Dishes from Bizarre Foods You Wouldn’t Want to Try
Bizarre Foods’ host Andrew Zimmern is a brave soul. Not only has he traveled to some potentially dangerous destinations around the world, but he has also sampled some of the most gag-inducing dishes along the way. The man seems to have virtually no limits when it comes to food.
Of course, much of what he eats wouldn't even qualify as food for most people in the Western world. Perfect examples include cow brains, grubs, fish eyes and tree bark — yes, that’s right, tree bark. Think you’re brave enough to try everything Zimmern has tried? Well, you might want to think twice before giving these peculiar foods a taste.
The geoduck is definitely a strange animal. Scientifically, it's a type of large saltwater clam. Unofficially, it's an alien organism from a different dimension — we’re sure of it. The elongated soft body resembles a certain part of human male anatomy, and it even spits out wastewater after feeding. Naturally, the host of Bizarre Foods just had to try one.
He got a prime opportunity to do just that when he visited Seattle. A geoduck farm served as the background for Zimmern's taste test. After peeling a long, thin skin from a blanched geoduck, he sliced it up and chowed down. He claimed it tasted like "ocean candy" — whatever that means.
Iceland's national dishes are typically pretty outrageous by Western standards. The harsh, coastal environment of Iceland has resulted in some creative uses of blood, animal livers and fresh seafood. One such creation is hákarl, which is fermented and dried strips of Greenland shark. Hákarl produces an overwhelming odor that is similar to ammonia.
Essentially, it smells like urine and cleaning products. Anyone with a sensitive sense of smell would run from hákarl — perhaps smartly so. Fresh Greenland shark meat is extremely poisonous if not prepared properly. However, Zimmern had to try the stuff during his 2008 trip to Iceland.
A dormouse isn't a mouse that prefers to use doors, although you could be forgiven for assuming such a thing. Instead, a dormouse is a type of tiny mouse that is native to pretty much the whole world, except for the Americas. They look like a mix between white lab mice and brown Syrian hamsters. They're adorable.
However, perhaps they're also incredibly tasty — at least, that's what Andrew Zimmern discerned during his visit to Croatia in 2015. The Ancient Romans may have treated dormice as a delicacy or dessert, but by today's standards, it just seems gross. It’s a mouse!
Cane toads wreak havoc in Australia, but Andrew Zimmern did his part to rid the sunny continent of one of its amphibian pests. In 2009, he explored the wild Australian Outback with an empty stomach and wide eyes. While he sampled wallaby and crocodile, he also kept his eye out for the notorious cane toad.
This monstrous creature secretes a dangerous toxin that can cause paralysis and death, so eating one is reasonably risky. However, Zimmern was sure to eat the toad's legs without its skin. Apparently, it tasted like chicken. Who knew?
Even the host of Bizarre Foods isn't immune to an occasional phobia. For Zimmern, one of the most terrifying sights in the world is a fat spider. Many traditional Asian dishes feature insects and arachnids, which meant that Zimmern had to face his fear for this challenge — and then eat it.
The year was 2010; the village was Skuon. As Zimmern nervously giggled over a washtub full of live tarantulas, his appetite seemed to dwindle. However, after the hairy creatures were fried and removed from hot oil, he decided to take a bite. He then claimed, "They taste just like soft shell crabs." Sure.
Minnesota is known as the American home of the Vikings — and for good reason. Many descendants of the Nordic warriors ended up making their home in the snowy state. They brought ancient customs and traditional dishes with them, and perhaps the most famous dish is lutefisk. Even proud Minnesotans struggle to enjoy the aged, pickled fish creation.
Lutefisk is pickled in lye, an extremely corrosive material. By the time it's ready, it has taken on a jelly-like consistency. Ever wanted to try fish-flavored gelatin? Try lutefisk. Andrew Zimmern did, and he said it was like "frozen Vaseline." Yuck!
