13 of the Most Unusual Snack Foods From Around the World

It may not be until you start traveling that you realize just how regional food and tastes really are around the world.  One of my favorite activities when I arrive in a new location is to go grocery shopping so that I can get a feel for what the local culture enjoys to eat, and also so that I can wrap my head around the fact that I won’t be able to get everything I crave while spending time there.  Let’s face it; food in some parts of the world is different, and sometimes it is a bit strange compared to what we’re accustomed to. Here are some of the most unusual snack food from around the world.

Guinea pig

Guinea pigs, like the furry friends many American kids keep as pets, are considered a specialty in certain parts of Peru.  It is here that you can get a guinea pig served up fried on a stick or as part of a pachamanca – a Peruvian dish baked with hot stones.

Fish and chips gelato

Meat flavored ice cream and gelato has been popping up all over the place as of late,  with maple and bacon becoming all the rage.  However, the Aussies have taken it one step further by producing the first (and last?) fish and chips gelato.

Durian

I, for one, do not smell what appears to be rotten onions or gym socks and think, “Mmm, where can I get a taste?”  Others, however, get a whiff and start to drool because they know that is their beloved durian.  Durian is a popular tropical fruit found naturally in Indonesia and Malaysia, but the odor of this fruit is so strong and pungent that it has been banned from many hotels and public areas.  I hear this fruit tastes much more mild than it smells, but I just can’t get myself to try it.

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Fried, roasted and toasted bugs

Southeast Asia is known for its strange snack foods, one such being the inclusion of bugs into the equation.  You can walk around the markets of Thailand and order a quick snack of silkworms, grasshoppers or water bugs… if you so desire.

Salo

Salo is a Ukrainian and Eastern European snack that sounds a bit more disgusting than it tastes.  Basically, this is a slab of cured fatback that is sliced and served, typically on a piece of bread, as an accompaniment to vodka or borscht.

Scorpion suckers

Scorpion suckers would be considered a novelty, but they do exist.  You can catch a taste of an authentic scorpion sucker – with a real scorpion inside — in parts of the Southwest of the USA and Mexico.

Sannakji

The Korean specialty of Sannakji is a raw dish with attitude.  To prepare the dish, the chef takes a live baby octopus and chops it into several pieces, seasons it with sesame seeds and oil and serves it immediately.  In fact, it is served up so quickly that the parts may still be wriggling around on the plate.  If you do order this dish, be aware that the suction cups on the tentacles may still be active and can stick in the mouth and throat if not chewed up sufficiently.

Escamoles

It is hard to imagine that ant larvae would be considered a delicacy, but in Mexico it is just that.  Escamoles, or ant larvae, is said to have a buttery and nutty taste.  People in Mexico eat escamoles in a taco with guacamole.

Deep-fried tarantula

Deep-fried tarantula is a Cambodian snack food that has been frightening and intriguing travelers for years.  The spiders are deep-fried until the legs are stiff and seasoned with anything from MSG to garlic. Perhaps not ideal for those with arachnophobia…

Balut

Balut is a popular in the Philippines and is a duck egg that is fertilized and left to grow for several days before it is boiled and served in the shell.  Once the shell is opened, it is easy to see the appearance of the growing baby chick which is eaten in its entirety.

Rocky Mountain Oysters

Despite the name, these oysters are not of the seafood kind.  To make Rocky Mountain Oysters, one must take the testicles of bulls, peel them, coat them in flour and seasonings, deep-fry them and serve them up as an appetizer with dipping sauce.  You can get this delicious sounding dish in certain parts of the USA, Canada and even Spain.

Lutefisk

Lutefisk has Nordic origins and remains a popular dish in that region, as well as in certain parts of North America.  The name translates into “lye fish” because it is simply a white fish that has been aged in – believe it or not – lye.  It is said to have a strong smell and takes on a gelatinous texture.

