what is your local strange food?
February 11, 2005 9:45 AM   Subscribe

For me smoked reindeer heart and fermented herring are delicacies, on the other side of the world thousand year eggs and chicken feet are the gems. What are your local foods that may seem strange to others? Would you like some weasel coffee, or civet coffee after dinner?
posted by dabitch (80 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
thousand year eggs

I've seen these at the Oriental Food Store here in town, and have always been both intrigued and slightly terrified. I admit though, I'd give it a shot. Are they supposed to be cooked, or eaten raw?
posted by tr33hggr at 9:59 AM on February 11, 2005

I just learned about (but have not sampled) fox coffee, a vietnamese delicacy brewed from coffee beans that have been digested, and then "discarded" (to quote from my link), by foxes. Supposedly it's quite good.
posted by deliquescent at 9:59 AM on February 11, 2005

posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:59 AM on February 11, 2005

Balut, washed down with tuba, the fermented sap of the coconut shoot...
posted by X4ster at 9:59 AM on February 11, 2005

feh, stoopid me... i didn't see the second link after weasel coffee... same idea, really...
posted by deliquescent at 10:00 AM on February 11, 2005

In Rochester NY, it has to be white hots, from Zweigle's. Though some might argue the garbage plate at Nick Tahou's is the classic Rochester dish.
posted by tommasz at 10:01 AM on February 11, 2005

* Please be careful of the sharp stinger *

Yowza. Definitely not vegetarian . . . I'll stick with Shiraz, I think!
posted by tr33hggr at 10:03 AM on February 11, 2005

Seems to be many variations of those strange coffees deliquescent. The only one I've tried was the weasel coffee kind last weekend. Kinda strong, not too bitter but a little acidic and very chocolaty. Would be quite good with warm heavy milk added, I just drank it straight.

Scrapple! Balut! I must try these things but that Rochester garbage plate looks like.. garbage. ;) I won't dare try the Balut, too weird for me. Maybe on a dare. Someone told me it's quite good. I'll have some of that tuba though.
posted by dabitch at 10:16 AM on February 11, 2005

In Nova Scotia, especially Halifax, we've got the ubiquitous "Donair", considered by many to be the ultimate drunk food.

Picture a gyro. Now picture it mutating from chunks of real meat on a pita with a cucumber-yoghurt sauce, to slices of what can only be termed "seasoned mystery meat" that's been sitting out on a vertical spit since morning along with tomatoes, onions, and a sauce made largely from condensed milk and vinegar.

The rumor mill says they don't exist anywhere else due to the questionable tactic of leaving low-quality meat out on a spit for hours at a time. The sauce is the truly scary part (and the reason I don't eat them).
posted by tarnish at 10:17 AM on February 11, 2005

i'm always fascinated by strange foods and drinks. my first thought upon hearing about these things is always, "who the hell was the first person dumb/brave enough to try that?"

i'm a vegetarian now, but when i was growing up, the most exotic foods we ate were pickled pigs feet and chittlins. i remember on days when chitlins were being cooked i got the fuck out of the house, because once that tub was opened, the funk it producedi qualified as a bio-chem weapon, swear to god.
posted by lord_wolf at 10:24 AM on February 11, 2005

tarnish, I'm from Halifax, and watching somebody eat a donair is a spectator sport. I once watched my best friend's sister eat one, and experienced some new emotions.
posted by jon_kill at 10:24 AM on February 11, 2005

the funny thing about these discarded coffee beans, is that there are enough of them in any one place to be collected, processed (I assume), packaged, and sold. Or even exported. I would think that you would need a shitload (heh) of foxes to get enough of those beans - more than you would find in any one place normally.
posted by deliquescent at 10:25 AM on February 11, 2005

dabitch, in Rochester, garbage plate eats you!!!
posted by tommasz at 10:28 AM on February 11, 2005

For me that would be black and white pudding. And dulce.
posted by fshgrl at 10:50 AM on February 11, 2005

tarnish, I used to go down to Cape Breton every summer and one "thrill" was donairs at Greco Pizza in Antigonish along the way. I went to school in London, Ontario and they have an inordinate amount of gyro street sellers. Kind of like hot dog stands but in small trailers. (Sammys souvlaki used to even have a webcam). Then there's always the McLobsters at any Mcdonalds east of the Ontario/Quebec border - no thrills there.
posted by phirleh at 10:56 AM on February 11, 2005

