Eating things from a kitchen is all well and good, but food is infinitely more exciting when it’s made in the middle of the road. As fun as heading out to a restaurant undoubtedly is, nothing beats the adrenaline rush of discovering a dark and sinister bubbling pot of something yummy on a street corner and asking for a bowl.
In most cases, street food is seriously delicious. However, every once and while, intrepid travellers are likely to come across something that, while probably still tasty, is undeniably weird. Sticking to street stalls might sound glamorous, until you come face to face with something looks less like a food and more like a forfeit. To help you prepare for the unexpected, these are seven of the weirdest street foods on earth.
1. Mopane worms
A popular snack in several countries across Southern Africa, the untrained eye could be forgiven for thinking that these grubs are actually dried cylinders of jerky. In actual fact, they are the young caterpillars of the emperor moth. A local favourite, particularly in Zimbabwe, mopane worms are prized as an incredibly valuable source of protein.
One of the defining features of street food is the tradition of cooking everything on a stick. When we say everything, we do mean everything. Popular in the Philippines, isaw are chargrilled skewers of pig or chicken intestines, threaded onto a bamboo spike before being roasted over an open flame. Though they are carefully cleaned before cooking, they certainly have a unique taste.
Another perturbing Filipino specialty, balut occupies the space right at the extreme end of the boiled egg spectrum. To create the dish, a fertilised duck egg is cooked, complete with the foetus inside. The entire thing is then eaten whole - baby duck and all. Although locals swear that balut is totally delicious, everyone else has given it a much more lukewarm reception.
4. Jellied Eels
As much a part of East London folklore as dodgy pies and Jack the Ripper, jellied eels must rank as one of the world’s strangest ways to eat fish. To prepare the dish, chopped eels are placed in a boiling stock, which is allowed to cool and set, forming a jelly, before the whole thing is eaten cold. If weird tastes and weirder textures are your thing, head to Whitechapel immediately.
Chinese food features all sorts of odd ingredients on sticks, and a typical market might deliver anything from sea sponges to lizard. However, haixing has to top the list of the strangest. To make the dish, whole starfish are impaled, seasoned, and seared on a grill. In all of the oceans great bounty, surely there are more appetising snacks.
6. Dancing Shrimp
It might sound like a budget Sadler’s Wells production, but dancing shrimp is actually much more macabre than it appears. A Thai glass noodle salad, prepared with chopped chillies, shallots and fish sauce, dancing shrimp would be a perfectly normal dish, until you factor in the addition of live baby prawns. It’s not often that your dinner actively tries to escape.
For anyone who suffers from an irrational fear of spiders, a-ping might be the ultimate immersion therapy. A Cambodian specialty, featuring deep fried, locally caught tarantulas, a-ping involves eating the entire spider whole, with the internal organ-filled abdomen particular prized among connoisseurs.
In almost every country, heading to the street is the easiest way to find something delicious. However, as this list makes clear, that doesn’t guarantee that everything you eat will be traditionally tasty. It’s always worth keeping an eye out for the more unusual dishes on the menu.