The best way to immerse oneself in a new culture is to try the local cuisine. But what if that country’s favorite or most exotic dish is your household pet, or that wild animal you always were fascinated by on the TV and dreamed of seeing in person — but not on a plate?
Some cultures around the world eat cats and dogs, but exotic sources of meat don’t stop there. Animals you may not have thought would be a meal for anyone except for lions and tigers, for example, are actually enjoyed and eaten around the world.
Geographic factors and weather play a large part in the palate of a culture. Depending on which region they live in, people become accustomed to certain tastes and flavors and rely on the foods and produce that are available.
In Iceland and Greenland, two countries that are close to the North Pole, two popular dishes involve the fermentation of meats (from birds to sharks) over the cold, winter months, since early inhabitants of these regions had to store and preserve foods over the long winter.
Many local dishes are also shared in celebration of a religious or cultural event. For example, in parts of the Middle East, camel is often served as a delicacy as weddings and other special events (and in at least one case served as haute cuisine by a world-renowned chef).
Getting out of your comfort zone and trying new flavors is a great way to truly experience the place you are visiting. We know, it’s not easy to become an adventurous eater, so take a look at our list and see which animals you’d have to work your way up to eating.
Prized as a delicacy in the Middle East, camel is known to taste like beef or lamb and be a good source of vitamin E. It is not eaten every day; in parts of the Middle East, camel is often served as a delicacy as weddings and other special events. In Syria and Cairo, for example, there are special butchers you go to for camel meat. The hump of the camel is often said to be the best part as it is more tender and meatier than other parts of the animal. Camel are often slow- cooked with curries and marinades.
Cane rats, served in Ghana as well as in Cameroon and Nigeria, have a sweet taste. Despite their name, cane rats don’t look like rats at all; they are about the size of cats and look like guinea pigs. Cane rat meat is lean, and it is low in cholesterol. It is commonly served as a soup or on a plate with rice.