The weirdest things we eat around here are raw oysters and steamed crabs which don't seem weird at all until you realize that you're actually ingesting a tablespoon of mucous and a giant scavenging sea spider.
posted by LeeJay at 11:02 AM on February 11, 2005

Chicken feet are actually quite tasty. They have a lot of soft, fatty flesh on them. We have a local Chinese restaurant that serves traditional Dim-Sum on Saturday mornings. I think the chicken feet might be my favorite, but it takes a bit of getting used to. And I try to avoid thinking about how these feet have probably spent most of their short lives knee-deep in, well, chicken poop.

I imagine most people would be at least a little freaked out if they knew the exact ingredients of this ultra-cheap beef burrito I'm eating at the moment. What part of the "beef" is so unsaleable that it ends up as the feature ingredient in a $0.50 beef burrito? I'm pretty sure I don't want to know the exact answer to that. I mean, tripe, heart and tongue all have viable markets of their own, and a serving of each would surely retail at more than $0.50. Testicles, which sell in bars here as "Rocky Mountain Oysters", are considered an expensive delicacy (and are actually pretty tasty too). Even 'cabeza', which is all the bits from the head of a cow, such as lips, facial muscles, etc. has a viable market in the Mexican parts of town here, and is considered a delicacy.

So I don't imagine these left-over parts that have been ground down to an anonymous paste and wrapped in this tortilla are parts that would have a traditional market. Their deliberate masking as a spiced, greasy paste increases my desire to sustain my current state of blissful ignorance. You know, if it were steaky bits, they'd leave them in recognizable chunks, wouldn't they? But I'm eating it all the same. And liking it. Sorta.

So next time you're presented an opportunity to try a "challenging" food that crosses some traditional food taboo for you, just remember - you've probably already had worse, far worse, in disguised form.
posted by gregor-e at 11:02 AM on February 11, 2005

Don't think of it as "weird", but definitely a local favorite, the true Coney Island. There's also nothing like a Boston Cooler - scoop of vanilla ice cream in a mug filled with Vernor's Ginger Ale.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:08 AM on February 11, 2005

I currently live in Iceland where you can get seared sheeps' heads at fast food restaurants and dessicated shark in the "deli meat" section of the grocery store. The former I haven't tried, and the latter, I have smelled but not eaten. Smelling was bad enough!

One common Icelandic food that I have trouble wrapping my head around : soured milk. To be fair, my husband has the same shock and horror about Kraft Mac and Cheese. Whatever you grow up with will certainly seem normal to you, but it's interesting to take a step back and see how weird some of it is.

My favorite tradiational Icelandic food is skyr which translates to "curds." It's not entirely like but not entirely unlike yogurt, a bit thicker and not as a tangy.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:14 AM on February 11, 2005

California Cuisine. Tiny portions of obscure ingredients, served on gigantic, artsy-fartsy plates, for very high prices. Fortunately, this trend seems to have finally died off.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:21 AM on February 11, 2005

posted by paddbear at 11:21 AM on February 11, 2005

I have a huge, beautiful, Bing cherry tree in my yard that produces the most delicious, dark, sweet cherries in the world. I don’t spray, so tiny white worms from a fruit fly hatch inside the cherries, but they don’t change the taste until several weeks into the season. In fact, the extra protein is probably beneficial. Sure freaks some people out, though--they get those glazed eyes. So most people around here eat their cherries with dimethoate, and a smaller, dead worm. Yum.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:25 AM on February 11, 2005

As a midwesterner I feel pretty cheated on this front. Most of the truly exotic stuff here is notorious only for its mundane grossness (deep fried mars-bars and beer and cheese soup), or because it is borrowed from somewhere else.

