I know, there have been a lot of food posts on here recently! What can I say, my experience with Forktown Food Tours must’ve really inspired me to start looking at culture through the lens of food more often.
In any case, I promise I’ll be changing up my posts a bit more after this one, but I did want to share with you all a touch of international food culture with the help of a few friends in the blogging world. That’s right, this is my first collaboration post and I’m pretty excited that it’s about food – one of my favorite things in the world.
Hopefully these foodie experiences will intrigue you, make your mouth water, and inspire you to book that next trip because you want to try something on this list…or some of these could very well disgust you.
That’s the beauty of different cultures and food in general, however. What disgusts one person may be the tastiest food specialty to another. I hope when you read through this list, you’ll keep an open mind and take each item as it is – an experience to have or not to have, but to appreciate.
Snake in Hanoi, Vietnam
I’ve had a few interesting food experiences in my travels, I’ve tried maggots, grasshoppers, and scorpions in Thailand, I’ve tried kangaroo, barracuda, and crocodile in Australia, I’ve tried alligator in the USA, but I’ll tell you the story of my interesting food experience I had in Hanoi, Vietnam to start off this collaboration post: SNAKE.
My sister is terrified of snakes, so sister, if you’re reading this you may skip this passage. I actually wrote a whole post about my snake experience here, but I’ll at least give you a summary of how it went.
Snake is considered a specialty in Vietnam, especially the act of biting the beating heart from the chest of a snake, it’s reserved for the guest of honor in most cases. I went to the tourist option of this snake feast at the Snake Village in Hanoi.
Before I booked the feast, I did talk with my Vietnamese friends to see if this was actually a cultural experience to have or just a tourist gimmick. I was told that it is in fact a specialty and drinking snake blood is meant to make you strong and increase your virility, being chosen to eat the heart is a sign of great respect.
With that said, I’m unsure if the tourist version of this cultural feast is an activity I would recommend after going there myself, as I don’t believe the snakes to be treated all that humanely, but of course that is up to your own discretion to decide.
Our snake feast consisted of all dishes made up of snake. And when I say I ate snake, I mean the whole snake, minus the beating heart, I couldn’t get myself to cross that line. We had snake vertebrae (“snake ribs”), crispy snake skin, crushed snake bones, seasoned grilled snake and yes, even a shot of the snake blood and bile mixed with rice wine. No part of the snake was left uneaten.
The dishes weren’t necessarily something I daydreamed about over how scrumptious they were, but it was definitely a unique food experience to have. I was glad to have seen this part of Vietnamese culture, even though it was through more of a touristy experience. Oh, and I don’t think snake really tastes all that much like chicken.
Dosa from South India
India is a country with thousands of languages, traditions, and delicious food. Depending on where you are in the country you will be exposed to many different culinary dishes.
South Indian food is notoriously known to be a little on the spicy side. But fear not, you can learn to adapt your inexperienced taste buds to enjoy a unique experience. If you are still a little squeamish then you can try Dosa. You can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It never gets boring because you can always pair it with different curries and side dishes.
So what is Dosa? Well it’s a crepe like dish that originated in Tamil Nadu and it is made with fermented rice batter. My parents made it numerous times for me when I was young and lived in Chennai/ Madras.
I would watch my mother grind up the rice on a stone grinder. She would then add lentils to the batter and let it ferment overnight. My dad would grease up the pan with oil and start frying it. It is cooked similar to how pancakes are made. You don’t need Indian parents to enjoy Dosa.
It can be found on the street stalls of Tamil Nadu as well as high-end restaurants. It can be served with Sambar or Chutney, both traditional dips that are vegetarian. It can also be served with curry for the meat lovers. So when you go to South India make sure you enrich your mouth by trying the delicious dish that is the staple of many Tamilians.
Calf Fries in Fort Worth, Texas
On my first visit to Fort Worth, Texas as I was walking down a street I saw a sign in a window that said “calf fries.” I didn’t think twice about it and naturally assumed that they were just a cute “cowboy” name for french fries.
It wasn’t until we were at a restaurant in Dallas did I find out the truth. Calf fries are in fact breaded deep fried bull testicles. So, always up for a little adventure, I had to order them! My verdict? They were surprisingly tasty although texturally a little soft and spongy, and no, they did not taste anything like chicken. Would I order them again? Yes I would, they were a bit addictive and went well with the buttermilk dip!
Cà Phê Trứng (or Vietnamese Coffee) in Vietnam
The coffee in Vietnam is pretty unique and actually forms a great part of their culture. It’s seen here as a part of socialising and as a result you can find this drink in different forms and styles.
While I had written down ‘TRY THE EGG COFFEE’ on the list of ‘must do’ whilst in Vietnam, neither me nor Andrzej actually liked the idea of having egg with coffee, and I must admit that I was a little bit scared to give this one a go. However, I’m so happy we did as it was delicious!!
Vietnamese Egg Coffee or Cà Phê Trứng is a style of coffee found predominately in the North of Vietnam. A coffee that was created out of necessity in the days when milk was scarce and egg was used as a ‘creamer’ for the coffee.
This Vietnamese Egg Coffee is basically made by whipping raw egg yolks with sweetened condensed milk. This delicious creamy concoction is then placed on top of the more traditional strong Vietnamese drip coffee. The topping turns this coffee into more of a naughty dessert and has a taste similar to Cadbury Creme Eggs or maybe more like a liquid version of Tiramisu? Yummm!!!
You can try this coffee as either a hot or cold drink. We loved the hot version! And if you don’t like coffee, you can choose to have yours with chocolate instead – Cà Phê Trứng Cacao – which is truly delicious as well.
