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5 Strange Animals Eaten Around the World
A nation’s cuisine is something that defines it, an integral part of its culture, and a characteristic element that goes hand in hand with other cultural markers like music or architecture. A visit to a foreign city will almost include a sampling of its national dish; here are a few examples of how prevalent food is to a nation’s identity;
- The French are well known for eating frog’s legs, snails, and horsemeat
- Conversely, the French nickname for Brits is ‘roast beef’
- The Sweedish furniture shop, Ikea, is perhaps best known for serving up the country’s national dish of meatballs
These are just a few examples, but almost every country has a self-proclaimed ‘national dish’, and somewhere hundreds of miles away on the other world, there will be a restaurant specializing in that cuisine, introducing residents to a new experience and making tourists feel at home.
Of course there some national dishes that are not so much celebrated as lambasted and sometimes even protested against. What seems natural in one country may be considered revolting by another, here are some examples of popular national dishes that somewhat unusual to the rest of the world;
Guinea Pig – Peru
Central America is responsible for introducing many delicious foods to the world, many of which are only just gaining popularity for their reputed health benefits (Quinoa, Sweet Potatoes, Ceviche), this makes it all the more strange that this Peruvian staple is so far removed from the global food hegemony; Guinea Pig or ‘Cuy’ is traditionally served fried whole with French fries.
Horse – China
For Brits, the French are synonymous with the production and consumption of Horsemeat, but the truth is, equine entrails are popular all over the world, with China, Russia, and Mexico being the biggest consumers; while France and Italy make up the majority of the European market. Horse meat, apparently sweet and tender, is considered taboo in most English speaking countries due to the horse’s status as pets.
Chicken Embryos – Cambodia
Chicken is one of the most widely consumed meats in the world, but not in the form which is considered a delicacy in Vietnam and various other south-east Asian countries. The common name for this delicacy is ‘Balut’ and is, more accurately a fertilized egg containing a part-formed chick boiled in the eggshell and eaten warm with some garnish.
Dog – Korea
Perhaps most alien to Western pallets would be dog meat. Dogs are a domesticated pet in many countries and their harvesting for food is seen as inappropriate in such cultures. The consumption of dog meat however is perfectly normal in much of Asia, served in a variety of ways like any beef, pork, or chicken dish. In Europe, the U.S, and the Middle East, reasons for not eating dog meat are numerous, from it being a cultural taboo to faiths such as Judaism and Islam considering dogs to be ‘unclean’.
Shark – Australia
Most of us see Sharks as a predator, and often envisage them, eating us rather than the other way round, but for Pacific nations, Shark, particularly Sharkfin, is a real delicacy. Shark fin soup is hugely popular in Japan, while in Australia, Shark is served battered with chips, UK-style.
Of course, labeling foreign cuisine as ‘odd’ is subjective, and as much as one recoils in disgust at the prospect of eating what is, in their culture at least, a household pet, or an animal considered as vermin, sampling the local delicacy is all part and parcel of experiencing new cultures and assimilating with locals.