Gastronomy is boundless. The things people eat and the extents they go to acquire the ingredients is nothing short of a conquest. Here are seven exotic dishes that amazed me. They are sure to leave you open mouthed as well!
1. Argan Nut Oil from Morocco
This oil is found in the kernels of the fruit of the Argan tree. It’s not easy to get the oil though. It is pressed out of the nuts that have passed through the digestive system of goats that climb the trees. Argan oil is highly valued for its nutritional and cosmetic value and it is so rare that some Moroccans have never even heard of it.
2. The Singing French Ortolan
The Ortolan Bunting is a little songbird native to France which is munched whole - bones and all. Ortolan poaching is now banned, but there are ways to get one on your platter, if you have the means that is. A single ortolan can cost anything between 120–150 Euros.
3. Fugu, the Japanese Puffer Fish
Puffer fish are highly poisonous, about 1250 times more toxic than cyanide. Little wonder then that only master Fugu chefs are permitted to cook them. Though the fish is banned in Thailand, Japan gobbles down its puffers superfast. For me though, the risk of being poisoned halves the possibility of gastronomic rapture.
4. The Tarantula of Cambodia
A fried tarantula on your plate will either give you the heebie-jeebies or cure you of arachnophobia while giving the shrink a run for his money. These big hairy critters are especially common in Cambodia and you can get them for as cheap as a dime on the streets. Cooked whole, opinions are varied on how the spiders should be best enjoyed.
5. Swallow’s Nest Soup from China
The Chinese have been known to stun us with their flair for creating food from anything that lives. Swallow’s nest soup is a 400 year old preparation and they go to great lengths to get those blessed nests. These nests are built by a distinctive species of the bird known as the swift. Made from their salivary strands, these nests are found stuck to the walls of caves. They are harvested and sold for as much as $10,000 a kilo. Wonder if the swift gets his labors’ due.
6. Haggis, Italian Cheese N Maggots
Cheese lovers, here something to make your taste buds wriggle. Haggis is an Italian cheese which has live maggots sauntering around in its soft insides. This cheese has had its share of banishments and resurrections. When it was banned by the heath police, it fetched twice its price on the black market. However, since its recognition as a ‘traditional’ food, you can eat maggot cheese at your own discretion. A point to be noted - it is important that the cheese is consumed while the maggots are still alive and wriggling around in it!
7. Balut, the Not-yet-hatched Egg from Cambodia
Balut is a fertilized chicken or duck egg which is boiled when it is nearly ready to hatch. It is then eaten in its shell. The sight may be a tad unappetizing, what with the yolk all yellow and the pinkish flesh if the almost-formed chick. However, that doesn’t stop epicures from raving about the balance of flavors and textures of the balut. No thank you, I will take my eggs well boiled and with a pinch of salt, please!
Some of these dishes amaze while others disgust you, right? But it sure as hell makes me wonder why I am not out there wolfing down these delights. I am already planning a gastronomic journey. Which one of these exotic dishes are on top of your list of ‘things to eat before you die’?
Top image source: blog.hotelclub.com