I dedicate this book to any one brave enough to eat a single food in here.
Did you know that Hakarl is made of poisonous shark meat? That Sannakji can choke you by moving it’s tentacles? This book is full of meals any person in their right mind would avoid. But there are always some people who look for a culinary adventure, and these foods are born. If you thought smelly fish meat and dead, cooked bugs are bad, wait until you finish this book and to rant about those things.
The most disgusting, most terrible, grossest cheese in the world has to be Casu Marzu. This cheese goes from perfectly good to worst then a diner’s most freakish nightmare. The fermentation process is so extreme some might call decomposition. It rightly earns it name Formaggio Marcio in Italian - directly translating to “rotten cheese”.
Originating in Sardinia, Italy, Casu Marzu is made from sheep’s milk. The cheese is made through many steps. First, whole Pecorino cheese is tossed outside with some of the rind removed. Next, a type of cheese fly, scientifically named Piophila casei, lays it’s eggs in the cheese. Females can sometimes lay up to hundreds at a time. When the eggs hatch, maggots start feasting on the cheese. The digestive acids in the maggots stomach break down the fats, recreating the cheese’s texture as very soft. After that, the cheese is ready to be served and there could be thousands of maggots. If the maggots are dead, it means the cheese is spoiled. If the eater doesn't want live maggots in their cheese, they simply seal the cheese in an airtight container. The cheese maggots will leap out of the cheese to find oxygen, and when the pit - pat noises stop, there is no more more writhing maggots in the cheese.
This cheese has been banned by Italian health laws for a time and by several other countries as well. Diners of the cheese say it leaves a burning sensation on the tongue and has an aftertaste for several hours. This cheese is only for those with an iron stomach. Even if this applies to you, beware if you smear this cheese on your next cracker.
When someone hears “baby duck” or “chick” they probably picture a cute, fuzzy, little birdie. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the picture they conjure up is definitely not a half formed embryo straight out of the egg. This is called balut, and people really eat it!
Duck eggs are commonly prepared for balut, although chicken eggs are also sometimes used. The name “balut” means “wrapped” in Tagalog and Malay, as in wrapped in it’s egg. This food is a delicacy in several countries such as the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and China. Even though the Philippines are said to have balut as their “special food”, they’re really on the fence about it. If kids start eating balut at a young age, they tend to like it more as an adult, and pass it down to their kids, etc. In an effort to promote balut, some schools make their students eat balut in science class. They would use balut to study bird anatomy, and then they would have to eat it. "Our teacher made us eat the egg so it wouldn't go to waste," says Manila resident Anna Vecin of her ordeal. "And if we didn't eat it, we'd get a low score on that day's lesson. Of course, I had no choice but to eat it." This may or may not end in success, but it’s a good effort.
Different people eat balut in different ways. There are different seasonings for it, like salt or a mixture of chili, garlic, and vinegar. It is most commonly served with beer. To eat balut, first cut off the small tip of the egg. Next, slurp the soup-like liquid inside the egg. After that, dine on the bird fetus. It can be eaten by taking a shot and tipping your head and the egg back and letting the fetus slide out. The other way is to drag it out with a fork or spoon, and then eat it. Finally, yank the yolk out, which will come away from the shell very easily. After these steps, you can officially exclaim, “I tried balut!”
Everyone knows about the creepy-crawly things on Earth, and everyone is disgusted and/or terrified of them. Among the worst of them is cockroaches, especially the headless ones. They always scuttle away at the flick of a light, leaving enough of a glimpse to scream. It’s just hard to imagine someone would actually make a soup out of these little guys.
This revolting food was probably started by the people of England. It was eaten by sailors and sometimes just regular citizens. There were two methods to cook the roaches: the London method and the sailor method. The London method involved extracting the head and internal organs first. After that, they were fried in oil and presented with salt and pepper. The sailor method was much more simple. The cook would just toss a few cockroaches into a saucepan of boiling water and add flavored broth, and voila! Dinner is served! Roach soup is also served in diners across the world, like America and China. Although, every soup served wasn’t ordered with a bug. Sometimes, they wander in by themselves.
Cockroach soup is a Chinese delicacy, but is served in other countries as well. Some restaurants claim to serve roach soup, but is really just a cover for their infestation. It all goes wrong, though, when a diner finds an unwanted bug in their meal. In the past, cockroach soup was also said to have healing properties, but this may not be completely true. But according to Mary Portwood, who made the San Francisco Call newspaper in 1905, cockroaches can even heal diseases like tetanus. She described the way to make the medicine: "Put twelve large cockroaches Into a teacup, add a pinch of salt and cover with boiling water. In a few minutes, there will appear a milky substance, which is to be forced down the throat of the patient, a teaspoonful every fifteen minutes, until the jaws become relaxed. I assure you this remedy has been tried many times with success." If cockroaches really have healing properties, they would have to be tested to be sure today. Until then, they will still be the crawling horrors to nearly everyone.