Most people wisely run away from molds. Cheesemakers embrace the stuff, but at least they're very particular about the molds they allow. Consuming mold can make you very ill, which is why we instinctively react with disgust when we find moldy food. Some folks in Missouri apparently missed out on that instinct.
Keeping a vat of vinegar-based tomato paste covered in layers of multi-colored mold seems like an excellent way to have a health inspector called. Even Zimmern, who has tried and enjoyed some of the world's most repulsive foods, admitted that he was sickened by the stuff.
Two words: meat jelly. That's the best way to describe head cheese. It's an efficient use of leftover animal parts that once became a popular, lavish dish. Nowadays, it's just unnecessarily gross. Zimmern, a man who believes that every recipe deserves a chance to shine, seemed to glow with excitement as he waited to try the gelatinous, meaty gunk.
While most tourists snacked on fluffy beignets, Zimmern made a beeline for the head cheese. Perhaps his enthusiasm — even more than the gruesome dish itself — was the most disturbing aspect of this encounter. Why go for the head cheese? Why?
The durian fruit is one of the most controversial fruits in the world. While it may be difficult to grasp the fact that fruit can produce controversy, stay with us here. Imagine a decadent, creamy, delicious fruity treat. Now imagine that magical food smells like the sweatiest, stinkiest feet in the world. Would you still eat it?
That's the dilemma many people face when encountering the durian fruit. It smells like rotting onions but tastes far better, at least to some people, which is confusing. Zimmern apparently didn't think the fruit tasted much better than it smelled. He spat it out!
Worms of any kind don't tend to trigger the appetite. Worms that live on coral reefs are included in that group. Of course, as you're probably now aware, gross foods are kind of Andrew Zimmern's thing. During his trip to Samoa, he was introduced to a particular species of coral worm that rises to the surface to die.
When the worm reaches the surface, the people harvest it, prepare it and eat it. Zimmern has reminisced that eating coral worms with native Samoans was one of the strangest and most surreal things he has ever done.
In case you're blissfully unaware of what a rectum is, here's a brief lesson: It's basically the inside of a butt — and all the feces pass through it. Here's another interesting piece of trivia for you: A horse rectum is typically one foot long. Combining these two facts, you can guess how enjoyable eating a horse rectum would be.
But when in Kazakhstan, do as Kazakhstanis do, right? That's what Zimmern decided in 2015 when he was offered horse meat and horse rectum. He even got the chance to watch as they squeezed and rinsed the horse dung from the rectum. That's just wrong.
Madagascar is home to some of the most unique species of flora and fauna in the world. It's also a haven of health and safety in case of a worldwide pandemic. When Andrew Zimmern visited the island nation in 2011, the thing that caught his attention and his appetite was the tiny-yet-powerful giraffe weevil.
The insect looks like a little crane with a red back — or maybe a red giraffe, hence the name. These critters were sauteed and served to the adventurous host, who claimed that they tasted like shrimp. Sure, they do, Zimmern. Sure, they do.
Why are there so many fermented fish dishes? Honestly, they're nearly everywhere — except the good old U.S.A. This one hails from South Korea and consists of fermented skate (fish), which is a little unique. Still, as with folks in Minnesota, South Koreans have mixed feelings about hongeo-hoe. Some absolutely love it, but quite a lot of people hate the fishy dish.
Like many other fermented seafood dishes, it has a remarkably strong ammonia-like smell and taste. While some may say that it's just an acquired taste, many Westerners would say it's rotten fish that needs to be tossed immediately.
African dishes vary greatly, depending on the region where the dish originates. Enset is an Ethiopian dish that takes ages to make and even longer to scarf down. It’s likely that it wouldn't seem very tasty to many people outside of Ethiopia. That's because enset is a type of bread made from a mashed-up, pulpy ball of crushed and fermented roots.
Is your mouth watering yet? Maybe it would help to know that this pulpy mash is buried underneath a pile of leaves and dirt for months before becoming enset. Zimmern barely choked the moldy globs down.
