If the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten is a McDonald’s hamburger, you may want to have a throw-up bag handy while you read. Or, it you’re more adventurous and enjoy eating iguana and fried tarantulas, this will just give you more ideas of strangely prepared delicacies to try.
5. Fish Sauce
Fish Sauce is basically fermented fish juice. Sound yummy? It might not taste very good by itself, but it is indispensable as a seasoning in Thai cooking. Thai curry without fish sauce would be like french fries without salt, or chop suey without soy sauce. It adds a special touch to food, and is used in many countries besides Thailand, including Laos and Cambodia.
Fish sauce is made by putting small, freshly caught fish in barrels or jars of salt water. These containers are left sitting in the sun for nine months to a year, to allow the fish to ferment. Periodically, the barrels are opened to air out and give the final product a special aroma (you can probably guess what that is) and its characteristic red-brown color. Then, once enough time has passed for the fish to be thoroughly decomposed, the barrels are drained through a spigot at the bottom and all the rotten fish juice flows out into jars. These are aired out for a while to make the smell a little less overpowering and then voila, they are ready to add to your favorite Thai dish.
If you thought fish sauce was vile, prepare yourself to be truly grossed out. There isn’t much to say about this Eskimo dish but its traditional recipe speaks for itself: chop off the football-sized head of a King salmon, wrap it in grass, and bury it in a mossy pit for four to six weeks. Dig up the rotten fish head and consume.
By now you probably have a pretty good idea why this “food” is called a stinkhead. Putrid smell aside, apparently this method of preparation makes the bones so soft that you can chew them right up along with the rotting flesh. Delicious, right? This food is a matter of pride for the Eskimos, who claim that white people can’t eat it. In this case, I’d be inclined to agree. And if you’re wondering how they don’t get sick from consuming this unsavory delicacy, it all has to do with the method of preparation. In the traditional method, the fish is fermented “aerobically” at cool temperatures. Unfortunately, some people have started using Ziplock bags and buckets, because it cuts the prep time in half. This makes the stinkhead a fertile ground for botulism, and could make you majorly sick, or kill you. If you are going to try eating a stinkhead, make sure you know how it was prepared.
Lutefisk is a Norwegian dish, although in truth, only two percent of Norwegians eat it on Christmas Eve. It is actually more commonly eaten by Norwegian-Americans. Lutefisk starts out as dried cod or ling. This is soaked in water for about a week, then it is transferred to a mixture of lye and water for a couple of days. If it is left too long in the lye, the fat in the fish will actually turn into soap. And surely no one will want to eat it then.
At this point, it has swelled up to an even bigger size than the original fish, is jelly-like, and has a PH of 11. Yeah. It’s caustic. Feel like burning your skin off? No? The Lutefisk is soaked for another week, with the water changed every day to detoxify it and make it edible. Then you just steam it, and eat it (easier said than done). Oh, and as a point of precaution, clean your pans right after using them because the lutefisk won’t come off if it’s left on overnight. And don’t eat with your silver utensils because this fine fishy food will corrode them.
Hakarl is an Icelandic dish prepared from Greenland sharks. These sea creatures have no urinary tract, so they excrete all the toxins in their body through their skin, making them poisonous to eat. But, as we’ve learned so far, the fact that food is toxic, doesn’t seem to be much of a deterrent. To make Hakarl, the shark flesh is chopped up into pieces and buried in gravel (or placed in a bin with holes in it).
Depending on the season, the meat is left from six weeks to several months. During this time, it rots, and all the deadly uric acid seeps out of the skin. Now the shark meat is hung up in a shed, out of the sun, to dry for two to four months. The wind blows away the smell and turns the outside of the shark flesh brown. Once it’s dried, the brown outside is cut off, leaving pure white shark flesh that tastes (depending on whether you like it or not), like a strong cheese with a hint of ammonia, or like eating solidified pee.
1. Drunken Shrimp
If eating rotten food is a little too passé for you, why not go for super-fresh drunken shrimp? However, be warned that this Chinese dish might jump off your plate or claw your lip as you attempt to take a bite. Apparently, someone decided that eating shrimp raw was not weird enough and chose to eat them alive. The recipe is simple: place terrified shrimp in a bowl of sweet alcohol, such as white wine, whip out your chopsticks and have-at-em in a duel to the death. The poor shrimp don’t stand much of a chance, so you might get PETA up in arms for cruelty to animals.
Of course, some people prefer the cooked version of drunken shrimp... where they light the alcohol on fire and dump it all over the little creatures. I’m not sure which would be a worse way to die: being chopped up by gigantic teeth, or being burned alive.