From Familiar to Foreign: My Biggest Food Culture Shock Experiences

Food is a universal language that transcends borders and cultures. It is a reflection of a region’s history, geography, and people. As we travel and explore different parts of the world, we are often introduced to new and unfamiliar food cultures that can be both exciting and intimidating. This article will delve into some of the most memorable food culture shock experiences, from the intriguing to the downright bizarre.

1. Japan: Raw Horse Meat (Basashi)

In Japan, a dish known as Basashi is served in many traditional Izakaya (Japanese pubs). This dish consists of thinly sliced raw horse meat, often served with soy sauce, ginger, and onions. While the idea of consuming raw horse meat may be shocking to many, it is considered a delicacy in Japan. The meat is said to be sweet, tender, and full of flavor.

2. China: Century Eggs

Century eggs, also known as thousand-year eggs, are a traditional Chinese delicacy. These eggs are preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months. The result is a jelly-like egg with a strong smell and a complex, rich flavor. While the appearance and smell of century eggs can be off-putting to the uninitiated, they are highly prized in Chinese cuisine.

3. Philippines: Balut

Balut is a popular street food in the Philippines. It is a fertilized duck egg that has been incubated for 14 to 21 days before being boiled and eaten. The embryo inside the egg is partially developed, with visible feathers, beak, and bones. Despite its somewhat gruesome appearance, Balut is considered a delicacy in the Philippines and is believed to be an aphrodisiac and a high source of protein.

4. Iceland: Hákarl

Hákarl is a traditional Icelandic dish made from fermented shark. The shark is buried in the ground and left to ferment for several months before being hung to dry for several more months. The result is a strong-smelling, ammonia-rich dish that is often served in small cubes on toothpicks. Hákarl is considered an acquired taste, even by Icelanders themselves.

These are just a few examples of the diverse and sometimes shocking food cultures around the world. While these dishes may seem strange or even repulsive to some, they are a testament to the rich diversity of global culinary traditions. So the next time you travel, be adventurous and try something new. You never know, you might just find a new favorite dish!