Pickled pigs feet

Pickled pigs feet are considered a snack food delicacy in the southern parts of the United States, Ireland and Korea.  These fatty pork bits are often smoked and then canned in a vinegar brine.

What’s the weirdest snack food you’ve tried on your travels? Comment below or read more about unusual food around the world:

Photos by: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, photo 2 by the author and may not be used without permission

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  • Maiocco Lisa said at 2013-04-15T00:59:02+0000: I hate spiders they are so creepy.
  • Alejandro Ouest said at 2012-11-06T05:47:30+0000: Eating Chicken Feet when I was in Southern China/Hong Kong is my weirdest food experience abroad.
  • Anna Benedetti said at 2012-08-21T17:58:50+0000: Fried waterbugs...AKA...Cockroaches! OMG...YUCK. Since when is that a snack food? I would eat my arm or just starve to death before I stick a waterbug anywhere near my mouth.
  • Fatima Mancio said at 2012-06-08T09:25:53+0000: wow "BALUT" in the Philippines,,.. Love it a lot.. YUM..YUM...YUM..
  • Maria Alexandra Laborde said at 2012-03-15T15:20:12+0000: all I could think about while reading this article was "humans are barbarians" =P.LatinAbroad.com
  • Rio Eris Marion said at 2012-01-02T09:55:08+0000: I want to feel.. I think very delicious.
  • Ron Robbins said at 2011-07-28T23:36:41+0000: I was in Hawaii and wanted to try Balut but hadn't gotten the chance. How was it?
  • Stephen Bugno said at 2011-07-26T18:41:54+0000: Had balut in Laos. It definitely looks worse than it tastes....actually it tasted good.
  • PromptGuides said at 2011-07-04T12:19:44+0000: Another unusual snack to add to the list is casu marzu. It is a traditional Sardinian cheese with live larvae of the cheese fly. The larvae are moving around inside the cheese while you eat it. It took me some time to make myself try it. I removed the larvae though. It did not became my favorite snack, but wasn't bad.
  • Todd Vonbehren said at 2011-07-03T04:17:38+0000: Growing up, I looked forward to the day each year where we made steers of young bulls because that meant calf fries or 'Rocky Mountain Oysters'. I would have to be starving though to eat a duck embryo or ant larvae. Liver is nearly as repulsive.
  • Mary K. Furness said at 2011-07-01T15:43:27+0000: Lived in Colorado for awhile, and Rocky Mountain Oysters aren't that bad--just look like fried bits of cube steak, and are about the same consistency! The strangest thing I have eaten on my travels is Shkembe Chorba (Bulgarian Tripe Soup)--prepared using the lining of the cow's stomach, cream, lots of garlic, lemon juice or vinegar, and paprika. Very tasty.
  • Amsterdam Graffiti said at 2011-07-04T13:40:08+0000: weird japanese dish we tried is Nattō, made of fermented soy beans...very smelly and slimy stuff.
  • Nerissa Muijs said at 2011-07-02T05:23:55+0000: I've only tried the durian and it was awful. Disgusting creamy texture and the smell is so overpowering it's difficult to get n your mouth.Deep fried tarantulas? Eek. I feel a bit queasy thinking about it.
  • Mattie John Bamman said at 2011-07-01T19:01:08+0000: Nice article! In Maine, there's lobster ice cream, but man oh man... fish and chip ice cream! Yuk.
  • Kathi Peterson Thomas said at 2011-07-01T15:30:27+0000: Enjoy these tasty snacks!
  • Marco Brunelli said at 2011-07-07T13:15:08+0000: Oh yes, the Peruvian Cui!!! they sell them alive in markets, so cute!! but actually tastes yummy... havent tried Llama Charky tough... dried llama meat :S
  • Hector Touzet said at 2011-09-23T21:28:20+0000: For gourmets, see unsual snack foods!
  • Camila Espin said at 2012-09-29T17:10:48+0000: that food is really orrible!