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Feb 6, 2020 Europe
Some foods demand a lot of experimentation and courage from culinary enthusiasts. When it comes to weird food in Europe, you can bet the farm and all of the good things to eat on the farm that European gastronomic traditions are incredibly varied as well. And once epicurean adventurers decide to dive into the world of European cuisine, chances are their preconceptions of “good food” will be challenged from time to time. If you’re willing to challenge your ability to down all kinds of interesting (we’re using that adjective euphemistically here) fare, here are unusual European food to consider and perhaps dig into if you’re feeling curious or brave.
Fermented Hákarl shark meat isn’t for everyone, although this traditional method for preparing Greenland shark has plenty of diehard fans. Once the shark has been caught and dispatched, the carcass is buried under gravel and stones for a few months. It’s then uncovered and hung to dry for a couple more months. This strange food in Europe is Iceland’s national dish, in fact. If you can get past the powerful aroma, you might actually enjoy it … or maybe not. That all depends on the fortitude and willingness of your stomach.
2. Salmiakki (Salt Licorice)
If you’ve never tasted salty sweets then you’re not in for a treat. In fact, salt licorice is not so much weird as it is a veritable assault on the taste buds. As soon as this weird food of Europe hits your tongue a sharp, acute sting spreads all over, made only slightly more bearable by your tongue’s half-assed attempt at over-salivating. These snacks have a tough, gooey, bitter texture right to the very end. Imagine licking a salt block filled with chilies, lick over and over and over again, and only then will you understand what real salt licorice tastes like.
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3. Creier Pane
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And when in Romania, do as the Romanians do. That might mean tucking into some local cuisine and trying crier pane. We’d say this culinary idea is a “no-brainer,” but in the case of creier pane, a heaping portion of brains are involved. This Romanian dish and one of the most bizzare foods in Europe consists of boiled pig (or calf) brains, which are coated with flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs, and then fried to golden perfection. They can be served with veggies on the side or a big pile of French fries.
4. Frog Legs
Yes, the French eat frogs’ legs. But since the rest of the world seems to have no qualms about dissecting frogs in anatomy classes, why shouldn’t folks be able to dine on these green critters too? And if you do jump into the world of Cuisses de Grenouilles, you can choose from lightly fried frogs’ legs, the classic deep-fried frogs’ legs, pasta stuffed with frogs’ legs, sautéed frogs’ legs, and plenty of other variations on this unique dish in Europe. And of course, people in the know just might tell you that frogs’ legs taste similar to … you guessed it: chicken.
Made with lots of pig’s blood (or black pudding), goose giblets, and vinegar, as well as cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, and other spices, this specialty from northern Germany is the stuff of vegan nightmares although vampires if they existed, would go gaga over it. The good news is that one hearty bowl of this weirdest food in Europe will take care of your protein needs for the rest of the day. The bad news is that the strong flavor (and aroma) isn’t something that appeals to everybody.
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6. Breast Milk Ice-cream
It’s an actual thing, that’s what it is! A London ice-cream parlor created a commotion a few years back because the head chef decided to market a sweet snack made out of breast milk. Let’s just think about this for a second. This strange food from Europe is ice cream made from women’s breasts ¾ milk and ¼ cream to be exact… and some sugar to taste. Comes in flavors such as ‘Madagascan Vanilla’ and ‘Lemon Zest’. How refreshing. At first, it’s just like vanilla ice-cream… but that’s until the tangy not-quite-right goats-cheese after-taste kicks-in which greases your tongue like a rubber sweater. From then on it’s just plain disgusting.
7. Casu Marzu
Literally means rotten cheese in Italian. A traditional (and now illegal) Sardinian specialty full of live maggots, this most unusual food in Europe is made by encouraging ‘cheese flies’ to lay eggs inside a tiny hole at the top and letting the larvae devour the cheese from the inside, decomposing the fats through digestion and excreting the remains. Yummo! Obviously this cheese is now illegal for health reasons, namely, if you don’t spread the live maggots properly onto the bread or cracker there’s a chance they could still pass through your intestines alive and cause a great deal of abdominal pain. The irony is, the maggots must still be living until the very last minute before the cheese is consumed, otherwise it will go ‘off’, whatever that means in this context.
8. Horse Meat
This is what unsuspecting infants eat in Rome, as grocery stores would have you believe. Horsemeat – 100% pure and pureed for your offspring’s culinary pleasure. You may haven’t actually tasted this type of strangest food in Europe, basically out of principal. But you have it on good authority that horse meat is a cross between a good tender beef-steak and venison. Apparently you can’t really taste the difference.
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This unusual food to eat in Europe consisting of fermented Baltic Herring (aka, letting that shit rot). While they are being shipped, the cans sometimes bulge due to the ongoing fermentation (aka, letting that shit rot further). It’s not so much about the taste, but rather, the smell. “Surströmming smells like a dumpster full of fish, diapers and medical waste that has been left to rot for a month in the highest heat imaginable.” (quote is taken from an actual Swedish man). If your body doesn’t spasm and your eyes don’t twitch at the mere smell of this godforsaken substance then you’ve won half the battle. And let’s just say that even holding your nose, with all 10 fingers, won’t help you. Somehow it makes sense that it’s usually eaten outdoors, if at all.
Made from stockfish and lye, the corrosive alkaline substance also known as caustic soda is used to soak the fish for several days. When the fish is finally removed from the lye, it is so corrosive that it must be soaked in cold water for weeks, just so it doesn’t blow-up people’s insides. I think the word on everyone’s lips is ‘why’ rather than ‘what it tastes like’? Much like Surstromming, this unique dish in Europe gives off an odor that could gag a goat but is relatively less pungent to taste than it’s predecessor (if it’s made properly). It kind of tastes like a jelly-soapy-placenta-like-off-octopus.
Any list about weird foods in Europe should include that old Scottish standby, haggis. Scotland’s national dish is made of meaty pudding filled with sheep liver, heart, lungs, and other organs mixed with oats and beef, and then spiced up with cayenne pepper, onions, and salt before being stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled. Haggis doesn’t deserve the odd reception it often receives internationally, or by first-time visitors to Scotland. Sure, it doesn’t look like an ornate rose sitting there on your plate next to some mashed up turnip and potatoes, but it’s the incredibly stout fare for stout people living in a rugged country. These days, synthetic casings often replace the sheep’s stomach, and vegetarian haggis and gluten-free haggis options have hit the market as well—although traditional haggis recipes still abound.
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12. Angulas Baby Eels
If you like zesty, bizarre foods to eat in Europe, you’ll probably fall in love with angulas (also known as elvers). This Basque dish, which is served up as pinchos (tapas in northern Spain) consists of baby river eels. Actually, the eels are “adolescents,” but still relatively young and small (two or three inches in length). True angulas are harvested from Spanish rivers before the eels have a chance to make it to the ocean.
13. Christmas Carp
Czechia isn’t famous for its fish or seafood, of course, but come to Christmastime, plenty of Czechs (and Slovaks) chow down on “fresh” carp. Fresh in the sense that this river fish is kept alive in huge plastic barrels of water on street corners, and then sold and brought home to swim around the family’s bathtub (as a kind of household “pet”) for several days until it comes time to meet its fishy maker. If you’re accustomed to the taste of saltwater fish, this unusual dish in Europe can take some getting used to, although it’ll likely be the freshest fish you’ll get your hands on while in the Czechia.
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