It's common to have lye-cured fish (lutefisk) in Wisconsin. To be fair, it's not really our dish. (Personally, I think people only eat it because they think it will make them look interesting )
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 11:31 AM on February 11, 2005

tarnish & phirleh: This is fast becoming the most downhome thread I've ever seen on MeFi. Anyway, my family's from Nova Scotia - in fact, the family homestead is about a five-minute drive from that Greco's Pizza in Antigonish - and I've snarfed back my share of donairs at both Greco's and Halifax's famed Pizza Corner. (The ultimate Halifax meal for me is a donair with a side of fries from Bud the Spud on Spring Garden.)

Anyway, I'm pleased to report that the "Nova Scotia-style" donair is also widely available in Calgary. Donair shops are in every other strip mall out here, and most places when you order your donair they'll ask you if you want sweet sauce (the Nova Scotia way) or spicy sauce (the Turkish/Lebanese way). The taste is closer to Pizza Corner than any other donair/gyro/doner-kebab I've had anywhere else in the world, so I have to assume it was transplanted Maritimers who brought it to the streets of Calgary.

To add some non-downhome content, I've sampled a few of the world's oddball delicacies in my day. In the "Snake Village" on the outskirts of Hanoi, Vietnam, I sampled every dish on a seven-course menu of delicacies all prepared from the same snake, each of which is accompanied by rice wine with some sort of snake part (gall bladder, penis, etc.) pickled in it, and which is kicked off by shooting back the still-beating heart of the snake in a shot of rice wine. Goes down kinda like an oyster. I mostly remember the rice wine - man, you get some kinda drunk at a Vietnamese snake feast.

I've also had butter tea, a drink-cum-soup that is the staple drink of Tibetans and Ladakhis in the high Himalaya. Traditionally, it's made from rancid yak butter, though any old butter will do. It's (allegedly) an acquired taste, though after my fourth or fifth time being served the stuff I felt no closer to having acquired anything other than mild nausea.
posted by gompa at 11:34 AM on February 11, 2005

Wacky food from around the world.
posted by languagehat at 11:36 AM on February 11, 2005

gesamtkunstwerk : Lutefisk is traditional in both Sweden and Norway... my mother's family is of Swedish descent and my mom tells horror stories about "lutefisk suppers" held around Christmas time. I can only imagine that it's rather disgusting stuff - it's one of the very few foods that my mother will not allow in her house.

(After her visit to Iceland "dessicated shark" was added to that list.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:37 AM on February 11, 2005

Another vote for scrapple. However, the true underground local Philly area delicacy (and this is truly and uniquely regional, no one else will have a clue) is pork roll.
Pork roll...sigh. How to describe its smoky, salty, artery clogging goodness?
posted by fixedgear at 11:39 AM on February 11, 2005

Still never been able to understand the Cincinnati chili with the spaghetti and coffee and chocolate. Local delicacies don't always translate.
posted by destro at 11:39 AM on February 11, 2005

kibbeh nyah for me. mmmmm....lots of work, but *so* worth it.
posted by dejah420 at 11:40 AM on February 11, 2005

The Norwegian "delicacy" LUTEFISK, which is fish soaked in lye, is found frequently in my home, Minnesota. It is one of the most vile and disgusting things I've ever seen (though the thousand year egg sounds like it also rides people on that exciting edge of nausea). Think fish, only 100x more fishy, with the texture of gelatin.

A funny story about lutefisk...when the Minnesota Twins played the New York Yankees in the baseball playoffs two years ago, a bet was made between Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak and NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg. The mayor of the losing city would send the mayor of the winning city a "local delicacy" to enjoy. Bloomberg offered fresh NY bagels, and Rybak offered...you guessed it, Lutefisk.

So, when the Twins lost, they had Lutefisk shipped to Bloomberg to serve at a city hall lunch. It gets better-- Bloomberg had Robert DeNiro as a guest that day, and the two of them were pictured in the Minneapolis Star-Trib trying to choke down bites of it. Bloomberg was quoted as saying "if I'd only known what Lutefisk was, I'd never have made this bet."

The following year the Twins met the Yankees again in the playoffs. I don't think any bet was made...

btw-- if anyone can find that picture of DeNiro and Bloomberg, post it. I couldn't google it anywhere.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:42 AM on February 11, 2005

rats, someone beat me to lutefisk. oh well, my story is funny anyway...
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:42 AM on February 11, 2005

This thread is making me hungry.
posted by casu marzu at 11:46 AM on February 11, 2005

Fried eggs and ramps.
Mountain oysters.
posted by nofundy at 11:47 AM on February 11, 2005

Well, the traditional Texan dish doesn't really freak people out, except for folks who worry about cholesterol or calories. I'm talking about real Texas style Chicken Fried Steak . Some people cheat and use Pioneer instant gravy, but its best if you make your own gravy.

