Five delicacies to die for on your travels

It’s great fun as a tourist to experiment with exotic delicacies, but if you ever come across these five, run!

As humans, we have a natural desire to test our limits and push past barriers that may stand in our way. We will do just about anything, including piercing the atmosphere to reach the moon and explore the depths of the sea, just to prove that we are stronger than nature. However, when this mindset is applied to the food we eat, things get… interesting.

Fruit bat soup, Guam

Preparing this dish simply requires you to slap subtlety right in its face and throw that bat, whole, straight onto a plate… maybe adding some chopped up veggies for good health and a pinch of irony for flavour. At this point, it is safe to assume that the people who eat this dish have decided it is worth the neurological damage that follows. Forgetting your friends and family is all part of this twisted package deal, but I’m sure you’ll always look fondly back on that one great day where you ate a bat.

This traditional delicacy originates from the islands of Guam, and is feasted upon regularly by the native Chamorro people. It is here that scientists discovered an unusually high instance of motor-neuron disease, which may lead to an early onset of Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and dementia. Recent research is now pointing the finger at this delicacy after it was established that a large portion of the bats’ diet consists of cycad seeds, which grow abundantly on the islands. The seeds contain a neurotoxin that gradually accumulates within the bats and makes their flesh toxic over time, so count your blessings if all you get is rabies.

Fugu, Japan

Fugu, or pufferfish, is served up as a rare delicacy primarily in Japan. To prepare this dish, a licensed chef who has trained for two years takes out special knives and cuts away the majority of the meal you just paid $120 for.

Though you have paid good money not to die, it will quickly become obvious if you do happen to eat the wrong part of this sly fish. Much of a pufferfish contains tetrodotoxin, a potent neurotoxin that is up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. Its effects begin as a light tingling sensation around your lips and mouth, progressing into nausea, vomiting and muscular weakness. Respiratory failure follows soon after, either causing the victim to either suffocate or fall into cardiac arrest from the lack of oxygen.

There is no known antidote, so your best chance at survival is to order sushi instead, unless you really feel like playing with fire… or having your stomach pumped by medics.

Sannakji, Korea 

To prepare this Korean delicacy, the chef will slice up a live baby octopus in front of you and serves it to you in a bowl, still squirming.

Many would agree that this is a cruel death. The octopus apparently agrees, because the severed tentacles attempt to avenge their demise by choking you from the inside as you eat it. The suction cups on the arms are still active at this point and if not eaten right (chew it into submission!) can attach themselves to the sides of your throat. The tentacles are seasoned with sesame seeds and sesame seed oil to make it all the more appetising, but more importantly to lube it up, giving you a weapon in this uphill battle of a meal.

While it is fun to experiment with food as a tourist, the whole experience is very Dawn of the Dead, and best left to professionals.

Bullfrog, Nambia

Why release snakes to eat this pest of a frog when you can do it yourself? But be aware, eating one of these big fellas is a game of timing.

Bullfrog Eating 101: they are safe to eat after mating season and the “third rain”, when the frog’s toxicity level is at its lowest point. If you fail to do this, you will destroy your kidneys.

This delicacy, however, serves a larger purpose than filling you stomach. An organisation in Nambia encourages people to eat the frogs via the campaign Eat the Invaders, treating this diet as a form of activism designed to protect other amphibians threatened by the bullfrog.

Do your part for the environment, just show some empathy and let the poor guys mate first.

Blood clams, China

Found in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic, and the Indo-Pacific region, the blood clam gets its name from the high level of hemoglobin in its blood, which makes it red like ours… but that’s not the only thing we have in common with our little blood brothers. As it turns out, those shady people you find in clubs aren’t the only ones ready and willing to hit you with a case of hepatitis.

Despite showing up on your plate looking like a prop from a Tarantino movie, you are now faced with the risk that your dinner has been around the block a few times and picked up a cocktail of diseases such as hepatitis A and gastroenteritis. This would not be an issue if the clams were cooked, but the locals insist that eating it rare is essential to the flavour. Apparently, this delicacy is just worth the risk. – Holly Cormack

Photo of pufferfish from Wikimedia Commons.