This dish is not only vomitous, but it's also disturbing. Balut is a traditional dish in the Philippines, and fortunately for people everywhere, it hasn't caught on in the rest of the world. It is essentially a boiled bird embryo that is eaten directly from the shell.
That's right. It's basically like taking a shot of baby bird. Having to stare at the lifeless creature that never got to experience life is depressing enough without having to think about eating it. Still, Zimmern seemed unfazed by the gooey embryo when he tried balut in 2007.
When you think about picking up snacks, do you ever consider just harvesting some wasp larvae? If you're like the majority of the population, you probably answered no, even if you’re now considering it. Zimmern has not only eaten wasp larvae, but he also ate ant larvae, beetle larvae and cricket larvae.
However, knocking a wasp's nest down to harvest its young is pretty insane. Apparently, a quick boil is all you need to loosen the larvae from their nesting places. A quick tap and the tiny grubs will shower down into your chip bowl. You know, if you're into that.
The notorious century egg has been used as a challenge in Food Factor and is often considered one of the most complex and refined dishes — from a culinary perspective. It is also one of the most hated foods in the world. Also known as a 100-year-old egg, a century egg is a barely-preserved duck or chicken egg that has been fermented.
These eggs don't actually take a century to make. Instead, you could have a dozen in the matter of a few months. But why would you? They smell like sulfur and death. Zimmern's seemed only barely aged compared to typical examples.
Gigantic Sea Squirt
Zimmern's trip to Santiago, Chile, resulted in one of the strangest seafood samplings ever presented on the show. The gigantic sea squirt, a popular folk aphrodisiac, tasted like a combination of oysters, sea urchins, the ocean and fermentation. While that description is sure to turn off some seafood lovers, it probably excites a few others.
If you're willing to make the trip to South America, you can experience the unforgettably pungent, salty and slightly rancid taste of Chilean sea squirts. If the locals are to be believed, you may want to take a date with you.
Beef Tongue Ice Cream
Japan is home to some of the wackiest and most interesting food creations in the world, including beef tongue ice cream. The name isn't a gimmick. The soft-serve stuff is actually made with real beef tongues, resulting in an irony, salty, savory product.
Sure, bacon on donuts is pretty great, but beef tongue ice cream? Zimmern might have licked it all up with a smile on his face, but most people would probably just choose classic chocolate, vanilla or strawberry if given the chance. Besides, it's a bit weird to tongue-up creamy beef tongue, don’t you think?
Jellied Moose Nose
This disgusting dish would be awful, even if it weren't jellied, but the fact that it is makes the dish so much worse. Yet, you have to hand it to Alaskans. They sure have some ingenious methods of making meat last longer. To survive the long, harsh winters, you would have to have a tough tummy.
Zimmern got to experience the true depths of Alaskan cuisine in 2007. While reindeer, snow hares and even tundra moss were viable options, he ended up with one of the most revolting dishes ever featured on the show.
Florida is full of some interesting characters. Zimmern's adventures in the Florida Keys proved to be surprisingly educational as well as tasty. But like many things involving the Sunshine State, there was also a little danger involved. In 2014, Zimmern joined an experienced crew of divers and fisherman in a hunt for lionfish.
The invasive species is a threat to native Florida flora and fauna, so the Bizarre Foods host lent a hand in capturing a few and turning them into lunch. That’s all fine and dandy, until you consider the fact that lionfish are venomous.
Yes, penises, as in more than one penis. The jolly host of Bizarre Foods has wolfed down his fair share of male genitalia, all of it belonging to various non-human animals, of course. Zimmern showed a noticeable preference for a specific type of animal phallus: ox penises.
When asked which of the penises he had tried tasted the best, he quickly responded that ox genitalia was the most delicious. He went on to clarify that larger animal penises make more satisfying meals than small ones. All of this is cringe-inducing, gag-worthy and absolutely outrageous.
