Those of you, who have been following my interest in what people from around the world eat, remember the Part One & Part Two of my post “World’s most unusual foods”, where I share with you my amusement from what I’ve seen when travelling, and also discovered through a research on the topic. The subject is still of a great interest to me (and I think it’ll always be), and it’s also so vast that I decided to write another post. This time I cover some national dishes & delicacies of different counties that might sound and taste strange to foreigners.
Tarator – cold yogurt, cucumber and garlic soup This extremely popular Bulgarian dish is primary consumed in summer time. It’s made of diluted yogurt, finely diced cucumber, pressed garlic and chopped dill, garnished with ground walnuts. Bulgarians consume it like a soup (in hot summer months) or a starter and even drink it from a glass. Pacha – jellied pig’s trotters and ears It’s a little old fashioned Bulgarian dish, which variations could be found in other Eastern European countries is usually eaten in winter time. The dish that’s of a boiled pig ears, trotters and spices, ends up looking like translucent jelly, with a garlicky flavor.
Balut (also spelled Baloot or Balute) – chicken or duck embryo
А Balut is a fifteen- or sixteen-day fertilized chicken egg. Imagine putting an incomplete chicken into your mouth, together with partially formed feathers, feet, eyeballs, and blood vessels showing through the translucent skin of the embryo. Bizarre, to put it soft. I think this is a Filipino delicacy, also known as “the treat with feet” or “the egg with legs” is best enjoyed after many, many, many beers.
Haggis – steamed sheep’s stomach, stuffed with offal and oatmeal A more accurate definition would be: “a highly spiced sausage made from offal meats (that’s heart, lungs and liver – minced) with oatmeal filler, traditionally in a casing made from a sheep’s stomach.” Haggis is accompanied by chappit neeps and tatties – meaning mashed turnip (Swede) and potatoes.
When is haggis eaten? Haggis eaters fall into several categories:
- Those that have never heard of it or had the chance to eat it
- Those that never eat it even given the opportunity
- Those that put it on their plates on festive occasions and push it around to make it look like they’ve eaten some.
- Those that eat it off every time they are given the opportunity.
Turducken – Turkey, Duck and Chicken, three in one.
Partially de-boned turkey that is stuffed with a boneless duck that is stuffed with a boneless chicken = Turducken. This dish, resembling a Matryoshka doll, is originates for the southern parts of United States and I just thank God that the clever people who invented it, did not go further to create a “bulpigturducken”, which would be, you guessed it, a turducken stuffed inside a pig, which in turn will be inside a bull.
Roasted whole stuffed camel – traditional Bedouin wedding dish
This is the Arab answer to the Americans or vice versa, it doesn’t matter. Similarly to turducken, a whole stuffed camel is a culinary delicacy composed of a medium-sized (300-500 kg) camel stuffed with a sheep, lamb or a goat a stuffed with other ingredients, stuffed with chickens, which has been stuffed with fish, which had been stuffed with eggs… hold on, it’s not over yet! The gaps all around are filled with rice, nuts and other stuffings. This is a traditional Bedouin wedding dish, served at the weddings of sheikhs and of their family members. To cook the camel it takes 2.7 tonnes of wood, 15 litres of oil and 15-20 hours. Some references in culinary word, such as Richard Sterling’s book The Fearless Diner. contain variations of this recipe for camel, in which the animal is stuffed with dates, plover eggs, carp, seasoned bustards, and sheep, baked for two days on hot coals in a ditch. To me any variation has the same level of… let’s put it softly, unusuality.
Cibreo – a Tuscan dish with cock’s combs
Raw cock’s combs
My first choice from Italy is Cibreo a Tuscan dish with cock’s combs (Creste di gallo). A cock’s combs, is a part of a chicken that I have never imagined as something remotely edible. Yet, the dish has being popular for centuries and rumor has it that it was one of Catherine de’ Medici’s favorites. Born Florence, Italy, she arrived in France in 1533 and married the future King Henri II. In 1547 her husband became the King and Catherine became the Queen of France. Catherine de’ Medici is reputed to have arrived in France with own personal chefs, confectioners and butlers. This noble person is credited with launching many food innovations to France, such as teaching the French how to eat with a fork. She introduced many foods and dishes, for example artichokes, broccoli and truffles, among many others. Coming back to Cibreo, it must be said that it’s a simple dish made of egg yolks, chicken livers and hearts, cocks testicles and of course cocks’ combs. Pig’s cheek – an irresistible temptation
My second choice from Italy, pig’s cheek, deserves a monument. Well in Italy, of course. The reason why that is without it there would be neither amatriciana sauce nor a bunch of other regional Italian delicacies. Cured and dried to make Guanciale (derived from guancia, Italian for cheek) or fried and baked, it can go in a pasta dish, on a pizza, in a soup and basically pretty much everywhere. For example, in Italy, pig’s cheek, is featured as a primary ingredient in the best home-made salamis, like cotechino and zampone, often accounting for 1/4 of the contents. Pig’s cheek is an absolute must when it comes to amatriciana sauce, which dare not bear this designation unless it contains this crucial ingredient. Such is the popularity of pig’s cheek, it can even be used in fish dishes. It’s just a question of selecting the right type of fish, like a filet of eel, and having a little imagination.
Actually the Mexican spirit Tequila doesn’t traditionally have a worm in the bottle. It is often confused with another, Mexican drink called Mezcal which does has a worm or few inside the bottle. In both cases neither drink contains real worms but instead the larvae from a moth called the Hypopta agavis. Mexicans call it Gusano and it lives on the agave plant.