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Cooking Inspiration

Quirky Dishes from around the world

03 August 2023

map of delicacies

…and where to find them on your globetrotting travels

One of the best things about travelling is experiencing how other cultures live and work; what they do for fun; and most importantly, what they eat for dinner. And most countries have a unique dish up their sleeve that’s a bit of an acquired taste…

Surströmming, Sweden

On the face of it, Surströmming doesn’t sound too bad, really. It’s herring fished from the Baltic Sea, fermented with a bit of salt. However, there’s a catch to this catch, as the Swedes use just enough salt to prevent the fish from rotting, and they leave it to mature for six months. Surströmming translates to sour herring, demanding a strong stomach and a nose peg for good measure.

Huitlacoche, Mexico

If very lightly preserved, rotting fish isn’t to your taste, how about a tasty Mexican truffle? Well… that might be a bit of a red herring, as huitlacoche is basically dying corn on the cob. Bulbus and greying, the corn smut has an earthy flavour to it and can be used as a quesadilla filling, or as a choice soup ingredient. It’s considered a real delicacy to those in the know.

Deep-fried scorpion, Thailand

In Cambodia, you’ll likely come across spiders on a stick in touristy areas. But in neighbouring country of Thailand, they take it one step further, with deep-fried scorpions. This creepy-crawly street food fave may look a little bit scary, but it’s actually got a very satisfying crunch and a mild taste which isn’t too dissimilar to pork crackling. Would you be brave enough to gobble up one up, from pincers to stinger?

Stargazey pie, UK

Here in the UK, we’re not exactly renowned for our ground-breaking cuisine. The world baulks at the idea of our beans on toast and pickled eggs. But there’s something to be said about our romantically-named, Stargazey pie.

The story goes that Cornish fisherman, Tom Bawcock, braved the stormy seas one bitter winter’s eve when no other trawler dared. Only to triumphantly return with a catch healthy enough to feed the entire town. Among the many fish in Bawcock’s haul were pilchards, which were baked into shortcrust pies with their heads poking out the top, as proof of the pie’s contents (which also contained eggs and potatoes). Stargazey pie is now traditionally served as a supper on 23 December… exposed pilchard heads and all.

Escargot, France

Over the Channel, the French famously enjoy escargot… snails. After the slime has been removed, the snails are boiled and added to whichever stew or sauce they’re being served with. Often, it’s a decadent garlic butter, made with parsley and white wine.

It’s not uncommon to see people eating snails with a toothpick in tapas bars, whereas in fancy restaurants, patrons grasp the shell with an instrument called a pince à escargot, and extract the snail from its shell with a special two-tined fork, called fourchette à escargot.

Wasp crackers, Japan

In The Land of the Rising Sun, there’s a rather special biscuit that comes with a bit of a bite. Wasp crackers, or jibachi senbei, are pretty much what they say on the tin, cookies with embedded digger wasps, in place of a chocolate chip. Once captured, the wasps are boiled and dried out, before they’re added to the cookie mix, which consists of water, eggs, sugar, salt, oil, sesame seeds and soy sauce.

Your tummy might be doing a bit more bubbling than rumbling after that wonderful whistle-stop tour around the world, or perhaps you’ve been inspired to try something new. Or if you’re looking for something a little less leftfield for dinner tonight, check out the recipes section of our blog here.