While visiting Hanoi, make sure to look up some of the coffee shops who specialise in this coffee style. Our recommendation is to visit Cafe Giang (39 Nguyen Huu Huan street, in the Old Quarter).
We completely and totally fell in love with the coffee culture in Vietnam and it is something we miss dearly ever since leaving.
Chicken Soup & Yak Leg in China
China is full of odd and interesting edible
Chinese cuisine in the more rural areas is fueled by what is available in the area. Livestock is often used fully to minimize waste, and sometimes this can lead to interesting takes on traditional foods.
When I was in Longsheng visiting the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces, my taxi driver knew a local family owned restaurant there that he took me to. Noticing the scattered chickens wandering the premises, I figured that the chicken soup had a good chance of being fresh there. Boy was I right!
When my dish arrived, there was no doubt that I was getting chicken in my soup. Perched right in the center of the dish was a chicken head staring right back at me! Not one to shy away from something new, I dug right in. I must admit, it was some of the best chicken soup I’ve had, minus the sorting through talons, bones and a beak.
This was not uncommon is rural China and I wasn’t hugely surprised by it, even though it wasn’t quite what I expected. What really caught me by surprise, however, was one of the snacks that was sold at the Lijiang airport.
Having cleared security and secured my spot at the gate of this tiny airport, I wandered over to the shopping area looking for a small snack to tide me over on the flight. I browsed the options: Chips, nah, candy, no thanks, not in the mood for nuts….
Yak leg! That’s what I feel like!
Yes, sitting on the shelf, for sale as a carry on item on the airplane, was a fully packaged, 3 foot long, raw yak leg. Even though Lijiang is somewhat near the Tibetan region and yak is sold everywhere on the streets there, this had to be the most surprising food item I’ve ever seen for sale. It was so much yak leg I could barely finish it on my 4 hour flight!
Guinea Pig in Peru
“It’s So Fluffy!” This is usually how I react around Guinea Pigs as I think they are super cute, love how they squeak, and despite having had several as pets, always wanted to know what they tasted like. This twisted curiosity was one of the main reasons I traveled to South America and I was on the lookout for the perfect Cuy (local name for guinea pigs).
Until the introduction of domestic animals such as cows, chickens, and pigs when the Europeans arrived, the only domesticated animals in South America were guinea pigs and llama so the history of eating Cuy is a long standing one.
But I didn’t want to just try guinea pig, I wanted to experience it. Depending on what region you are in will determine how it’s prepared, which like other sources of meat, can come roasted, fried, boiled or grilled. After limited research it seemed either fried or roasted were the best ways to experience eating it, and a restaurant called “Kusikuy” in Cusco, Peru was the better known location for preparation and presentation.
They serve their guinea pig roasted then present it to the table whole with a pepper in its mouth, a tomato garnish on it’s head, and perched on a potato to give it some height. After pictures all around, they take it away and quarter the guinea pig, then bring it back to the table with corn, potato, rice and hot sauce garnish so it’s less confronting when you actually eat it.
I’m not usually a “foodie” but I must admit to really enjoying this traditional meal and despite what everyone says – it tastes like duck not chicken. Overall, it was everything I wanted it to be as it was very entertaining and the presentation made the experience so much better.
Käsespätzle in Austria
Let’s first dissect the meaning of the glorious culinary word Käsespätzle.
Käse means cheese in the German language and Spätzle refers to a rich egg noodle that can be eaten with everything from goulash to popular Bavarian soup dishes. Spätzle has been a part of Europe’s diet for at least 2,000 years, and though primarily a German and Austrian specialty, this hearty noodle can be found in the food cultures of Switzerland and Hungary as well.
Käsespätzle is the heavenly, cheesy and lush combination of cheese and spätzle and belongs on every foodie’s “must eat” list when traveling Europe. Especially popular in Bavaria and the alpine region of Austria, this dish is served as a small mountain of cheese-covered spätzle topped with fresh herbs and fried onions. Basically, this is one of the dreamiest international spins on macaroni and cheese ever.
Käsespätzle is pure alpine comfort food and the perfect post-slope recovery meal. In the picturesque villages and cities nestled in the Austrian Alps region, Käsespätzle is always on the menu. In nearly every fairytale-like chalet and ski lodge, locals and tourists alike can be seen sitting fireside, devouring this delicious culinary delight. Tourists will find that every city has its own variation of Käsespätzle – so this dish never grows old and culinary explorers always have a new reason to eat it over and over again.
Hotlix Candy from Pismo Beach, California
This is definitely a candy experience you will remember for the rest of your life! Just a short walk from Pismo Beach, California there is a little candy shop named “Hotlix,” which is quite famous for selling wacky candies.
Their candies are not just weird, they are actually explosions of extremely strange ideas (some are really terrible). One word to sum it up: INSECTS! From insect candy to insect suckers to insects covered with chocolate… they play around way too well with the theme. I remember grabbing one apple worm sucker at the counter when the guy from the store came up to me and introduced me to (yuck!) Scorpion suckers.
I immediately turned down his offer. While I was thinking whether to have an apple worm or ants for a snack, the same guy came out from nowhere again saying: “do you know worms can be a rich source of protein?”
For anyone who is not afraid to try new candy flavors, I highly recommend you trying a scorpion. And how about some chocolate covered jalapeños? Crazy, but yes they do have that too! They also sell traditional candies without insects inside, personally I think their fudge is worth trying.
And there you have it! Some of the most interesting & unique foods from around the world as told by travel bloggers. Are you hungry yet?
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Have you tried anything from this list? What is the most interesting food experience you’ve had in your travels?
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