They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but taste is pretty much universal.
While we probably eat more chips, soda, cookies and candy than the rest of the world, there's no denying those foods are delicious. You can't say the same about these 13 "local delicacies."
1. China - Drunken Shrimp
You've probably tried something called "drunken shrimp" at your local Chinese restaurant, but this dish is not the same. Rather than being marinated in liquor and cooked, the traditional recipe involves "stunning" shrimp in ethanol before eating them live.
I love shrimp, but it's probably hard to eat as many when they're staring back at you.
2. Laos and Indonesia - Stink bugs
We hate to break the news to you, but eating bugs could be the next big trend for America's culinary scene. Bugs are a popular snack around the world because they're high in protein and easy to farm.
In case you're thinking "stink bugs" don't sound very appetizing, you're right. Even proud bug-eaters admit they're like chewing on bitter sunflower seeds.
3. Scotland - Haggis
We're sure lots of countries "invented" boiling a sheep's heart, liver, and lungs in the animal's own stomach, but only the Scots are proud enough to take the credit. It's nothing impressive to look at, but the "nutty" texture is supposedly nice with a side of mashed potatoes.
For the less daring, there's also a vegetarian version which swaps nuts and beans for the sheep bits.
4. Thailand - Durian
Durians are available throughout Asia, but don't expect to pick them up at the grocery store and bring them back to your hotel. These huge stinky fruits have been banned by most taxi companies, since the smell can linger for days.
If you can get pas the stink - which has been compared to rotting onions and raw sewage - the "custardy" fruit is said to taste pretty good.
5. Mongolia - Kumis
Like children around the world, the kids of Mongolia drink cow's milk to grow up big and strong. But their parents will reach for kumis - or horse milk - to get a little buzz. Since mare milk is so sugary, it becomes slightly alcoholic after it's fermented. While leaving the milk to curdle doesn't sound appetizing, it's a necessary step because raw horse milk is a powerful laxative.
6. Japan - Shirako
While it looks like brain tissue, shirako is actually much more disgusting (which is impressive). Called "white children," the sushi dish is made from the sperm sacs of fish like cod, and served cold. Tourists brave enough to try it say the dish is sweet, and tastes like custard.
7. Iceland - Hakarl
The basking shark evolved to be as inedible as possible, but the hearty Icelandic people proved that where there's a will, there's a way. They ferment the creature's skin until it's rotting, and then clean away most of the formaldehyde taste.
Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain called the treat “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he's ever eaten.
8. Mexico - Escamoles
Escamoles deserve some kind of general nastiness award, because every part of this dish sounds unappetizing. You begin by digging venomous ant eggs out of the roots of an agave cactus. The consistency of the larvae is usually compared to cottage cheese.
We'll say one thing for these little bugs: they're versatile. You can serve escamoles in tacos, or as part of an omelette.
9. Armenia - Khash
If chicken noodle soup can help you get over a cold, khash will probably just make you feel even worse. The soup's main ingredient is a sheep's feet or head (or both, if you're feeling extra hungry). Khash is traditionally served on cold winter nights, ideally when you have too many sheep feet laying around in your fridge.
10. Indonesia - Kopi Luwak coffee
You might expect that Starbucks sells the world's most expensive coffee ($3 for a venti? Really?) but that honor goes to this special variety from Indonesia. Tree-dwelling weasels called civets chew up the coffee cherries and...leave behind the beans. Those are collected by farmers, then ground up into coffee that retails for more than $150 per pound.
That's all the proof you need that money can't really buy happiness.
11. Italy - Casu Marzu
The idea of cheese made from sheep milk is enough to make us say no to the cheese plate, but casu marzu includes another disgusting surprise. Sardinian cheese-makers add tiny fly larvae to their products, which break down the cheese until it's almost liquid.
Some people take the larvae out, but others dig into the cheese while they're still inside. The maggots don't take kindly to this, and are known to "jump" out of the cheese to escape.
12. South Korea - Sannakji
It doesn't get any more "raw" than this octopus dish, which is chopped up in front of the customer and served while the legs are still moving. The suction cup-covered bits are actually known to cling inside your mouth and throat, causing some people to choke and even die.
That's not exactly my idea of a last meal.
13. America - Brain sandwiches
Sandwiches made from fried cow brain were a handy way to use up the scraps left over after the animal was butchered, but they're obviously not very popular these days. Fear of catching mad cow disease and new laws against cow brains have almost completely wiped out this local delicacy, but the Hilltop Inn in Evasville, Indiana is still serving them up fresh.
Are you brave enough to eat any of these?