Proper chicken fried steak is served on a bed of french fries and covered with enough gravy for both the meat and the fries. You can hear your arteries clogging with every bite, but I have yet to meet any non-vegitarian who didn't like it, so maybe it doesn't count as strange. But it is bad for you.

In Amarillo we have Arnold Burgers Which is a terrific burger joint, if by terrific you mean heart attack inducing. Personally I love 'em, but I can't eat there more than once a year or so. Impossibly huge hamburgers made from *VERY* high fat ground beef, all at a low price. The grease spot on the ceiling started its existence over the grill, but has since spread to cover most of the ceiling. Vegans won't even stand downwind of the place.
posted by sotonohito at 11:54 AM on February 11, 2005

It's more of a Jewish cultural thing than a regional thing, but I'll submit gefilte fish. Some people love it. I think it's disgusting. (granted, I'm not a seafood eater anyway, but even if I was...)

And how did we get this far in the thread without someone mentioning haggis?
posted by SisterHavana at 12:07 PM on February 11, 2005

On the eastern shore of Maryland they like to eat shad roe. Shad is a small lil fish. You serve it with eggs, and apparently it tastes awful.

I did a semester in Japan and never, ever had the desire for natto.
posted by bardic at 12:19 PM on February 11, 2005

posted by Mick at 12:43 PM on February 11, 2005

Tatar, which is ground horse meat servered raw with a raw egg yolk, salt and pepper.
posted by jedrek at 12:59 PM on February 11, 2005

My mother used to eat bags and bags of dried squid or cuttlefish. I think it was all the too fishy-fishiness of korean food that forever put me off the stuff. bleh.
posted by mrs.pants at 1:05 PM on February 11, 2005

In Nova Scotia, especially Halifax, we've got the ubiquitous "Donair", considered by many to be the ultimate drunk food...The rumor mill says they don't exist anywhere else due to the questionable tactic of leaving low-quality meat out on a spit for hours at a time.

If your description was accurate, the rumor mill is broken. As Gompa pointed out, that's a Doner Kebab, very popular in Japan and the UK (and probably more, but that's the extent of my first person experience), and originally from Turkey.

As a midwesterner I feel pretty cheated on this front. Most of the truly exotic stuff here is notorious only for its mundane grossness (deep fried mars-bars)

There are deep fried Mars bars in the midwest?! I thought that was a Scotland-only thing. They're great, too, but probably eating more than 3 during your lifetime will instantly kill you.
posted by Bugbread at 1:15 PM on February 11, 2005

Some of the most freakish food, look no farther than your local grocery freezer case.

Also, I've always found Monte Cristos, pretty scary. Club sandwich, all the fixing's, deep-fried, topped with powdered sugar and fruit preserves for dipping. I'm going to guess this came from the South, were olive oil is for fairies and lard still reins supreme.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:37 PM on February 11, 2005

I second dejah420 on the kibbeh. Growing up with a fading Syrian/Lebanese heritage, kibbeh made an appearance at every family gathering. The recipe that was linked to omitted the ever-delicious pine nuts, though.
posted by drumcorpse at 1:40 PM on February 11, 2005

I always find that cloudberries (bakeapples to you Newfies) go well with smoked reindeer tongue.

While I have enjoyed most everything set before me from Lapland to China, hundred/thousand year old eggs is one of the few I have not been able to stomach.

That and San Nakji, even when fed to me by a beautiful Kisaeng girl, I like my octupus fresh but dead.

