Food taboos and delicacies often spring from cultural or religious beliefs. Sometimes they exist because of pure outrageousness and folks’ unrestrained curiosities. We’ve seen Bourdain and Zimmerman walk the line – get grossed out or get hungry with these 4 bizarre foods.
Fugu (Puffer Fish)
Fugu is a deadly Japanese puffer fish – popular not because of its taste, but because of the charming thrill of potential death. Didn’t you know – deadliness is tastiness. A Food Russian Roulette, if the blowfish is prepared incorrectly and consumed, death will ensue. Its flesh is rampant with tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin that paralyzes the body, leaving the brain cognizant of one’s impending death by asphyxiation. A single blowfish contains enough poison to kill 30 adults. Nope, there’s no antidote. Fugu can only be prepared with a proper license and chefs must train for years to earn one. A dozen or so restaurants in the U.S. handle and serve Fugu. Our tip? If you must eat fugu to prove bad-assery, dine with an older chef (look for hearty wrinkles, but avoid shaky hands and canes) with experience.
Hakarl (Rotten Shark)
Iceland is steadily heading toward a culinary renaissance, yet ancient preservation methods are still coveted by chefs and families, and the two seem to be merging. Folks from Iceland are known to get weird, especially with their food, and uber-traditional delicacies still hold stake. Bjork’s terrestrial landing doesn’t joke around when it comes to its bizarre and completely culturally accepted foods. Rotten Shark, called “Hakarl,” is perhaps the country’s most famous food eccentricity. Shark meat is poisonous when eaten fresh, so instead, it’s left to ferment for 6 weeks. Literally as its decaying, the meat is cut and hung out to dry for another 4 months. Once the curing process is done, its aged brown crust is removed and the flesh is cut up into small pieces for consumption. Considered a delicacy, the meat is customarily eaten with a shot of Brennivin, Iceland’s signature spirit. The Hakarl experience has been described as slightly chewy and tasting like the following super-appetizing tastes and smells: urine, strong cheese, and ammonia.
Ghost Chili Pepper
Native to India, ghost chilies rank as some of the spiciest peppers in the world, if not arguably the hottest. In addition to being part of YouTube sensations and fraternity initiation paractices, these chilies, also known as Bhut Jolokia, are said to be 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. The mouth-heat of the pepper results from the amount and particular type of this thing called capsaicin, a chemical found in chili peppers.
Try Scary Spice at your own risk. Sounds like a great addition to a hungover bloody mary? Don’t do what this guy did, but maybe more importantly; don’t do anything this guy does, did, or will do, ever. If he’s just too painful to watch (not necessarily because of the ghost, but because he is a big kook), just go to minute 4.
Rocky Mountain Oysters (Bull’s Testicles)
Yes, it’s an appetizer, and no, they’re not oysters. An open, willing mind, enthusiastic stomach, and cocktail sauce are all you need. We’d agree that testicles are probably best fried, which is how this delicacy is often served. Castration is common practice and usually required for young male livestock. Historically, the tradition STEMS from the practice that “no parts go left behind,” as ranchers, cowboys, and cattle farmers utilized every possible food source. The male parts are peeled (yikes), coated in flour, sometimes left alone and occasionally pounded flat (eeep), fried, and served as an appetizer with dipping sauce. The ballsy appetizer’s flavor is said to be mild, reminiscent of liver, and superbly chewy in texture. Bull testicles are common, but boar, sheep, and buffalo are battered up and fried as well. Actually, Testicle Festivals (known in some parts as a “Testy Festy”) are pretty common events scattered around the country.