Whenever I go to a restaurant the most difficult task for me is figuring out what I should order from the menu. Should I get something new? Or should I get something that I’ve already had before? The answer is almost always that I should get something new. Why you ask? Well, the simple answer is that I want to try something new. I want to experience a new taste that I haven’t had before.
One of the exciting aspects of eating is discovering the unknown. Restaurants offer their customers a unique experience of trying new dishes they’d never had before; ingredients they may have never heard of. When I’m examining the menu I go immediately to the description of the dish. What I try to do is pick out the dishes that have ingredients that I know I want to try, from the high-end ingredients to some of the more unusual.
I dare you to be an adventurous eater and try some of these ingredients when you see them on the menu. Take a chance and try something new when you eat because you never know–you might just love it.
These ingredients will definitely lighten the load in your wallet but it’s totally worth it. These are the ingredients that most people will be able to identify easily and have no trouble trying just because of their popularity and luxuriousness.
One of the more controversial ingredients on this list, foie gras is one of the most decadent ingredients you’ll find on any menu. Foie gras is really fatty duck’s liver. Because of its richness in flavor it is often paired alongside some kind of wine or berry reduction to cut through that fattiness. Because of its status as a controversial ingredient it can only be found in a couple of states, so definitely be on the lookout.
For those of you who took Spanish in high school you’ll know that this translates to ham. This ruby-red delicacy isn’t your typical piece of ham you’d find behind the deli counter. This is the dry-cured ham that Spain is known for. Jamón has a really complex flavor that can really only be experienced individually. You can usually find jamón on charcuterie boards in two forms, either jamón serrano or jamón ibérico. If you really want to experience something amazing I’d recommend jamón ibérico.
Chocolate truffles are great and all but the truffles I’m talking about are of the fungus variety. The two most commonly used truffles are the white and the black truffles. They each have a very distinct flavor profile but in general truffles have a very earthy flavor that makes them the king of the shrooms. Just to put things into perspective, a truffle can go for a couple hundred dollars a pound. A word of caution though, if you see truffle oil on the menu, do not, I repeat do not, get fooled. Truffle oil is a completely synthetic product that doesn’t really have any real truffles in it at all. Restaurants will charge you an outrageous premium knowing customers will order it.
For those in search of trying something new for the first time, these ingredients are easy to find in a number of restaurants and are a pretty safe bet. You’ll definitely love these ingredients because there’s nothing intimidating about them, they just taste really good.
Definitely sounds a little weird but beef tongue really just tastes like any other cut of beef you’d normally eat. You’d never know the difference if you were blindfolded and tried it for the first time. One of my favorite dishes with beef tongue are tacos.
Again, this may sound a bit odd to eat but bone marrow is just another really decadent ingredient. The most common preparation is simply to herb-roast it and serve it with some bread. You can spread it like butter on your bread if you like. Bone marrow is something you’ll definitely want to come back to in the future as a great appetizer.
This funky looking fruit is very popular in Southeast Asia and is slowly growing in popularity in the states. Lychee is really sweet and has a tropical flavor that will get you addicted right away. If you’ve ever had bubble tea they usually have lychee on the menu so you can definitely get a taste of it with a little boba.
Octopus has a very similar texture to calamari so there’s nothing to be afraid of here. Personally, I love the tentacles. They’ve got a kind of crunch which is especially great when the restaurant has grilled the octopus so you get a little smokiness from the char too.
For the Adventurous Eater
These are definitely going to be some of the more bizarre ingredients you’ll find on any menu. For those who really want to try something new these are the ingredients that need to be on your bucket list. Take a chance and try something that looks kind of weird because what is life without a little risk, right?
To all you garlic lovers out there, black garlic is definitely something you want to try. It looks far worse than it actually is. Black garlic in actuality has a very complex flavor, from a little sweet caramel flavor to a very savory umami taste.
The name alone will tell you all you need to know about this ingredient. Blood sausage is made from blood and other organs. It is usually heavily spiced to mask some of that offal flavor, but you’re definitely going to taste it.
Bottarga is dried fish roe, usually from either tuna or mullet. It is most commonly used in Italian cuisine but can also be found in Mediterranean dishes as well. If you like caviar you’ll find that bottarga has a very distinct flavor comparable to caviar. It definitely exhibits salty and briny notes. One of the more popular ways it is used is shaved over pasta.
The idea of eating a bug is not very appetizing but crickets are one of the most approachable bugs to eat. It is commonly found in a number countries outside of the states as a street snack. Some have even compared to snacking on potato chips. A quick sauté and you’ve basically got pure protein in the form of a cricket.
A very exotic looking ingredient, geoduck, pronounced “gooey duck”, is a really big clam. Nothing to be scared of in terms of taste, it is most commonly served crudo style, meaning it is served raw. Looks can be deceiving so try to ignore it because this is definitely a treasure of the sea.
Nick-named “corn truffles”, huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on the ears of corn. Don’t be thrown by its moldy appearance, this fungus is similar to eating a mushroom exhibiting similar earthy flavors. Huitlacoche is definitely a unique ingredient and is considered a Mexican delicacy.
Squid ink pasta is a really great ingredient to try because it’s basically just pasta. It’s got a jet-black color that makes it a really appealing ingredient to try. It should also be noted that restaurants usually make the pasta in house so not only are you getting the briny notes from the squid ink but you’re also getting a taste of some handmade pasta. This is usually tossed in a seafood broth and some shellfish.