We think that half the fun of travelling is sampling the local grub. Whether you’re the type to dine at Michelin-starred restaurants or would prefer to give anything a try, eating abroad is an adventure in itself.
Sampling the gourmet fare is all well and good, but sometimes you’ve just got to step out of your comfort zone and gulp down that deep fried grasshopper, or nibble your way through a piece of haggis.
Here are a few choice morsels from our list of bizarre snacks from around the world. Be warned: these little treats are not for the squeamish.
1. Durian fruit – Southeast Asia
The Durian is affectionately known as the “King of Fruits” in Southeast Asia. This thorny, melon-shaped fruit is native to Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, where it can be easily found in supermarkets and street vendor carts. Durian fruit is renowned for its pervasive scent. To put it nicely: it’s not pleasant (think rotten eggs). However, the soft flesh is revered by many for it’s custard-like consistency and nutty flavour – just don’t forget to pinch your nose!
2. Mealworms – Southeast Asia and around the world
Mealworms are slowly making their way onto dinner plates around the world, with some Sydney restaurants beginning to serve up the crunchy treat (see Billy Kwong in Surry Hills). Cooked mealworms are also easy to find in Southeast Asia, served up liberally by street vendors. In terms of flavour, mealworms have a distinct taste with a hint of cheese and lemon. Deep fry them and you’ve got yourself a crunchy, nutty bar snack with a difference.
3.Llama meat – Bolivia
Llama is a traditional part of Andean indigenous cuisine, but nowadays you’ll find the meat in high-end restaurants alongside quinoa. The high-protein, low-fat meat can be found in many of Bolivia’s five-star hotels, exclusive restaurants in La Paz and served grilled by street vendors. The succulent meat tastes similar to beef, and is delicious in burger patties or thinly sliced and served as carpaccio.
4. Deep fried grasshoppers – Thailand
Deep fried grasshoppers are a much-loved snack in Thailand. And they’re good for you too – one grasshopper contains 6 grams of protein! Grasshoppers are usually fried and seasoned with chilli, served by the bag from carts of enthusiastic street vendors. Reviews are mixed on the flavour: some claim they taste like chicken, others swear fish.
5. Witchetty grub – Australia
How about a squishy snack from your own backyard? Witchetty grubs were traditionally eaten by Aborigines and have become a well-known bush food, enjoyed for their fried egg flavour and high protein, fat and vitamin content. These grubs reside below the ground, feeding on the root of trees. Eat raw for a gooey treat or roast in hot ashes for a chicken-like taste.
6. Haggis – Scotland
Haggis is made from sheep offal, (internal organs - heart, liver, entrails), and prepared in the lining of the animal’s stomach. The sausage-like concoction is then cooked to perfection and served with vegetables such as turnip and potato (or neeps and tatties as the locals will tell you). Although this Scottish meal is rather unfortunate looking, the finished product is lovely and rich, bursting with umami (savoury) flavour.
7. Ant larvae – Mexico
Known as ‘escamoles’ by the locals, ant larvae are harvested from the roots of blue agave. The cream-coloured eggs look a bit like pine nuts and are often pan fried with butter and spices before being added to tacos. A highly nutritious addition to your taco, escamoles contain 60% protein as well as fats, vitamins and minerals. This Mexican delicacy has a cottage cheese consistency and a slightly nutty, buttery taste.