A Taste for Strange – Weird Foods from around the World

Haggis, Scotland Escamoles, Mexico Escargots, France Smoked Bats, Indonesia Boendegi, Korea

I just love strolling down a crowded street, with the midday sun shining and the flow of humanity all around me. One sometimes inadvertently hears such interesting snatches of conversation while one walks down a Maltese road.

This is what happened to me this morning – I was just walking by when suddenly I heard a shocked elderly lady exclaiming that the restaurant they were looking at offered ‘rabbit stew’! “Oh yuck, bleh, – how strange, atrocious and disgusting!” she exclaimed.

These were the sentiments expressed by the foreign woman in question, which at the time I found both ridiculous and funny. But now, thinking about it, I wonder – why did she find it so strange that we eat this small herbivore? Doesn’t everyone? Does the fact that many people keep rabbits as pets make them automatically off limits when it comes to culinary delicacies?

What if I found myself, let us say, in Scotland and was offered a plate of Haggis? For those who have never heard of this, haggis is made up of the liver, heart and lungs of a sheep mixed with onions, spices and oatmeal. This mixture is then packed in a sheep’s stomach and boiled. Yummy… NOT.

And what if I were to visit that most beautiful country; Mexico? Would I be forced to eat the traditional escamoles? These are basically the eggs of giant black venomous ants. The eggs have the consistency of cottage cheese and the most popular way to eat them is in a taco with guacamole.

We have all heard of the French escargots (snails) but how many of us have actually tried to eat them? What about Indonesia, where smoked bats are a delicacy, or Thailand where fried grasshoppers are believed to be good for one’s health? In Korea they snack on boendegi, i.e, steamed silkworm pupae, while in Hong Kong the rich sup on monkey brains, and in the Philippines dog stew is quite normal.

In China, penises are thought to increase yang (virility) and men are advised to eat them to increase their testosterone. Dog testicles are served in a variety of dishes, being low in cholesterol and considered an efficient way to boost sex drive. Donkey penis is thought to be good for the skin, and pickled ox penis is considered to be a general energiser.

There’s no accounting for taste, I guess. People from different countries have different ideas and notions when it comes to food, depending on their social and cultural norms.

Personally, I am glad to stick to the usual Mediterranean diet, with sometimes a trip to a local specialised Indian or Chinese restaurant, however certain culinary adventures, I admit, are simply too much for me.