Food From Around The World
When I think of the word delicacy, thoughts of caviar run through my head. For this article, though, delicacy is going to range from great to gross! There is lots of different food from around the world that may seem strange, but is local custom to eat. Which of these dishes would you be brave enough to try?
Chocolate Covered Ants
The first unusual thing I ever ate was given to me when I was very young — maybe six or so — by a family friend who owned a gourmet food store.
It was chocolate, and being a chocoholic, I said thank you and immediately ate it. It was a bit on the crunchy side, but good nonetheless. When I asked what it was, our friend said it was a chocolate covered ant.
And so began a lifelong interest in trying virtually anything unusual, as long as it won’t kill me!
During my travels I made it a point to try local food, no matter how unusual. To me, it’s always been a learning experience.
Our group was cruising the Nan River in Thailand and stopped for lunch. On the menu was fried rat, which is considered a delicacy in some Asian countries.
I decided to try it. The old adage, “It tastes like chicken,” was very apt for rat; it actually tasted like a salty chicken leg with a lot of small bones.
During the same trip, this time in Chiang Mai, we came across a food vendor in the street selling jumping shrimp salad, so of course I had to try it. I love shrimp, though I generally prefer it cooked.
The problem was trying to catch the shrimp, which were jumping around the plate, then once caught, looking at them (eyes and all) while I was eating them.
I actually drew the line on something offered to me in Cambodia: tarantula. While they’re supposed to be rich in protein and folic acid, and platters of deep-fried tarantulas are on virtually every menu, I had to take a pass on this one.
On a golfing trip to Scotland, I tried the Scottish national dish, haggis. It’s a delicious dish, almost pudding-like in consistency, and made from the liver, heart and lungs of a sheep (or other animal).
It’s minced and mixed with beef or mutton suet, oatmeal, and seasoned with onion, cayenne pepper, and other spices. The mixture is then packed into a sheep's stomach and boiled for about three hours.
Haggis is served in a variety of ways. I had mine as part of a full Scottish breakfast, and I think eating it actually helped my golf game.
On a trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, I became a devotee of turtle soup: a dark, rich, thick, stew-type dish, served with a side of sherry. Just serve that to me with some delicious homemade bread and I’m a happy camper.
And speaking of bread, the thought of dipping French bread into the buttery garlic sauce that surrounds escargot (snails) has my mouth watering.
Years ago when I was living in New York, I was having lunch at Restaurant 21, an iconic former speakeasy. I ordered a dozen snails in the shell.
As a joke after I had eaten the whole dozen, I called the waiter over and told him three of the shells were empty (actually, it had only been one). I didn’t say another word.
About 10 minutes later as I was finishing my salad, the waiter came over with another dozen snails, courtesy of the house. When I finished those, I again called the waiter over and asked if he would believe me if I told him two of the shells were empty, and then started laughing. It’s a good thing he had a sense of humor!
There are a few things I’ve been offered in my travels that, like the Tarantula above, I had to turn down. One thing I wanted to include on this list is wasp crackers. I was worried about biting into one and finding out the wasp wasn't quite dead. Ouch!
Sweet Purple Rice
There’s a dish I bought on the roadside in Vietnam: sweet, sticky rice cooked with black and white rice, which turned the dish a delightful purple color.
The rice was mixed with sweet coconut milk, mixed with mango and then stuffed into a reed-like casing. I could have made an entire meal out of these.
Most people probably won’t consider this a delicacy, but I have to end the list with it. When I was in Buenos Aires I stopped at a hole in the wall place for ice cream.
It’s done there unlike any where else in the world I’ve had ice cream. Of course, anything that combines loads of chocolate with lots of dulce de leche can’t be anything but terrific, right? Then throw in more chocolate and different types of fruit, it’s a meal in and of itself!
No matter where you are, tickle your taste buds and try a local delicacy. It’s amazing how it will expand your horizons, and I can pretty much guarantee it’ll expand your waistline too.