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Goat heads, smelly fruit and other oddities eaten around the world
Goat heads, smelly fruit and other oddities eaten around the world

Ever since Neanderthal man first discovered that the meat of animals, birds and sea creatures represented a more substantial meal than leaves or fruit (as well as marrying better with a glass of Barbera), the culinary universe has produced some truly impressive recipes.

So open-minded eaters with robust life insurance can experiment with dozens of local dishes.

From octopuses with suckers that stick to the palate in Korea to sheep or cow heads (Armenia and Norway), from fish with still struggling ends (Japan) to fruit so stinking that it is forbidden on public transport (Taiwan).

Sannakji, Korea


The dish is composed of nakji, small caught octopus, immediately chopped, marinated in oil and sesame seeds, served with chili or other sauces.

When it is time to put it on the table, the suction cups affixed to the tentacles are still darting, which is why it is advisable to chew carefully before swallowing so that they do not stick to the palate, which is not very pleasant - or throw in the towel. It depends on how reckless you are.

Some people just love the feel of the tentacles wrapping around the throat muscles. Matter of taste.

Khask, Armenia

It is a popular dish in Armenia but present in all Uralic cuisines, from the Albanian one to the very distant Mongolia.

An antidote to long and cold winters, it seems invented by Hannibal Lecter: the head of a cow is simmered for many hours, together with the legs and part of the stomach. It is usually accompanied by a mixture of vegetables such as peppers, radishes and pickles and generous gulps of vodka.

Small differences between the different recipes of Khask: in Armenia they use the stomach of the bovine, in Azerbaijan, where the soup is called kjiallja pacha, the parts of the animal are deprived of the skin, in Georgia they add milk to soften the wild flavor.

Smalahove, Norway


Typical dish of western Norway, in particular of the town of Voss, is composed of the whole head of a sheep, originally served with fermented milk or beer.

Norwegians eat it during the Christmas holidays, everyone else, including us, when they see the sheep's head motionless on their plate, next to mashed potatoes and a boiled potato, they hope to be able to wake up from the nightmare as soon as possible.

The head is first boiled for several hours, then left to dry with aromas, in some cases the skull is not emptied because the brain is reputed to be a real delicacy.

Today, to tell the truth, smahalove is synonymous with lamb's head, no longer than sheep, following a 1998 European Union directive to combat the possible transmission of infectious diseases.

Sea anemones, all over Europe

In Sardinia, they are known as orziadas, sea anemones that are eaten floured and fried or in sauce, as a condiment for spaghetti with crabs or boiled murexes.

In Spain, more precisely in Andalusia they are called ortiguillas. Although the sea anemones do not look particularly inviting when alive, those who have tasted them praise their delight.

The appearance is reminiscent of croquettes, because in particular in the city of Cadìz they are served fried and wrapped in a tempura batter.

Ikizukuri, Japan

Lovers of raw fish, are you willing to push yourself to the extreme? If the answer is yes, get ready to taste ikizukuri, a sort of sashimi based on fish still alive with flapping ends.

The restaurant customer chooses what he wants to eat; the chef removes the fish from the aquarium (octopus, shrimp, squid, lobster …) and slices and serves it on a plate.

The ikizukuri is not a modern invention, but in the past it was the exclusive prerogative of fishermen engaged in long fishing trips. Now, however, it is a passion for gourmets, and restaurants specializing in ultra-fresh fish with usually very salty prices proliferate.

Durian (fruit), Southeast Asia


Known by the friendly nickname of the most smelly fruit in the world, it is forbidden on almost all public transport, and few hotels allow customers to introduce it inside the structure. Does it smell so bad?

Yes, it gives off an unpleasant odor even before the spiny peel is removed. Then, once opened, the smell becomes nauseating, a usual description: a strong scent of sewage.

Yet enthusiasts say that the flavor of its soft and pasty pulp recalls that of custard, with a hint of almond, so much so that the Taiwanese fruit, widespread throughout Southeast Asia, is used in some pastry preparations, especially in China..

Non-fans are less kind.

Damamiam, Taiwan

Nothing about the pig is thrown away, right? The aboriginal population of Taiwan has always known this, which also includes damamian among the traditional dishes of their cuisine.

A mixture of raw pork and white rice left to ferment at room temperature in a large pot for two weeks.

Cockscombs, Italy

Today they appear on the starred menus of chefs like Paul Bocuse, who is able to prepare rooster tese like no other. Also in Italy, of course, these gelatinous growths, protagonists of many recipes, from risotto to stewed single dish, are experiencing a revival in the most famous kitchens, like offal and sweetbreads.

A beloved specialty since the time of Artusi is Cibreo, a traditional Tuscan chicken giblet stew, consisting of livers, kidneys, testicles and rooster combs finished with beaten egg yolks and lemon juice.

rough guide 4
rough guide 4

Bamboo worms, Thailand

Between ants and grasshoppers, eating insects in Asia is not some oddity. Among the specialties that Thais are fond of are the worms that emerge from the bamboo stems, which have now acquired the status of food for gourmand.

Known as a fast train because they quickly reach the length to finish in the pan, they are not easy to cook: the heat facilitates the escape of the inner part, the tastiest one, the trick is to cook them over very low heat.

Some say the taste is reminiscent of French fries, others mention corn chips.

Bat soup, Palau island

bat soup
bat soup

When you order a bat soup on the island of Palau, Micronesia, you may find sinister pieces of black meat dipped in the broth on your plate. But beware, more often than not you will have a whole bat complete with fur, membranes, legs, wings and head (including the little pink tongue protruding between its sharp teeth).

The bat in question, in addition to acting as a pollinator, is a great source of protein. Also for this reason it ends up in the pot together with chilli and ginger.

A delicacy that has become expensive in recent times, and accompanied by a ritual that even includes the choice of the bat among a series available in restaurants.

Ortolano, France

An angelic little bird who does not have an easy life in France. About ten centimeters long and weighing just under one hundred grams, it is a real specialty for French gourmets, even the former president Mitterand was fond of it.

The bird is captured, blinded and fed with high-calorie fruit to increase its fat mass. Once the desired weight is reached, before being served, it is drowned in a glass of Almagnac.

The ritual involves slow and measured actions: place yourself in the mouth leaving only the beak out, suck slowly to sense its taste, and then push it down.

Surstromming, Sweden


The literal meaning of the word is sour-tasting herring, mention it to any Swede and you'll see him wrinkle his nose.

It is obtained from salted herring from the Baltic Sea with six months of fermentation behind it. Stocked and sold in jars, they are usually consumed (outdoors, given the smell) in a sandwich, drinking on brandy or beer.

The habit of eating the stinky specialty began in the town of Ulvon during the sixteenth century, at that time little salt was used to preserve fish since it was very expensive. A decision that inadvertently allowed fermentation.

Rattlesnake, United States

American cuisine, often not very attentive to the calorie content of dishes, lends itself to much criticism, but we never imagined we would have to talk about this strange habit: eating the rattlesnake.

Notoriously poisonous, according to many admirers they would have a fantastic flavor, as well as being an undisputed source of protein.

Recipes abound: baked, grilled, stewed or over-seasoned (we are always in America) with jalapeno pepper.

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