Everyone knows how burgers are made. Cows. But what most people don’t know is what other parts of a cow are used for food. Namely, the tongue. It is more commonly called beef tongue, or neat’s tongue by people in Britain, and it is in high demand in Japan and other countries as well.
Beef tongue is made by first deattaching the tongue from the head at the base. Next, the skin has to be scraped off. After that, the tongue can be prepared however the cook wants to. The more a cow uses a muscle, the harder it will be. Since most of a cow’s life is spent chewing grass, the tongue tends to be very hard by the time it is served. Many people who have dined on cow tongue have said even so. It has many nutritional advantages, too. It boosts iron, zinc, Choline, vitamin B12, and has a lot of protein. Iron prevents anemia, which causes fatigue. It also helps body cells produce more energy. Zinc strengthens the immune system to fight off viruses, disease, and sickness and also helps wounds heal. Choline makes a component of chemicals needed for nerve communication. Vitamin B12 helps make myelin that insulates the nerves. But everything good has a bad side. Beef tongue, unfortunately, contains a lot of cholesterol and fat.
Japan is a leading exporter of US cow tongue. This may seem weird because Japan saw Americans as strange for eating meat from four legged animals. But that’s not the only reason. Only 11 years ago, Japan banned all American beef exports because a single cow in Washington state hosted bovine spongiform encephalopathy (en-sef-uh-low-path-ee), otherwise known as mad cow disease. But now, thanks to Japan loosening the restrictions on the age of the cow, they are importing cow tongue rapidly. In 2013, their import rate was one hundred fifty percent, and it is said they are going even higher this year. In one restaurant, half the items on the menu were based on beef tongue. Someone invented cow tongue ice cream, and next year cow tongue chips hit the market. If anyone has mad cow disease, it’s Japan - except that their mad for cow!
If you’re not a vegetarian, you’re a bacon lover. Who can resist bacon? But off the same animal there is something most even non - vegetarians will turn down: pig brain. Just the sight of it is enough to make most people hold their stomach and cover their mouth. Anyone brave enough to even try a single bite will either stick with it or stay far away from it for the rest of their life.
Pig brain, or pork brain, can be prepared in a number of ways. It can be part of a soup, stew, or egg dish, breaded and fried, or stir-fry. One way to cook them is to start by soaking them in cold water for an hour or two. Next, put them into a pot of hot water until it starts to boil. After that, bring the heat down to a simmer for three to four minutes and then rinse the brains with cold water. After that it’s your choice how to prepare them. But be careful, because brains have a lot of cholesterol so eat the at a moderate amount.
Pork brains can be dangerous. Not to eat, but if you are employed at a processing plant near the brain section, then yes, they are. When the brains are liquified by an air compressor, it sends up a mist. The mist is tiny fragments of brain tissue, and when inhaled, the pork brain tissue triggers a response in the human body. This can lead to an inflammation on the spinal cord and paralysis. The disease isn’t contagious, so they’re safe to eat. Several processing plants did away with their air compressing method recently because their workers were showing symptoms of the disease. But if you fight through the looks and into the taste, you might just enjoy pork brain!
People devour chocolate covered ants all the time, even Americans, who are the pickiest of all. But what are the ants before they're grown and covered in chocolate? They are pupae and larvae, and they are still edible. They are called Escamoles, and people eat them just the same as they would the full grown version.
Escamole are the pupae and larvae of the ant species Liometopum apiculatum and L. Occidentale var. luctuosum (These are their scientific names) . They are taken off the roots of the Agave tequilana and Agave americana plants. They are commonly eaten in Mexico and some of the places near it and are usually served in butter. Some say the taste is nutty and with a texture a little like cottage cheese.
Many people enjoy this Mexican delicacy, which has been eaten since the time of the Aztecs. The ants can tunnel their nest as deep as two feet and are very aggressive, so the price of these eggs just goes up. Even if they’re not the most horrible food in the world, they’re still bad enough to stop some people.
Many people hate snakes. Many people like to have an occasional wine. But how many would have snake wine? It contains one drink and one snake, it’s body untouched. When this wine was invented, at least one person thought, “How far will someone go for an exciting drink?” Because this will make a very exciting party option.
