I was an incredibly picky eater when I first moved to Beijing in 2009. I hardly ever deviated from the norm when it came to food, and I was perfectly content eating things I knew I liked.
As it turned out, being a picky eater in China was next to impossible, and after just a few weeks I learned that I needed to expand my horizons and take my palate to new heights, or I would never learn about the culture (not to mention the fact that I would be permanently hungry). It started with me randomly pointing to a menu picture of a dish that I knew literally nothing about. Before long, I found myself holding fried scorpion on a stick like it was no big deal, and just a month after that found myself drinking a glass of freshly poured snake blood.
Challenges and the adventures that come out of them are a lot of what making traveling so beautiful and exciting. It’s all about stepping outside your comfort zone, whether it’s getting yourself to face that fear and board the plane to some far-off land where you don’t know the language, or testing the might of your iron stomach to see if you have what it takes to be like Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern.
Travelers all around the world are always looking for ways to satisfy their appetites for adventure, and food is no exception to that; in fact, sampling the local cuisine plays an integral role in not only becoming a more adventurous eater, but also in understanding a local culture. Foods that you’d never dream of eating back home may be a delicacy in the country you’re visiting.
Some may start with baby steps, like fried scorpion on a stick, or fried grasshoppers dipped in chili sauce, but the opportunities for extreme culinary adventures only continue to grow with each dish you try. Those heading to South America may want to try guinea pig, a delicacy in Peru, while travelers exploring Australia may refine their palate down under by eating kangaroo. Perhaps you want to try something that’s got a little more of a kick to it? Then head to South Korea, where you can try octopus that is still alive when you eat it.
When you travel with an open mind, adventure lies around every corner and on every plate.
A-Ping (Fried tarantulas) — Cambodia
Plain and simple: Tarantulas are terrifying, but perhaps they are less scary when they are fried? Fried tarantula, or a-ping in Khmer, are popular in Cambodia's Kampong Cham province, specifically in the town of Skuon, 55 miles or so north of Phnom Penh. One traveler has described the legs as crunchy and the head and body as tasting like a cross between cod and chicken.
Balut — Philippines
This Philippine delicacy leaves the rest of the world aghast. Balut is an 18-day-old duck embryo that is boiled alive and then eaten in the shell. Balut is definitely not for the weak of heart. Those who are trying balut for the first time are told not to focus on the texture. Balut eaters first sip the broth surrounding the embryo out of the egg an then pee back the shell and eat the contents inside. Balut is described as a combination of a savory soup, fresh meaty bird and warm yolk.
Alexandra E. Petri is the travel editor at The Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @writewayaround