The freshest raw fish I have eaten was still on the spear, eaten after surfacing from a scuba dive.
posted by Geo at 1:43 PM on February 11, 2005

Here in New Zealand, we rejoice in:
- kina (sea urchins - you eat the roe). Tastes like seafood fruit salad.
- huhu grubs (larvae of the huhu beetle). Like grubs the world over, reminiscent of peanut butter.
- maori corn (maize allowed to ferment/rot in a bag suspended in a flowing stream). Never tried, not tempted either.
- mutton birds (the delicious fat chicks of a local seabird, plucked from their burrows, salted and preserved in fat). Think duck confit crossed with fish.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:47 PM on February 11, 2005

And every now and then, I make gribnes (self link).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:49 PM on February 11, 2005

Also, I've always found Monte Cristos, pretty scary. Club sandwich, all the fixing's, deep-fried, topped with powdered sugar and fruit preserves for dipping.

Ah yes. The last time I had a Monte Cristo I didn't feel like eating again for a week. Good stuff.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:53 PM on February 11, 2005

If your description was accurate, the rumor mill is broken. As Gompa pointed out, that's a Doner Kebab, very popular in Japan and the UK (and probably more, but that's the extent of my first person experience), and originally from Turkey.

Wa-HEY now. I always assumed that "kebab" implied "chunks of meat onnastick". I just looked up the doner-kebab and found myself wrong; that looks just like "donair meat".

I suppose that's why the newspapers around here have always figured it's the sauce that makes Halifax Donairs different (in a slow news month you'll always see a story about donairs). I have been assured by friends from the UK that they'd never seen anything like donair sauce at a kebab stand (most of them were quite happy about it, actually).

Oh, I forgot about seal-flipper pie. More Newfoundlander than Nova Scotian, though. And dulse (dried red seaweed).
posted by tarnish at 1:54 PM on February 11, 2005


I think (and I'm just guessing, now) that the chunks of meat on a skewer thing is a "shish kebab", and the "shish" just gets dropped a lot. I know from talking to Brits that the word "kebab" for them brings up the image of a Dooner kebab, not chunks of meat on a stick, which odded me out as an ignorant American.


Let's see...what else is a delicacy here in Japan that would be regarded as strange/inedible back home (Texas):

Fish sperm sacs
Sea urchin reproductive organs
Natto (fermented soybean stuff)
Raw horsemeat

And then food from Texas that's considered strange/inedible in Japan:

posted by Bugbread at 2:00 PM on February 11, 2005

Shad roe, natto, sea urchin roe

I will pay exorbitant amounts of money to at all of the above. I was turned on to all by a master Japanese chef, who owns my favorite Japanese restaurant. It has been my honor and pleasure to be his customer for over 20 years. Shad roe is the bees knees, and the season is really short. Natto...mmmm, fermented bean curd. What is not to like? Stringy mucous like blue cheese smelling little bean pellets? It is so good for you, like all fermented foods. Think kimchi. Shad roe. Fresh shad roe, removed from the shell right before your eyes. Wow!
posted by fixedgear at 2:01 PM on February 11, 2005

And then food from Texas that's considered strange/inedible in Japan:
What about squirrel.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:02 PM on February 11, 2005

Yum... fermented herring! I was reported to the condo association for disturbing the peace the one and only time I opened a can of Röde Ulven here in the US. That gives you some idea of the potency of the smell! The only other thing I have ever tried that smelled as bad was chou dofu, smelly tofu, in Taiwan.

The one Swedish favorite that none of my US friends can stomach is salt licorice. I keep getting new people to try it, just to see their reaction. Seeing people spit it on the floor instantly upon placing it in their mouth never gets old.

In China I was taken with some friends to try their local delicacy, which was marrow, sucked out from the interior of huge bones with a straw. Not exactly my favorite, but neither of them could eat salt licorice either...
posted by gemmy at 2:15 PM on February 11, 2005

And then food from Texas that's considered strange/inedible in Japan:

Boiled Cajun seasoned crawfish , I'll "suck the heads"; only I use my thumb to pluck out the fatty tissue. Learned how from the TV chef Justin Wilson.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:20 PM on February 11, 2005

Tarnish: newspapers around here have always figured it's the sauce that makes Halifax Donairs different

It is the sauce. You'll find variations on the donair/gyro/doner-kebab all over the world - spiced meat (traditionally lamb) slow-cooked on a rotating skewer, shaved off and wrapped in a pita (or, at Turkish-run German doner-kebab stands, a crusty roll). But you won't find that syrupy sweet garlic sauce smeared all over 'em outside the Maritimes (except, as I pointed out, in Calgary - possibly by way of the Maritimes).

