One of my favorite parts about traveling is trying the local cuisine. I’ve even journeyed to countries solely for the opportunity to try the food there (sushi in Japan?). While I am always down to try food that the area is known for, I also like to try some foods that are a bit, well, stranger than some of the items that you would normally find on the menu. Sometimes I do it for shock value, other times it’s simply because I’m always looking for something new to experience.
Here are seven of the weirdest meals I’ve tasted on my travels.
1. Pigeon and rabbit in Egypt
We were fortunate enough to meet up with a friend in Cairo, where he took us to a spot that touted local dishes—but cooked in a classy and interesting way. Daniel and I ordered the pigeon and the rabbit on the menu (which you can also find in Morocco and other Islamic countries, as well). While it might seem strange to us to eat pigeon, I really couldn’t tell the difference between that and chicken. It was delicious, and Joe just laughed as we devoured our strange foods.
2. Minke whale and puffin in Iceland
When my dad and I voyaged to Iceland for a father-daughter trip, we stopped by the local restaurant which everyone had been raving about. The Fiskmarkadurinn is still the place where I had one of the most memorable meals of my life. We ordered the tasting menu, which consisted of a number of unique dishes cooked to perfection. Among the oysters, sushi from local fish, clams, lamb, and more (we couldn’t even finish the last two courses of the seven-course meal) we had minke whale and puffin. The minke whale tasted like beef and the puffin like duck.
3. Alpaca and guinea pig in Peru
When I traveled with Contiki in Peru, I was thrilled to be among a number of fellow weird food lovers. We chugged corn beer at the foot of the Andes and enjoyed an alpaca steak in Cusco. What was the most meaningful for me, however, was how our guide brought us to her home. Gabbi introduced us to her mother, who had taken the time to cook one of the family’s own guinea pigs for us. I couldn’t get over the kindness she showed us as complete strangers. For me, that was one of the most memorable parts of the trip.
4. Camel in Morocco
Turns out, camels are good for more than just riding throughout the Sahara. When I took a trip with Gutsy Women Travel, we headed to a local café where the chefs had been known to experiment a little with their foodstuff. I ordered a camel burger. I had learned that only those who can’t afford any other type of meat tend to buy camel—and the meat that is sold comes from old camels who are too infirm to carry goods and people in the desert. Despite this, my camel was delicious. To me, it tasted like bison—one of my favorite meats to savor when I return home to Montana.
5. Frogs and chicken feet in Queens, United States
One of the things I loved the most about living in New York is that you can find any culture around the world in that small area if you look hard enough. This is especially true in Queens, where our good friend Chris lives. He’s also an expert at finding amazing hidden gems in the city. We went to a Chinese restaurant where very little English was spoken. Daniel (he loves weird food as much as I do) and I ordered the frogs and chicken feet, much to the surprise of our waitress.
“You sure?” she asked.
We were. While I had tasted frog legs before, eating a whole actual frog was quite a different story. Now I’m looking forward to eventually making it to China where I can sample these delicacies and see if they taste differently from what I remember.
6. Snake, kangaroo, a few things I’m not sure about, and a spider in Cambodia
Daniel and his brother, Eric, and I decided to take a trip to Japan and Cambodia. Turns out, Eric loves eating weird foods just as much as we do. When we made it Siem Reap, it took us half a second to sit down at a Cambodian barbecue spot that advertised a collection of odd meats. We ordered the entire platter which consisted of some snake, frogs, pig, beef, chicken, and kangaroo.
Dipping our choices of food in the pot, we were able to come up with some intriguing combinations—most of them very good. I was particularly fond of the kangaroo.
We weren’t finished yet, however. While walking through the night market, we came across a man selling fried spider. We grabbed one for a dollar. Daniel personally was not thrilled by the idea. I ate a leg (I used to be deathly afraid of spiders) and Eric crunched on the rest.
7. Fermented shark in Iceland
If you’re a weird food lover, Iceland is definitely a top spot. My dad and I made a special trip to a place we knew had fermented shark on the menu after hearing about it on the Discovery Channel. Fermented shark is made miles away from any towns or cities by law because it smells that bad. When we were handed our “meal,” it was in a hermetically-sealed jar. The little cube of shark flesh looked edible enough, but when you opened the jar, our eyes began to water and the room immediately smelled of ammonia.
Dad and I looked at each other. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes from the strength of the smell. After counting down from three, we both popped the cube into our mouths at the same time.
The table next to us laughed. “We tried it yesterday. Worst thing we’ve ever eaten.”
It wasn’t the worst, but it was absolutely the weirdest.
For me, trying these foods is part of experiencing the culture of a place and finding something to relate to the local people about. What I love about all these meals is they were all with people that I felt like I had a stronger connection with after I had tried the food meals. It was an experience we were able to have together, and a testament to how food can change and bring others together.
What foods have you tried while traveling?