When people travel to a new country, one thing that can prove to be a challenge is navigating the menus and supermarkets to find food that you enjoy. Human beings require a wide variety of nutrients, and different cultures get these from different sources and eat them in different combinations. This is just part of what distinguishes different cultures and makes life so amazing.
Unfortunately, some teachers struggle with new food, and find that the national cuisine is too different. In some cases, it can be too spicy, in other cases, teachers’ can find it hard to fulfil their own dietary constraints (such as being vegetarian, or allergic to shellfish). In these cases, it is best to prepare your own food, or find a group of other people who share your restrictions and work together to help each other find markets and restaurants which cater to your tastes.
For those teachers who don’t have any dietary constraints, travelling to a new country can be a chance to expand your pallet and try something new and adventurous. In this article, we will highlight some of the strangest cuisines available in EFL countries.
The home of Kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), South Korea tops this list as it has so many strange dishes for travelers to try. One thing it is well known for, is the unusual dish “poshintang” (or dog stew). This is a summer dish and only served in specific restaurants. While not typically a favourite for westerners, a truly adventurous eater may seek it out. More commonly available are “Bondegi” (silk worm larva), and if you make friends with some older Korean men, they might invite you on a trip to a national park to try “SanNakji” (live…yes, live squid).
China is such a huge country that different regions specialize in different foods and the cuisine can vary greatly between cities. One delicacy rumored to have been invented in Hunan, about 600 years ago, is the “Century Egg”, these are chicken, duck or quail eggs that have been preserved, turning the yolk green and the white, brown. If these eggs aren’t to your liking, you can always try “FengZhao” (Chicken Feet). These are growing in popularity and can be found in some bars as ‘beer snacks’, the way we eat peanuts in the west.
Most people think of tacos and nachos when they think of Mexican food. However, like many EFL countries, there is a secret world of food to be discovered. There is the “cabeza de cabrito”, which is a whole goat’s head. This is prepared like a soup or stew, and is a lot tastier than the name suggests. People also eat “Huitlacoche” which is a type of fungus infected corn. While this fungus is considered a pest in most countries, some Mexicans harvest the infected plants and the fungus is used as a mushroom like filling in some quesadillas.
Up in the frozen North of Europe, people have developed some ingenious, and stomach turning delicacies. “Lappkok” is a dumpling made of reindeer blood as well as some other ingredients. There are also blood pancakes. People also love “Surströmming”, which is a sour fermented herring. Be careful opening a tin of this indoors as the smell is overpowering.
What we consider to be strange is often a normal part of life in EFL countries. Where many westerners dislike the idea of eating the organs of animals (preferring the meat), many cultures do their best to waste as little as possible. “Churrasco de curacao” are chicken hearts usually served on skewers. They are delicious if you don’t think about it. Less of a traditional dish and more unusual than horrifying, is sweet-corn ice cream. Brazil is a hot country, and has plenty of corn, so it is not really surprising that this has been invented.
It was only a couple of decades ago that sushi was considered a strange delicacy in western countries. Now, it has become one of Japan’s biggest cultural exports. While westerners may want to stick to flavors like teriyaki chicken and fried shrimp, in Japan there are many more varieties and flavors available. “Sashimi” is thinly sliced raw fish and many people find it refreshing. “Fugu” is a poisonous blowfish that must be prepared professionally to get the best flavor and avoid the poison. If you feel like Japanese cuisine is no problem and you enjoy the subtle flavors of sushi, you may also want to try wasabi beer.
Don’t forget that while these foods may be unusual, they are part of each country’s national identity and culture. If you happen to be served something you don’t like or is too strange for you, most people will understand if you are polite. Remember, however, that variety is the spice of life and you’ll never know how good food is until you try it.
What is the strangest things you have eaten? Do you have some experience with unusual cuisine? Let us know in the comments section.