Oh, and the street-stall doner-kebabs in Australian cities struck me as closer to the Nova Scotia style than most, but still with a sauce closer to the traditional tzakiki (very garlicky, but not sweet) than to Pizza Corner in Halifax (a little garlicky, very sweet).
posted by gompa at 2:27 PM on February 11, 2005

The one Swedish favorite that none of my US friends can stomach is salt licorice.

gammy, I thought my girlfriend was playing a joke on me when she gave me one to try. She liked the heavily salted ones which my taste buds found a liking to after having had several of them. Because I had cut out most sugared foods is why I found them enjoyable.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:31 PM on February 11, 2005

I have a friend who enjoys wierd food. His most challenging meal (his words) was last week at a local Chinese restaurant. He said the dish was called "duck face."

'nuff said.
posted by killy willy at 2:31 PM on February 11, 2005

And then food from Texas that's considered strange/inedible in Japan:
What about squirrel.

I'm from Texas, but I wasn't aware anyone actually ate squirrel. Goes to show what living in the Big City does to ya.
posted by Bugbread at 2:32 PM on February 11, 2005

I (for some strange reason) decided I had to have a chunk of pickled herring at a friends house once. It took several shots of vodka to kill that taste!
Geoduck sushi was actually pretty good.
My old man went on a hog's head cheese binge back in the 70's. I still have nightmares...
posted by black8 at 4:21 PM on February 11, 2005

I was married to a Japanese man for 18 years, so I've had my share of strange. The strangest possibly was a whole carp (including head and scales) served at a wedding in Tokyo. I looked at it and thought "Hello, Goldfish."

But there isn't much difference between sitting around a table in New Orleans sucking crawfish brains and sitting at a sushi bar in L.A. crunching on deep fried shrimp heads.

Now that I'm married to a Southerner, I eat a bit different, then when I lived in California. I learned to eat Mother-in-law's collard greens, although they can get nasty if not cooked right. And I cook chicken fried steak with chipotle gravy for my husband twice a month-- it's his favorite meal. I don't eat it though, too fattening.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:46 PM on February 11, 2005

Coming from SC, I can attest that chitlins are popular. I got brave and drunk and choked down a couple. Not bad, but the geoduck sushi sure sounds better.

I'm dying to try a durian.

Thanks to my Vietnamese students (Hi, Xuan!) I got to try rice with nuoc mam. I think I could hack pickled herring. What I couldn't hack was the expressions on the faces of people around me when they smelled me.
posted by alumshubby at 4:50 PM on February 11, 2005

Once I took some durian cookies to a "bring your craziest food" party. No one could eat more than one bite.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:58 PM on February 11, 2005

I love pickled herring, but the fermented stuff is unlike anything else on earth. I had the opportunity to experience it years ago in the countryside. The procedure was to carefully open the tin in a tub of water so that none of the juice splashed on you. Thankfully, it tasted better than it smelled, but that sure ain't saying much.
posted by lasm at 6:58 PM on February 11, 2005

Pickled bologna. Or (more likely) baloney.

Half-inch thick slabs of baloney pickled in vinegar, lots of jalepeño, and spices. If you like vinegar and you like bologna it's probably pretty good. Liking heat wasn't quite enough.

Location: Charlotte, NC at an apparently decrepit service station, live bait, and U-Haul rental shop near where US 29 and NC 49 fork in the University area. If you' never had pickled baloney, you've probably never had anything like it. That may not be a bad thing: The owner makes it himself.

The guy had a jar of pickled eggs going on, too—with what looked like the same seasonings—but I'd at least heard of pickled eggs before.
posted by phrits at 7:01 PM on February 11, 2005

Another local specialty: Boiled Peanuts. They are nasty.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:16 PM on February 11, 2005

True confessions: the smoked reindeer heart and pickled herring make me drool. (I'm not Danish and I can really recommend them). The other specialties, well...I'll reserve judgement.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:41 PM on February 11, 2005

Kasih Halva is produced in traditional method where hot sugar foam is mixed with tahini to give smooth mouth filling flavor.

