We’ve all heard of exotic dishes being consumed around the globe – insects, organ linings of some mammals & chicken feet to name a few. However not all of them are distinctively unique or eclectic.
‘Exotic’ is a vaguely subjective term – what may be traditional or common for one part of the world may translate to ‘eccentric’ or ‘bizarre’ for the other. Majority of the world population deem these dishes to be unconventional, unappetizing and even disgusting.
What makes a dish truly exotic? The fact that they are rare outside of their native land, take unique techniques or a hefty pace to prepare, are distinctive in terms of taste & look and those that are deemed as an experience to eat qualify as exotic foods. This list excludes the better known exotic foods like Maggots, Larvae Cheese, Snakes, Fried Crickets and other edible bugs.
Here are the Top 10 Most Exotic dishes from around the World:
10. Escargots de Bourgogne: France
Escargots are land snails that are served as entrees in some European countries like Spain, Portugal & France. What makes them one of the most exotic foods in the world are the specialized escargots from a specific region of France – Burgundy. This is the province know for its Burgundy wines.
Helix Pomatia or the Burgundy snail requires a long preparation process. Only experienced chefs look after the breeding, preparation and selection of the snails. The most popular version of this dish has the snails cooked with a brushing of butter, parsley, garlic along with a wine based sauce.
9. Kangaroo: Australia
Yes that’s right. Australia eats its national animal and is one of the few countries to do so. It’s shocking to many that one of the most exotic animals of the world is farmed and eaten as a large scale source of meat in its native land itself. Kangaroos have been eaten in Australia for a long time but aren’t available outside Australia unless exported. This makes Kangaroo meat one of the most expensive and exotic red meats in the world…except Australia.
Kangaroo meat, reportedly, tastes like normal red meat and tastes best when cooked medium rare.
8. Starfish: China, Micronesia
Starfishes are beautiful and alluring sea creatures that are often wanted as an addition for aquariums, however they are infamous for being a treat in China and Micronesia. While other similar sea creatures like Sea Urchins are also deemed exotic, what makes the Starfish worthy of being one of the most exotic foods is simply the fact that they are consumed very rarely, accounting to only a few coastal provinces or prominent cities of China & Micronesia and are practically eaten no where outside of South East Asia.
Starfishes are difficult to eat, their outer shell is spiky, hard and mostly inedible while the inner meat is mushy and soft. They are deep fried and may be savored without any sauce. Their taste has been described as similar to that of crab meat and sea urchins.
7. Haggis: Scotland
Haggis is the national dish of Scotland. It is described as a savory pudding made exclusively with the inner organs of a sheep like the heart, liver and lungs. They are cooked together and encased within the stomach lining of the animal. What makes Haggis one of the most exotic dishes is its unique composition & traditional Scottish flavors. There are many faux haggis dishes sold worldwide but the authentic, rich flavor of the dish can be found only in its native land.
Haggis is served with alcohol, neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes) and is described as tasting earthy, mildly spicy and fatty.
6. Frog Legs: France, China
Frog Legs are one of the most exotic delicacies from French and Chinese gastronomy. They are one of the most common exotic dishes in the world. France and China are the most avid consumers of frog legs. A handful of other countries like India, Indonesia and Italy consume it as well. Despite being a more common ‘exotic food’, it remains one of the most sought-after food items ever.
In terms of taste and texture, Frog Legs have been compared to chicken wings. Despite being a risky dish, considering most frogs are poisonous and many can be mistaken for the edible ones, they are used in both haute and street food culture.
5. Alligator: USA
Alligator meat is one of the most controversial foods in the world; Alligators and Crocodiles are dying at an alarming rate and it has been a subject of debate whether consuming these animals should be illegal worldwide or not. Despite the controversies, alligators can’t be denied as one of the most exotic foods, especially in modern times.
Alligators are most commonly consumed in the United States of America, especially in the sourthern states where Alligator hunting is legal.
4. Fugu: Japan
‘Fugu’ means pufferfish in Japanese and holds its reputation as one of the most poisonous creatures consumed in the world. It is the most exotic delicacy of Japan. This dish is served by chefs who have years of experience in the ideal preparation of the fish. Thailand and Indonesia also serve this dangerous exotic food. Poorly handled or monitored pufferfish have reportedly caused many deaths and chronic injuries.
Pufferfish poison is known for being one of the most pain inducing poisons with reports of coma, seizures and internal bleeding, making it one of the most dreaded foods. It may be served as sashimi, stew or soup.
3. Pidan: China
Pidan, infamously known as the Century Egg, is a Chinese preserved food. It consists of any type of egg, most commonly duck and chicken eggs, preserved which chemicals and various types of liquids to give its distinctive flavor and color. The eggs are prepared by preserving them in a mixture of clay, ash, quicklime and other chemicals depending on different places. They are preserved for a period of few weeks to several months; this preservation turns the egg white black and brown and turns the yolk greenish black. Chemicals like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide cause it to have a pungent smell and strong salty flavor.
2. Kæstur Hákarl: Iceland
Hákarl translates to shark in Icelandic and Kæstur Hákarl is the country’s national dish. The dish has a wretched smell with strong, numbing flavors. Kæstur Hákar is another preserved food on this list. It is rightfully one of the most exotic foods ever. To prepare this dish, sharks are cured with a heavy fermentation process after which they are buried or hung for over six months. While the smell overpowers the reputation of the dish, it has been reported that the taste is quite unique and pleasant.
Many reputed chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Antony Bourdain have tried this exotic dish and have had great distaste for its strong, rotten smell.
1. Balut: Philippines
Balut is arguably the most exotic food there is. The dish is one of the most debated, discussed and controversial foods ever. The eggs that we ordinarily consume are unfertilized which is why many vegetarians consume it without any guilt. Balut, however, isn’t an ordinary egg. This dish consists of a fully fertilized egg where the embryo of a bird is still developing when it’s cooked. Philippines along with a few other southeast Asian countries consume this dish. Balut, reportedly, tastes like chicken with slimy consistency due to the inner fluids of the egg and the embryo.
From expensive snails to rotten shark meat, these are the world’s most exotic foods. Tasting them could either be a fine or a fowl experience!