September 28, 2023
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When traveling abroad, chances are you’ll encounter a few dishes or ingredients that you won’t ever see being served back home. If you don’t have an adventurous palate, that’s ok – there will still be plenty for you to try, depending on where you’re traveling for a cooking vacation – but out-of-the-norm dishes can definitely lead to a story, or two, to share when you return home!
So what are some of the more interesting and unique foods we, at The International Kitchen, have tried, or at least seen? Here are just a few of our more “memorable” dishes.
Dining in Peru: Cory Smith
“I tried guinea pig (Cui) in Cusco, Peru,” says Cory. There’s other items on the menu when traveling to Peru, too, and the cuisine here is greatly influenced by a lot of different cultures, from pre-Inca to Italians, Japanese, and Africans! Check out our Peru cooking vacation.
A Culinary Tour of Asia: Adrian Hall
“I saw fried bats for sale in Cambodia, but definitely didn’t eat them. I don’t have a strong stomach for weird foods. I did once order macaroni and cheese in Laos. Big mistake,” says Adrian. Duly noted, Adrian — and thanks for the tip! Don’t expect American dishes to be anywhere near the same when dining abroad! (A photo of some of the architectural wonders when visiting Cambodia is to the right; we thought you’d appreciate that much more than a photo of fried bats).
Exploring Africa: Karen Herbst
The strangest food The International Kitchen owner Karen has ever tired? That’s an easy one for her to answer: “For sure, Mapani worms in Namibia.”
Even Italy Has Some Interesting Eats: Peg Kern
“The strangest food I’ve ever eaten?” says Peg. “I’ve eaten my fair share of organ meat. I’ve eaten fresh sea urchin that I’ve picked from the sea and cut open with a pocket knife. But the strangest thing I’ve eaten was probably Sardinian casu marzu, “formaggio marcio” in Italian (quite simply “rotten cheese”). It’s a sheep’s-milk cheese that is purposely infused with insect larvae, who make their way through the cheese, softening it and giving it an extremely pungent, spicy flavor. There were no longer vermin in the cheese, or if you found a stray one you just brushed it off, you didn’t eat it. It was illegal to produce when I was there (I believe it still is), but the Sardinians I knew had no trouble finding it on the black market.” We won’t show you a photo of that. You’re welcome.
Unique Eats Wherever You Go
No matter where you’re headed – Europe, Asia, South America – don’t be surprised to see something unusual offered at least once during your travels. And while it might not be the norm, consider giving it a try… even if it’s just a bite. That said, take caution and feel free to ask questions. Not all street food, for one, is prepared the same way, and if it looks like it’s not stored properly… well, walk on by! On the other hand, if there’s a long line waiting to try the food? Chances are you found a dish worth experiencing.
After all, even a strange dish, when prepared well, can be amazing. During one of my visits to Paris, my husband and I decided to give pig feet a try, after reading rave reviews about it at a popular restaurant. Sure enough, it was one of my favorite meals while there, in large part because I was surprised at just how decadent and delicious the dish was, rather than dried and cured (which is another way I’ve tried pig feet as well… but that was actually back in the U.S., and not abroad!)
Even so, while the place you’re visiting may have some interesting eats, it’s okay to say ‘no.’ Even so, we do recommending paying attention to the etiquette of a place (read more about etiquette in Italy here).
What’s the most interesting or unique dish you’ve ever tried?
By Liz Hall
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