To be fair, the above description is not true to the good kind of halva. The word seems to refer to a whole range of sticky, crumbly, unbearably sweet pastes, and no wonder; I have attempted to cook it five times, and so far have produced a cookie, a cake, a caramel-like candy, a sesame-flavored shortbread, and a gold-colored pudding. But then, one cookbook as good as warned me that making good halva is the test of a Turkish cook, and I barely have my own native cuisine down.

The authentic article seems to be made, usually, from flour or semolina cooked slowly in butter, the n thickened with syrup (mmm, milk and honey!). It may or may not contain sesame, pistachios, rose water, or cocoa. Here in the States, you find big rolls of the stuff in Jewish or Middle Eastern delis, and some supermarkets carry it. As a rule of thumb, if it's sold as a candy bar or in the refrigerated section with the cheese, it's good, and if it's sold in plastic or cardboard boxes, it's absolutely nasty. I first discovered that when I tried to use 200 grams of "Macedonian halva" as my main fat source on a four-day train ride.

Oh. And either some of the recipes I tried were wack, or the Turkish article is literally half sugar.
posted by aws17576 at 8:52 PM on February 11, 2005

(I'm not Danish and I can really recommend them).

After enough Akvavit all that stuff sounds great. My mother used to joke that Akvavit was made from fermented fishheads. She told me my great-grandfather would sit around with the rest of the Danes and drink a teaspoon of it, then they'd all wash it down with a glass of beer.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 8:54 PM on February 11, 2005

Mick, that Goetta link, the quoted Gail Deibler Finke is a friend of mine! imagine my surprise seeing her name there!

(Goetta is foul stuff to this Springfield, OH transplant to Cinci - you shouldn't be able to feel your heart scream when you eat something)
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 9:29 PM on February 11, 2005

Ah yes, lutefisk.

Both of my parents have been subjected to it, my dad more than once. It certainly didn't help his current food phobias.

My ick? Any 'breve' espresso drink, which is an espresso drink (latte, etc.) made with steamed half and half. Yeah. Steamed fat, ruining a perfectly good shot of espresso. Tastes like heated mucus to me. Found all over Seattle, and I could never tolerate them.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:13 PM on February 11, 2005

The chips and salsas of Texas make living here bearable.
posted by buzzman at 11:00 PM on February 11, 2005

alumshubby, rather than try a durian, just eat custard/vanilla/banana pudding over a can full of ripe garbage...it's really the same effect.
posted by black8 at 12:58 AM on February 12, 2005

Here in Finland, at least, the salt licorice is made with ammonium chloride - the myths are either that it's a byproduct of the paper industry, or that it was changed from sodium chloride to be more healthy.

Other fine foods (other than the obvious parts of reindeer) - mämmi, a Finnish traditional Easter dessert, and blood pancakes, a hearty Lapp breakfast. It is also possible to eat bear (very expensive), snowgrouse, moose (elk)...

In sweet cheeses, there's the Lapp bread cheese, and Norwegian brown cheese (brunost), neither of which my palate has accepted yet.
posted by deaddodo at 1:33 AM on February 12, 2005

Salt licorice! I was in Copenhagen last fall. We were in a Danish co-workers office and I spotted a small box on his desk, about the size of a box of playing cards. "What's that?" "Oh, try one" he says and offered my partner and I each one. We both spat them into the wastebasket as he laughed hysterically. He said that his was one of the milder ones, though it still tasted like licorice marinated in the ocean.
posted by fixedgear at 1:57 AM on February 12, 2005

fixedgear, it probably was the milder kind, the stronger stuff have a man spitting fire on the package.

Geo's tip was interesting, never had cloudberries with my reindeer tongue, but I do love my cloudberryjam served hot on vanilla ice cream. But like others have said the heart is really tasty, a little lingonberry jam and horseradish mixed with creme freiche with it and your set. It's just getting past the fact that you are eating a heart. I won't actually recommend that fermented herring stuff to anyone though, I like it but... It's very hard to get past the smell.
Thanks for the kibbeh recipe dejah420, I must try making it myself just once.
It's funny how much of these exotic foods everyone seems to have tried. We're such an international bunch. Haggis is the only thing my cats will fight me for, I have to lock them in another room when I eat it.
posted by dabitch at 2:33 AM on February 12, 2005

Fish guts mixed with hot pepper paste. Fuckin' nasty.

