From fried tarantulas to fertilized duck eggs, the world is full of grotesque edibles; even the dessert menu hasn’t escaped from tampering. Chickpeas, tofu and wasabi may not be typical pudding ingredients for the average westerner, but nothing is off limits when it comes to these culinary oddities.
From shredded chicken breast pudding to pancakes oozing with chocolate and cheese, these 10 desserts are not only peculiar but undeniably scrumptious.
1. Martabak – Chocolate and cheese pancakes (Indonesia)
Thick buttery pancakes stuffed with a variety of sweet and savory fillings, Martabak is a favorite throughout Indonesia and Malaysia. Often sold on street stalls or in small fast-food pancake joints, the pancakes are cooked up in a specially shaped pan, smeared with butter and layered into a stuffed sandwich that is served sliced into squares.
Martabak manis is Indonesia’s eternally popular sweet version served with a variety of toppings like ground peanuts, condensed milk, banana, sesame seeds and chocolate sprinkles. The award for the oddest combination goes to the ‘martabak spesial,’ oozing with cheese and gooey melted chocolate – a surprisingly delicious, delightfully sweet treat.
>> Learn how to travel like a local in Indonesia
2. Tavuk göğsü – Sweetmilk and chicken breast dessert (Turkey)
Chicken might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of pudding, but this Turkish specialty was a hit with the Ottoman sultans of Topkapi palace and retains its popularity today.
Made from rice flour, sweetened milk, cinnamon and chicken, and cooked up in a copper pot, Tavuk göğsü is a sweet, rich pudding not dissimilar in taste to rice pudding. Don’t expect to be munching on chicken bones though – instead fresh chicken breast is boiled, softened and separated into thin fibers, adding a creamy, slightly chewy texture to the blancmange-like dish.
>> Learn about things to do in Turkey
3. Red bean cakes (Asia)
Beans might seem more suited to a burrito for most westerners, but all over Asia, Azuki beans are softened, sweetened and mashed into a sweet paste used to accompany a variety of desserts, pastries and cakes.
Various types of red bean paste are available from mashed, where the paste is smooth but chunky, with bits of bean husk still present, to a slurry, where beans are boiled, mashed and then strained to produce an extra smooth paste mostly used for pastry fillings.
>> Read about unusual fruits in Asia
4. Bread and butter pudding (England)
Never ones to let a bit of stale bread go to waste, British housewives mastered the art of transforming pantry staples into delicious, hearty desserts long ago. Enter the bread and butter pudding, which dates back to the 18th century and still features on pub menus to this day. Made with layers of, yes, bread and butter, the pudding is oven-baked with raisons, nutmeg, eggs and milk, sprinkled with vanilla and spices and served solo or with lashings of custard. Modern gastro-pub versions have ingredients like fruit, marmalade, chocolate or even a splash of beer working their way into the mix. Bread and butter never tasted so good!
5. Aletria Doce (Portugal)
A distant relative of rice pudding, Aletria employs a similar base of sweetened milk and vanilla but replaces the rice with noodles. Thankfully, the noodles are of the vermicelli, rather than the spicy pot-noodle kind and when softened take on a silky texture.
A Portuguese tradition, especially at Christmas parties, the dish is typically decorated with elaborate stenciled designs of powered cinnamon and served either warm or chilled, sometimes garnished with berries.
>> Find out what to drink in Portugal
6. Wasabi ice cream (Japan)
Best known for adding a fiery kick to your sushi, wasabi – often known as Japanese horseradish – is harvested from the roots of the wasabi plant found in abundance along Japanese river valleys.
Not exactly your typical flavor, wasabi ice cream has a tangy, tongue-tingling taste that is surprisingly palatable. If that doesn’t float your boat, Japan is also home to an abundance of downright bizarre ice cream flavors, from Shrimp to Cactus to Chicken Wing – take your pick!
>> Book a food-lovers tour in Japan
7. Deep-fried mars bar (Scotland)
A chilled Mars bar (caramel and nougat covered in chocolate), coated in batter and plunged into a deep fat fryer, this calorie laden dessert still frequents chip shop menus to this day and is best served with ice cream for maximum gooeyness.
Apparently discovered during a playful experiment in the Haven Chip Bar in Stonehaven back in 1995, this novelty item quickly gained notoriety thanks to media coverage in the local paper. Quickly becoming popular, the deep-fried mars bar kick-started a trend of deep-frying unusual items – the ubiquitous Crème Egg and snickers bars both took their turn and a deep-fried bounty bar even turned up in one of Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks. Yummy, but sickly.
>> Check out delicious street foods from around the world
8. Almond tofu dessert (China)
Non-vegetarians have long scorned tofu as a poor substitute for a hearty steak, but even they might be tempted to change their minds once they’ve tasted this one.
Almond tofu (otherwise called Almond jelly or almond pudding) is a popular sweet throughout China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, often found on restaurant menus and even available as an instant powder mix. Confusingly, the Chinese Almond is actually an apricot kernel and it’s the almond milk that is used to flavor this sweet, gelatinous dessert. A smooth, creamy whip with a sweet taste, it’s a far cry from the bland jelly-like cubes floating in your miso soup.
>> Read about weird delicacies from around the world
9. Halva (India)
Halva – literally ‘sweet’ in Arabic – is typically made from semolina flour and ghee cooked in sugary syrup. Traditionally an Indian dessert, Halva is also found in Middle Eastern and Eastern European food, and has a polenta-like texture and rich, sweet taste. Most popular are Halva made with carrots (gajar halwa), mung beans (for moong dal halwa), chickpeas (chana daal halwa) or lentils.
10. Crème de Abacate (Brazil)
In North America, avocados are most often found chopped up in a salad or smashed into creamy guacamole, but head to the South of the continent and the fruits are more likely found on the dessert menu instead.
Brazil’s enormous native avocados are hugely popular blended into ice creams or smoothies, but the tastiest way to enjoy sweet avocado is a dish of freshly blended Crème de Abacate – Avocado cream. Made from pureed avocado, condensed milk and fresh limejuice, the dish is served either solo – typically cold with crumbled nuts on top – or used as a cake or pastry filling.
>> Learn about what else to try in South America
Read more about food around the world:
- 15 Desserts to Try on the Road
- Traditional Foods to Try on the Road
- Unusual Snack Foods from Around the World