In countries all over the world there are whole hosts of cooking techniques and ingredients that seem strange to outsiders. From haggis in Scotland to chicken and waffles in the US, unfamiliar regional delicacies can take some time to get your head around.
Once you've taken the plunge and braved the unknown, the rewards are often delicious. However, there are some dishes that seem so outrageous that it takes some serious courage to even think about eating them. Regardless of how tasty they may actually be, these delicacies are often seriously weird. From all across the globe, these are seven of the oddest foods that people actually eat.
1. Casu Marzu
Whether melted, grated or grilled, cheese is one of the all-time great comfort foods. While it's beloved by millions across the world, there is one Sardinian specialty that might be enough to put you off curds for life. Casu Marzu, literally translated as "rotten cheese", gets its delightful name from the live maggots that live within it. The larvae that inhabit the cheese promote extensive fermentation and help to break down the structure, creating a unique creamy texture. Tradition dictates that the cheese be eaten while the maggots are still alive, which has been shown to lead to added complications as some maggots can survive the human digestive process and happily live inside the large intestine. Spray-on cheese suddenly seems a whole lot more appealing.
As a rule, rotten food is best avoided. For the average diner, furry fruit and veg don't immediately scream, "eat me". However, some rules, regardless of how sensible they may seem, were made to be broken. Huitlacoche is a Mexican delicacy made from corn smut, a pathogenic fungus that corrupts corn and turns it into distended black and blue mulch. The flavour is apparently mushroom-like, "sweet, savoury, woody and earthy". Despite this favourable review, rotten corn is eaten only in Mexico. We can't imagine why it hasn't caught on.
When you really think about it, you could call almost any food innately weird. Milk is fluid designed to help baby cows grow. Wine is just old fruit juice. Maybe we should apply the same logic to Milt. After all, it's only the raw semen filled testicles of dead fish. Going by a number of different names across the world, including "moloka" in Russsia and "shirako" in Japan, milt is a delicacy for many cultures. Maybe we're the weird ones for not embracing uncooked fish jizz with open arms.
4. Brain Sandwich
For those who like to dress their weirdness up as something far more mainstream, brain sandwich is a delicacy that allows foodie freaks to remain closeted. Looking like a huge slice of fried chicken, this monstrous Missourian sandwich is actually, as the less than subtle name suggests, flattened deep fried disks of calves brain served on a soft white roll. Though undeniably odd, the brain sandwich might be the best place to start a journey through some of earth's stranger dishes.
While fresh brain maybe tricky for some to get their head around, old brain warrants much more careful consideration. The Japanese specialty "shiokara" features fermented fish brain, heart, guts and any other organ that can be harvested alongside malted rice and salt to produce a dish that looks more like old phlegm than food. The taste is so potent that many restaurants recommend chasing each mouthful with a shot of whisky. At least if you have a big bowl you won't remember much about your ordeal.
6. Century Eggs
It's almost universally acknowledged that there are few things worse than the smell of rotten egg. While most chefs run a mile from an egg past its sell by, some in China have adopted an alternative approach. Produced by producing chicken, duck or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt and quicklime, century eggs are buried for several months before being unearthed and presented to diners. Said to have a distinctly urine-like flavour, you could be forgiven for giving this specialty a miss.
Perhaps the most explicitly gruesome of all the foods on this list, "balut" requires a strong stomach in every sense. Recognised as one of the national dishes of The Philippines, this is another eggy specialty that will have you fleeing from your next omelette. Fertilised duck eggs are lightly boiled in salted water before being cracked open and consumed. The eggs contain fully formed duck embryos which are supposed to be eaten while still warm. This is not a dish for the faint hearted.
Clearly, different foods will seem strange to different people. For many, the idea of chemically enhanced burger beef is about the most off-putting thing imaginable. However, it's also fair to say that the foods that have made this list are a cut above ordinary oddness. For the brave amongst you, they might represent a great new culinary discovery. The rest of us will have to take your word for it.