We’re big snackers in the UK – eating both home-produced stuff and ideas we’ve taken from other countries. The market for snack foods globally is booming. According to market analysts at Mintel, the UK snack market alone will be valued at over £3.8bn by 2016 which by all accounts is a lot of crisps and Jaffa Cakes to consume. Some countries have snack foods that just seem plain odd, though – here we take a look at some of the strangest snacking options from around the globe…
1. Balut: Fertilised Duck Egg (Philippines)
Balut is a duck egg that is fertilised and left to grow for several days before it is then boiled or steamed and served in the shell. Once the shell is opened, you can see the growing baby chick which is then eaten in its entirety.
2. Scorpion Suckers (Mexico)
This scorpion sucker is not your run of the mill lollipop, coming in a variety of flavours with a unique and very crunchy centre…a baked scorpion. Don’t worry, though: the poisonous stinger that can be found at the tip of the tail has been clipped off.
3. Hákarl: Fermented Shark (Iceland)
This popular Icelandic snack comes from the Hákarl, a basking shark which has been cured and fermented and hung to dry for four to five months. It comes in two varieties; white and soft skyrhákarl (lit. “skyr shark”) from the body and chewy and reddish glerhákarl (lit. “glassy shark”) from the belly. It is often served in cubes on toothpicks.
4. Deep Fried Tarantula: Cambodia
If you have arachnophobia, this might not be the best snack for you. Most commonly seasoned with garlic, these spider treats are deep-fried until the legs are stiff before being served up in a big bowl.
5. Guinea Pig – Peru
If you are from the UK you will probably most commonly think of guinea pigs as cute fluffy pets. In Peru it is a very different story as the guinea pig is a culinary speciality. You can choose to enjoy it deep fried on a stick or as part of a Pachamanca: a Peruvian dish baked with hot stones.
Not just a family pet: Guinea pigs are a delicacy in Peru (Image credit: Deep Fried Guinea Pig: By DAlanHirt (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
6. Kanikko (Candied Crabs): Japan
These tiny baby crabs are a mixture of salty, fishy and sweet with extra crunch. The candied coating covers the whole crab – claws, shell and all: simply pop one in your mouth and crunch away. Never has a snack looked so cute, yet slightly unnerving.
7. Casu Marzu (Maggot Cheese): Sardinia
Served at weddings and family gatherings, this cheese is a real treat. A lot goes into making Casu Marzu the delicacy that it truly is. During the ageing process, a fly called Piophila Casei lays its eggs on the cheese and when the maggots are born, they move throughout the cheese, excreting enzymes that give it an overwhelmingly pungent smell, soft creamy texture and rotten taste.
Munching on maggots: Casu Marzu is a Sardinian delicacy (Image credit: Casu Marzu: By Shardan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons)
8. Salo: Eastern Europe
Salo is a slice of salt cured fatback that is served on a piece of bread as an accompaniment to vodka or borscht. It is served up with or without skin, is sometimes fermented and contains very little meat. And while you may think that eating a lump of fat would be pretty bad for you, it does have at least one redeeming health quality, it is low in cholesterol.
9. Toasted Insects (Thailand)
If you like your bugs roasted, toasted or fried, then Thailand is the place for you. You can purchase all manner of bugs from vendors on the street or in cafes. Insects are a great source of protein and are a very affordable snack.
10. Fish and Chips Gelato (Australia)
If you have ever thought that what your ice cream really needed was a hefty dose of fish, then head to Australia. Fish and chip business Kailis and ice cream chain Il Gelato, both based in Fremantle, are the pioneers of this unusual sweet-meets-savoury gelato, which (you’ll be pleased to know) apparently doesn’t taste fishy at all….
These unusual snacks are just a small assortment of what is available to eat around the world. There is so much culture and adventure to be found on a plate (or a deep fried stick) and sampling another country’s snack of choice can really open your mind and give you a new and very enriching experience.
One of the great things about our country is that we adopt plenty of food from other cultures, so the question is, could some of these strange snacks make their way over here?