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Top 10 Unusual Foods in Asia

Updated: Mar 20

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Durian cracked open

When it comes to another country's culture, I say "to each their own." Still, it's hard as an American to imagine stomaching some of the foods Asian countries consider delicacies. There's plenty of examples - some we might try and others we'll steer clear of - so we compiled a list of the most unusual foods in Asia.

Pufferfish

Pufferfish

Though pufferfish (fugu) are considered poisonous, they're usually safe to eat if prepared properly. The most dangerous parts of the fish are the liver, brain, eyes, intestines, and ovaries, leaving the skin and muscle as the consumable parts. Despite this scary truth, it's a beloved - and expensive - delicacy in Japan. I haven't tried it myself, but from what I've read, some consider it delicious while others think it's bland.

Balut (Bird Embryo)

Carton of eggs

Typically consumed in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, balut is a duck embryo that's boiled alive and served in its shell. First, you crack open the egg and drink the broth. Then, you remove the yolk and duckling, salt them, and eat them whole. It sounds morbid, but apparently, it's quite good. Some people compare it to chicken soup.

Durian

Chef cuts open a durian

Durians are known for their disgusting odor, but if you can get past that, you'll enjoy a sweet and creamy taste. Their spikes give them an intimidating look, and gloves are required to cut them open. This fruit is commonly consumed in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Malaysia, making it one of the most unusual foods in Asia.

Scorpion

Scorpion on a skewer

It seems like Asia has a thing for poisonous foods, as scorpions are next on our list. Apparently, though, these terrifying creatures are safe to eat. When the scorpion is fried alive, the poison is neutralized to make it consumable. The crunchy texture is perhaps the hardest thing to overcome, as their taste is said to be comparable to chicken or beef jerky. They're usually enjoyed in China, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Dog Meat

Dog in a field

Yes, the rumors are true. Some Asian countries, such as China, South Korea, and Indonesia, actually do eat our canine friends. Reportedly, dog meat is similar to a fatty cut of beef or a gamey piece of deer. Most people who try it attest to its deliciousness, but since many of us can't look past the pet aspect, we will never know.

Rat

Rat climbing out of a log

Proof that one man's "dirty" is another man's delicacy, rat meat is popular in Thailand, Laos, Taiwan, and Vietnam. If it makes you feel any better, though, all rats captured are from the field rather than the street. They're generally affordable, and they supposedly taste like a gamier version of chicken.

Tarantula

Cooked tarantula

Tarantulas terrify me, so much that finding an image for this header made me squirm. Cambodians, however, don't seem to be phased. Another poisonous choice, tarantulas are often fried and served by street vendors. Some compare the taste to soft shell crab, while others equate it to fish or chicken. Most times, they're rolled in sugar, garlic, and salt.

Octopus Tentacles

Octopus tentacles

Frequently served in Japan and South Korea, octopus tentacles are another unusual Asian food. When eaten raw, they tend to squirm around a bit and sometimes even suction to your mouth. Many describe them as soft and tender, and they're comparable to squid, crab, and scallop meat.

Ants

Ants on a mound

Ants are integrated in soups, salads, and seasonings in many Asian countries. Often, they're roasted, boiled, or served in cans. Some ant species are packed with formic acid, so they give a sour taste similar to lemon. Surprisingly, they're quite nutritious, containing fiber, protein, and minerals.

Horse Meat

Horse in a field

Another animal often thought of as a pet, horses are largely eaten in the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan. Served in many forms, horse meat is used for kebabs, mixed with vegetables, made into sausage, and used to top pasta. Some countries, such as Japan, enjoy the meat raw. Those who try it say it tastes similar to beef, though a bit sweeter.

These unusual Asian foods are interesting to say the least. If we're being honest, I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable trying most of the things on this list. If you're an adventurous eater, though, you might find yourself chomping on a tarantula or downing a moving squid tentacle. Which of these foods would you take a swing at?

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