Since traveling abroad is limited right now, why not bring the world to your kitchen table? From frogs in France to larvae-laced cheese in Sardinia, what seems a little strange in one country is considered as a delicacy in the other.
Join us on a virtual culinary trip and see what’s cooking in some of your favorite travel destinations.
You may have already heard about the love of France for ‘grenouilles’ — or frogs. Many claim that it’s easily mistaken for chicken.
At one point, the French were so fond of frogs that the government had to put an end to commercial hunting because there were almost none left. Luckily, Indonesia and some other places in Asia also grew fond of these leggy delicacies and they are now exporting them to Europe too.
Asia and the Americas: Chicken Feet
Most people like to eat a tender chicken breast or even a firm thigh, but did you know that in Asia, South and Central America and South Africa chicken feet are considered as a delicacy?
This food is supposed to taste just like chicken, but only the texture is quite different. After scalding them for anywhere between ten to fifteen minutes, the claws get a final pedicure before they can be prepared with utmost perfection.
Since there is not so much meat on these chicken feet, they have to be prepared properly to become yummy! Depending on where they are eaten, it seems they taste best in a stew, deep fired or perhaps the most delicious: dim stum style braised.
The best way to eat this treat is on the streets or in one of the many dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong. If you don’t like this mouth-watering food, you can always try some other dim sum specialties!
Japan: Tuna eyes
We all know that Japanese cuisine features a lot of seafood, but it’s not just limited to sushi…
Large tuna eyes are considered a delicacy in Japan. They can be braised, fried, steamed, or even added to a seafood stew. Most people compare the taste to a hard-boiled egg mixed with a squid. Interesting combination if you ask me!
The best way to indulge on these eyes (or any other parts of fish!) is by spending the day at the famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. If the tuna eyes aren’t to your liking after all, you can at least get rid of the taste by eating a delicious plate of sushi and wash it down with some really strong sake.
Ecuador and Peru: Cuy
In Ecuador and Peru, guinea pig is a traditional Andean dish once reserved for royalty. They’re roasted and often served with rice, potatoes and salad. It is said to taste a bit like rabbit (a specialty dish in Belgium, where the author lives and works) or sometimes pork.
The people of South America have had plenty of time to cook and crisp this delight to perfection because this food was already eaten some 7000 years ago!
Both in Peru and Ecuador, you can sample local treats on one of the many markets. Perhaps now is also a good time to start experimenting with the above ingredients yourself. Travel is all about expanding your horizons and I’m pretty sure ‘Mr. Sniffles’ will taste great!
Sardinia: Casu Marzu
For those who really like their cheeses strong, look no further than southern Italy. Sardinia has many delicious cheeses that are well worth sampling, but casu marzu is perhaps their most unique.
Literally translating to “rotten cheese”, this uncommon variety is made from sheep milk and laced with live insect larvae. The insects are said to give the cheese an incredibly creamy texture… though it’s actually illegal, and so not for sale.
This means (thankfully?) that it’s unlikely you’ll be offered any. Though if you are, remember that you don’t necessarily need to eat the living parts. By placing the cheese in a paper bag first, you can smother the larvae. Once the “pitter-patter” of the jumping insects has stopped, it is safe to eat the cheese worm-free.