Weird Foods From Around the World

PHOTO: Snake soup, a popular dish in Hong Kong, is shown here.Getty Images
Snake soup, a popular dish in Hong Kong, is shown here.

You've probably never experienced the crunch of biting into a cricket or the chewy texture of snake meat during a weekly family dinner.

Travel around the world and you'll find a significantly different reaction to the American standard of grotesque grub. You'd learn that food choices are driven more by culture and environment than by personal taste.

President Obama was recently mocked for eating a popular U.S. pet during his childhood in Indonesia, described in his memoir, "Dreams From My Father."

He describes his time living with his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro: "With Lolo, I learned how to eat small green chili peppers raw with dinner (plenty of rice), and, away from the dinner table, I was introduced to dog meat (tough), snake meat (tougher), and roasted grasshopper (crunchy)."

Obama wasn't the first person to try these foods, which seem unconventional by the standards of queasy American stomachs.

We've gathered some of the most unusual foods around the world. Before you start to read, make sure you've finished your lunch.

Horse and Llama
Touted as a healthy alternative to beef, horse meat is popular in non-English speaking countries. In Italy's Veneto region, horse meat stew, called pastissada, is made with wine and paprika. In Japan, horse meat sashimi is a delicacy. It is sometimes served barbecue style or wrapped in a shiso leaf.

In other parts of the world you can be served horse mane, the skin underneath the horse's hair. Horse meat tartar, smoked horse, steaks and sausage are popular in Belgium. And in France, horse meat is served in a classic style with fried potatoes and foie gras.

Ground llama is a traditional dish enjoyed by people in Bolivia.

Snake meat soup is a popular dish in Hong Kong. The meat is cooked with mushrooms and ginger and has a firm texture that resembles chicken.

Snake liquor is served in Japan. Stored in a bottle, the snake's flavor infuses into the alcohol. Another option is snake blood wine, which is wine that has been mixed with fresh snake blood.

Cat and Dog
In southern China, cats are eaten in colder months. Roughly 4 million people eat cat meat, although it is more popular older Chinese.

Although dog meat is decreasing in popularity, it is considered a delicacy in India.

The Pineville Tavern's snapper soup is shown here.

Turtle and Alligator
In eastern Pennsylvania, snapping turtle soup is a staple on the menu.

First offered at classic Philadelphia restaurants like the Warwick, Bellevue and Union League, the original recipe died with many of the older chefs, said Andrew Abruzzese, owner of The Pineville Tavern in Pineville, Pa. A popular menu item, a small soup at the The Pineville Tavern sells for $4.50.

The restaurant's seafood supplier gets turtles from farms in Mississippi and Kentucky. Federally inspected like chicken or beef, the turtles come dressed and purged, with their heads and toenails removed.

Garnished with sherry, the soup has "the consistency of a good beef gravy," said Abruzzese. "Rich, brown gravy? It has that kind of taste. There are a lot of aromatic herbs, and you get that kind of after-flavor in there."

The soup contains both dark and light turtle meat, "Dark meat reminds you of beef and light meat reminds you of turkey," he said.

Soft-shell turtles and turtle blood drinks are consumed in Japan.

Alligator cheesecake, served in New Orleans, is a popular savory dish made with alligator meat, shrimp, seasoning and cream sauce.

Kangaroo meat is growing in popularity in Australia.

At Eight Mile Creek, a New York City restaurant, diners can enjoy kangaroo imported from Australia. The restaurant gets its kangaroo vacuum-sealed and serves it medium rare with a reduction, sweet potato mash and veggies.

Described as tasting like a sweet filet mignon, the texture becomes too stringy when served medium, said owner Andrew Jordan.

"It's not as mainstream as your basic chicken, beef or pork. It's a bit like having venison" he said, "People come far and wide just to eat it."

Kangatarians, people who only eat vegetables and kangaroo meat, are growing in number, their numbers bolstered because the food is organic, and the animals are said to be raised and slaughtered under strict ethical standards.

Bats, Eggs and Insects
Believed to heal asthma and other respiratory problems, fruit bats are eaten in Indonesia. Fruit bats are also sold for dinner at local markets in Cambodia.

Tarantulas are another popular snack in Cambodia. Dug out of their burrows, hundreds of the critters are caught daily. The legs are crispy, while the head is described as being meaty.

Indigenous Australians eat wichetty grub or moth larvae. The taste is said to be similar to that of almonds. The bugs are fried to make their skin crispy.

Balut is a fertilized duck embryo that's been boiled alive. It's eaten in Southeast Asia. Balut is seasoned with salt, vinegar, garlic and chili.