Also, dog soup (boshintang). Smells horrid, tastes OK.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:04 AM on February 12, 2005

ewww....some nasty sounding stuff here to read about before breakfast - but a fun thread indeed. The strangest food I can reference is often my own cooking - rather horrid, I must say.

A good read along the lines of exotic regional *delicacies* is chef Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour about his global travels in search of exotic local cuisine.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:29 AM on February 12, 2005

North Dakota here, where lutefisk (mentioned before) is often found during annual fundraising lunches served in small town church basements - the smell will remain for weeks after the feed, adding a perfect Lutheran olfactory angst to the Sunday service.

Besides that, we take one of the blandest foods around - the humble potato - and turn it into a tuberian delicacy known the chocolate-covered potato chip, available at your better independant chocolatiers like Widman's Candy in Fargo for around eighteen bucks a pound. The sweet and salty combination is quite lovely, and it looks as it the local trend has now spread to other states.

Other tater twists - Lefsa (like a tortilla, only made of riced potato instead of masa, and which I prefer with butter and sugar) and knoefla (a creamy potato'n'dumpling stew that ain't for everyone because of its overall greyness).

In eastern Minnesota/western Wisconsin, nothing beats fresh cheese curds from a small country stand - the way to tell if they're really fresh is if they squeak when you bite into them. Sadly, by the time they reach the grocery stores here, the squeak, and the magic, is gone.

My dad, for some reason, thought that a head cheese sandwich washed down with a tall glass of buttermilk made for a perfectly acceptable lunch. [shudder]

Then again, I eat pickled okra, love summertime hobo dinners (where you take a range of available ingrediants, wrap it in foil and throw it in a campfire for an hour or so) and slather chili pepper and apple jam on my morning toast, so I'm probably not one to talk.
posted by dakotadusk at 9:35 AM on February 12, 2005

Pa amb Oli - Bread and oil from the island of Mallorca.
Toasted "Pan Pais" country bread - the nearest I've found in CA is Organic Wolfgang. Rub toast with a garlic clove - all of it; then cut a tomato and rub that into the toast as well, season with a little salt and pour on olive oil then cover with either a slice of hard cheese (manchego or mahon) or jamon serrano. This is accompanied with local olives and sea fennel- Spanish foods can be mail ordered.
posted by adamvasco at 10:14 AM on February 12, 2005

I'm not really sure if these are local foods or just special concoctions of my family but here are some of the strange things I grew up on in rural Northern California:

Chicken-Fried Steak with a crushed saltine cracker rather than flour coating.

"Taco Salad" which is basically doritoes, olives, iceberg lettuce, cheese, ground beef and thousand island dressing.

Steamed broccoli covered in mayonnaise. It should be about a 1:1 ratio of broccoli to mayo.

Watermelon and cantaloupe covered in ketchup.

"Ambrosia salad": a mix of pistachio pudding, pineapple chunks and mini marshmallows.

Peanut butter and butter sandwiches. Should be a 1:1:1 ratio of peanut butter to butter to bread. White wonderbread is ideal.

Peanut Butter pie served with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. The filling is a family secret but it's basically peanut butter mixed with an unnamed (sorry, my mom would kill me! And no, it's not butter) dairy fat.

I find all of these things delicious but I don't eat them anymore due to their poisonous unhealthiness. Well, ok...maybe I ocassionally find room for some peanut butter pie, but only on special occasions.
posted by tinamonster at 5:38 PM on February 12, 2005

Casu marzu. Sardinian pecorino infested with maggots, available only on the black market.

I spent a year in Sardinia. I was told that the cheese could be easily procured, but I never really had the urge to try it. I thought I was open-minded for eating the horsemeat and the roasted piglet. I passed on the sheep brains. (Imagine half a sheep's head sitting on an uncovered plate in the fridge for a few days, ugly side up. When I finally worked up the nerve to tell my hosts that it was really putting me off, they told me they were saving the brains for me.)
posted by hydrophonic at 10:17 AM on February 13, 2005

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