To make snake wine, a snake, preferably a venomous one, is infused into either rice wine or grain alcohol. This is not to preserve the meat though; it is to dissolve the snake’s “essence” and venom into the drink. However, the venom is undone by the effect of the alcohol. There are some variations of snake wine. One is steeped snake wine, where a large snake is left with medicinal herbs and left to soak for several months. When it is ready to be drunk, it is drunk in small glasses or shots. Another way is mixed snake wine. This method involves mixing the snake’s body fluids directly with the wine and taken as a shot. Snake blood wine is made by slicing the underbelly and draining the blood into the drinking container with the wine. Snake bile wine is made through a similar process but using the gall bladder instead.
Snake wine is believed to have medicinal properties and is advertised to cure everything from farsightedness to hair loss. A similar drink is made from geckos, scorpions, or sea horses. It was first recorded to be used in China in 771 B.C. The mention of snakes and their healing body parts are recorded in some medical books dating all the way back to 300 B.C. Snake wine isn’t for the faint hearted, but it’s a challenge to anyone without a fear of snakes.
Sheep are fluffy, white, gentle creatures that give us wool and are herded by sheep dogs. No one could imagine what disgusting foods could be made from sheep, yet someone did and ended up with haggis. It is truly a masterpiece of disgusting.
Haggis is a sheep’s pluck, meaning heart, liver, and lungs, and originally wrapper in a sheep’s stomach, although today it is usually wrapped in a sausage casing. It is traditionally a Scottish dish. Haggis was created simply to put a use to all the cheapest meats in a sheep’s body. The stomach or sausage casing is stuffed and then set to simmer for two or three hours. It is then served with neeps and tatties (Scot for turnips and potatoes), which are each mashed separately, and a dram (glass of Scotch whiskey).
Haggis is said to originate in Scotland, but there’s not a lot of historical evidence to support it. In fact, some evidence points to different cultures starting it. For example, a cookbook dating from around 1430 in Lancashire, North West England refers to a dish called “hagese” with offal, which is the organ meats, and herbs. Another recipe for haggis dates back to 1615 in a cookbook called The English Huswife by Gervase Markham, who was an English poet and writer. Haggis may or may not get it’s start in Scotland, but it’s still nauseating all the same.
There is no one on Earth who is fearless of sharks. In this case, there’s a good reason to be scared - even though it’s dead, it could still kill you. Rotten shark is called Hakarl, and there’s a risk with every bite.
Hakarl means “shark” in Icelandic and is true to it’s name - it’s made out of a Greenland shark, or sleeper shark, which is cured and then hung to dry for four to five months. It undergoes a particular fermentation process, where the natural toxins are gradually broken down after the outside is sealed by the wind. When it is ready to be served, it smells like ammonia and is usually drunk with Brennivin, which is Icelandic vodka.
When the shark is caught, it is beheaded and then gutted. Next, it is partially buried in a shallow pit with rocks pressed on top. This pushes all the fluids out of the body and can take six to twelve weeks, depending on the season. The shark meat then has to dry out for four to five months in the winds because when the live shark is caught, it contains high levels of two toxins, urea and trimethylamine. The winds make the outside dry, and so the inside is sealed off. The inside gradually ferments until it is ready and is then cooked, sliced up into cubes, and served. Hakarl is known as “the shark from hell”, and for good reason.
Be warned - choking hazard for all ages! When you receive this meal, the most nasty surprise of all is that the tentacles are still moving! And suction cups could stick to your throat, but try to enjoy it anyway.
Sannakji is a Korean cuisine. It’s a variety of hoe, or raw dish, because it’s really just tentacles in sauce. Sannakji is readied by capturing a small baby octopus, or nakji, (sannakji) and cutting off the tentacles and then serving the tentacles immediately or serving it whole with sesame seeds or oil. When the sannakji is served, the tentacles are still moving on the plate. Even though the octopus is dead, the tentacles move because they are responding to the liquids. The suction cups on the tentacles can stick to a customers throat, so it is very hard to eat sannakji, both literally and to work up the nerve.
Nakji means “small octopus” to South Koreans, but it means “squid” to North Koreans, so be careful what you order. But with either one, the risk of choking is always present. There is an average of six deaths each year in South Korea due to sannakji. This just goes to show the risk you take every time you order this horrific meal.
Has this book changed your view of “bad” entrees? You might see explorative people trying foods vulgar enough to make a goat gag, but wait until you try it yourself to decide. Like some say, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover!”, because you might just savor these foods.
About The Author
Ryan is in the sixth grade in a small town in Westchester, New York. He decided to write his book on foods because he himself is a "picky" eater. He wanted to prove that even the most hearty eaters will stop at the most unusual foods.
Have you ever tasted a food you just CAN'T stand? Even if you have, it probably no where as gross as any foods in this book, unles the food was in this book.
Read about the foods beyond your worst nightmare about your worst nightmare! If the writing doesn't make you hurl, the pictures will finish you off. These foods are just the worst things you can ever serve as legal food.