Food and travel go together like planes and airports. No matter where you go you’ll have little trouble finding at least one culinary experience that signifies the local culture. Here at StudentUniverse we have come up with the top five countries with the most unusual dishes. Here’s a few food challenges for those of you who like to try new things!
1. Bolivia – Guinea Pig
When travelling, trying the local food and drinks can be a large part of getting the most out of your experience, teaching you more about the local people and their cultures. However some local cuisines come as more of a shock than others. For example, many think of guinea pigs as furry pets but in Bolivia, that’s lunch. Although most of their dishes consist of potato rice and corn, there is also often this meaty dish on the menu. Being one of the most inexpensive and easily managed type of livestock, in the past it has provided a way for the less wealthy to also afford to have meat in their diets. It is often served whole and can be stuffed roasted and also fried, so for the more adventurous travellers, give it a try you never know you just might like it!
2. Cambodia – Fried Tarantula
This is unlikely to be popular with those who don’t like creepy crawlies, but fried tarantula is a Cambodian delicacy. Although this too was started by the poorer population of the country during difficult times when food was scare, it has become an unusual delicacy that is enjoy till today by locals and tourists alike. Deep-fried and once crispy, they are seasoned with salt or garlic. These arachnids can be picked up at the side road snack shacks along a lot various other Cambodian snacks such as bananas. Alternatively some bars and restaurants serve them as a nice appetiser along side a drink, served with a dipping sauce. If you are unsure whether to try this snack or not it could be important to note how cheap you can get them for, with the cost being roughly just 8 cents per spider. Not to mention an interesting story to tell your friends and family.
3. Iceland – Puffin
Some of you may be aware that the Icelandic national bird is the Puffin, but many may be surprised to learn that it is also one of their national dishes. There are millions of Atlantic Puffins found in Iceland, with the Iceland owned Westmann Isles, being home to the worlds largest puffin colony. With no laws protecting or prohibiting the consumption of the species, nets are used to catch some of the low-flying birds using an old hunting method named sky fishing. Although they can be cooked in many different ways, they are commonly served smoked, along side a blueberry sauce, which is very popular. Seeing as the Icelandic diet of today does not differ enormously from the diet seen in the Viking age, this dish is one which could bring you more in touch with the culture and history, and with Icelandic people being among the healthiest and happiest in the world, perhaps their diet plays a huge part.
4. Vietnam – Snake Wine
We have heard about tequila worms from Mexico, but in South-East Asia it is not uncommon to find snake wine, which the locals call “ruou ran”. The creation of this drink is linked to traditional Chinese medicine and the alcoholic drink is also said to contain healing properties, made from the fermentation of a dead cobra placed in a bottle of rice wine. Although it all sounds like a strange concept, it is a very popular choice of drink in Vietnam and in the majority of cases the bottle still contains an intact Snake. This beverage being a very traditional part of South Asian cuisine, means that when in Vietnam you are likely to see a large amount of snake wine being sold in markets, shops, bars, hotels, roadside stalls and even pharmacies so it won’t be very hard to come across. Some say it is something a person visiting Vietnam just has to try, and imagine what an impressive looking gift that would make!
5. France – Sea Urchins
France is well known for its amazing food but also for its somewhat strange choice of ingredients, with snails and frogs legs usually springing to mind. However another unusual food eaten in France is sea urchins, also known as oursins, which are usually found in the coral reefs. Sea urchins are also popular in Japanese sushi dishes and in Italian cuisine. Because of the slight difficulty of cutting them out of their shell, it would be ideal to try them at a restaurant so that job can be done for you, and you will be able to simply enjoy the edible inside of the urchin. It can be eaten on its own and is more often than not served raw, so if you are a seafood lover, why not try this more unconventional type. It is said to be one of the truly great food experiences, and although the flavour is compared to that of caviar you are unlikely to understand until you try it for yourself.
There’s a world of opportunity out there just waiting to be explored, so make sure you don’t miss out! Remember, the only thing that’s limiting you is your imagination.