When I first thought of this list, I had planned on making haggis one of the top foods that scare Americans. Then I did some research, and, well, haggis is now as appetizing as a piece of cake! But keep an open mind. Just because our American palates tend to be more squeamish than the rest of the world’s, it doesn’t mean these foods are worth ignoring completely. Adventurous eaters, rejoice. The rest of you, keep calm and carry on (but consider yourselves warned). Thankfully, this is a short list. For more, check out our 27 Unexpected Delicacies from Around the World.
Balut, or soft-boiled fetal duck, can be found on the streets of Vietnam and the Philippines, but it’s also available at Maharlika in New York City.The egg is incubated for two to three weeks before consumption — meaning that the bird’s partially-formed bones, beak, and feathers add, um, a certain crunch. It’s paired best with a pint of beer.
Coffee beans seem innocuous enough, unlessthey are plucked from the poop of the rather cute Asian palm civet, or toddy cat, a native of Thailand. It’s exotic, but not so exotic that you cannot buy it at Dean & Deluca for a hefty $70. Kopi Luwak is getting a little passé, though — the new kid on the block is Black Ivory Coffee, made of beans found in elephant poop. Go big or go home.
Probably the most peculiar movie theater snack the world has to offer. Though commonly fried or roasted in Colombia, they’re popular in China, too, where people believe dried ants have great anti-aging properties that may even turn grey hair black. The Spanish word for them is hormigas culonas — which literally translates as big-ass ants.
Like pecorino? Try the Sardinian specialty of rotten sheep's milk cheese, decomposed and crawling with live insect larvae within the rind. Though declared illegal in the European Union, it is a thriving black market staple because of its supposed aphrodisiacal properties. Don’t be too surprised if you see it at a bachelor party in Sardinia.
Movie buffs may remember the scene from Oldboy in which Oh Dae-su, after 15 years of imprisonment, goes into a restaurant and asks them for the most dangerous dish they have: live octopus. Sannakji is cut into small pieces, dressed with sesame oil and sesame seeds, and served immediately, so it is still squirming on the plate. Be careful: the tentacles might choke you to death.
This article was originally published March 16, 2015.