the quintessential “full English breakfast.” No Englishman worth his salt will
start the day until he’s had his morning fry-up—and black pudding is part of
the deal.

Some national
dishes are products of a gastronomically restrictive environment. Muktuk has been
vital to the traditional diets of Greenland’s Inuit for thousands of years.
Made from the blubber and raw skin of whales (and particularly of the narwhal,
sometimes called the “unicorn of the sea”), this local delicacy is usually
eaten raw—but may also be frozen, boiled, or even fermented.

These national
dishes may seem strange (at best), but keep an open mind. When you travel to a
new place and eat a strange local dish, you are experiencing nothing less than
the interconnectedness of the human race.

Alessandro D'Adda [1] [1] http://www.flickr.com/photos/92435151@N00/

World's Strangest National Dishes

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