If you get nauseous or squeamish at the sight — or even the thought — of gore, it may be best to skip this one. The placenta is an organ, and we are technically born with it, but it can only be found inside pregnant mammals. It acts as a protective internal sac that nourishes and strengthens gestating offspring.
The placenta is ejected from the body during birth, resulting in a big gory mess. However, it is full of nutrients which may be why Andrew Zimmern was so keen to try a bit of cow placenta in Seattle.
Ancient Bog Butter
Peat bogs have a remarkable way of preserving ancient objects. Dishware, parts of buildings, people, clothing and even food have been found buried in bogs. The naturally acidic water and anaerobic environment has a way of freezing organic material in time, including a large hunk of bog butter discovered in Ireland.
Zimmern was shocked and delighted when his hosts brought the 3,000-year-old dairy product out for inspection and taste-tasting. It may have shown obvious signs of age and wear, but the wildly curious Zimmern was able to discern different types of animal milk in the butter. Crazy.
Consuming sperm of any kind is a pretty controversial idea. Fish sperm seems like a completely unnecessary ingredient, but it proved to be absolutely crucial to Andrew Zimmern's time in Sicily. Near a small fishing village, the Bizarre Foods host was propositioned in the most unlikely way.
The already salty sperm was salted and served to the curious epicurean to astounding acclaim. Zimmern loved the taste of the stuff, despite its off-putting look and origin. Still, this is coming from a guy who has eaten multiple penises and a rectum or two, so why were we surprised?
Eating the head of any animal is kind of gross. It's a beastly, violent act that most people avoid. Andrew Zimmern delights in doing the things that most people wouldn't dare do, especially when it comes to eating ghastly foods. This all led to a showdown between Zimmern and fermented sheep's head in Iceland.
Depending on how you look at it, either the sheep's head won — because, after all, it was eaten — or Zimmern won. The only losers in this situation are the entire audience, who may struggle to keep their dinners down while watching this.
While a sea cucumber might seem like a salty vegetable, it's actually a living creature. It even has a single gonad, allowing it to release sperm or ova. Consequently, a sea cucumber sandwich probably wouldn't taste as great as a regular cucumber sandwich.
Still, that didn't stop Andrew Zimmern from giving the strange aquatic animal a few nibbles while he soaked up some Florida sun. Without seasoning, sea cucumber apparently just tastes like slippery nothingness with a slight hint of the sea. That makes for a disappointing snack that certainly can't compete with land cucumbers.
Eating brains of any kind is fairly gross. Again, instinct teaches us that eating raw organs — that would include the brain — could lead to potential harm. A few diseases are even spread by ingesting an infected raw brain, including Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. Still, that hasn't stopped culinary explorers from dipping into the gray matter for a high-class snack.
Zimmern has tried cow brains, sheep brains and pig brains. If Chinese legends concerning the power of eating brains are true, he is now a fully-certified member of MENSA. If they're not, he may want to get tested for potentially insidious diseases.
Our natural human instincts have developed over millennia in response to various threats. This is why humans naturally fear certain types of animals or insects. Looking at the stonefish, it's easy to see why it's not a common ingredient in seafood dishes. Also, the name isn't exactly appealing. Goats may eat rocks, but people tend to avoid them.
The real kicker is that stonefish are some of the deadliest and most venomous fish in the world. Once again, instinct proves to be there for a reason. And once again, Zimmern went against that instinct to try the fish. It tasted sweet!
Tofu isn't everyone's cup of tea, and stinky tofu is some next-level stuff. It contains 39 volatile organic compounds. In layman's terms, that means it stinks. Many have compared the scent of stinky tofu to that of a massive landfill or a pile of messy diapers. These descriptions make it difficult to believe that anyone would choose to eat it.
But people like Andrew Zimmern exist all over the world, and they are determined to chow down on the weirdest foods. Stinky tofu is rather good for you if you can get past the smell of rot, fermentation and decay.