Delicious or Disgusting? Journey to Find the World's Weirdest Food

Moose nose jelly, sugar cane rats and tuna gonads are delicious, he says.

January 29, 2009, 4:38 PM

Feb. 6, 2009 — -- One man's moose nose jelly is another man's roasted sugar cane rat. Or at least that's the logic that keeps Andrew Zimmern's appetite whet.

As host of the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern," the Minnesota family man travels the globe with an open mind, and with a mouth open even wider, on a quest to taste the world's strangest foods.

Rather than trying to be brave, Zimmern is out to prove "weird" is just relative. If he gets to savor the occasional donkey skin or camel kidney on the way, all the better.

"My son thinks it's weird if I put barbecue sauce on my chicken," he said, hoping to explain how he rationalizes his current craving for "yak-based products."

Zimmern is not wrong, but even within cultures of haute cuisine there are some ingredients that cause outright shock.

French President Francois Mitterrand once caused a national scandal after serving ortolan at a state dinner. The tiny French songbirds, which are caught live, drowned in Armagnac, roasted and eaten whole, have since been outlawed on dinner menus. Supposedly they taste like hazelnuts.

It's one thing to take a risk with a usual ingredient prepared by a gourmet chef, but Zimmern's approach is an entirely different proposition. From drumming up desert ants with a tribe in Ethiopia to flushing out cave bats in Malaysia, there's nothing Zimmern won't try.

Sometimes though, even this man with an iron stomach can be caught off guard. Here are some of the biggest surprises he's found along his culinary odyssey.


Unique to the coasts of Chile and Peru, the piure is a rare bottom-dwelling invertebrate that vaguely resembles a basketball; it's so rare that Zimmern hadn't even heard of the mollusk when he found his first. To his shock and delight, after prying open the rough skin, he discovered hundreds of juicy, oysterlike pods.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Zimmern.

Locally the piure is a sought-after delicacy, enjoyed either raw or seasoned with lemon, onion and coriander. How'd they taste?

"Like a fish's ass dipped in iodine," Zimmern said. Many South Americans also enjoy the shellfish boiled and served with rice or on toast.


'Weird' Is Relative When It Comes to the World's Delicacies

Sea Cicadas

The sight of a cockroach makes most urban dwellers queasy. On the beach of Phuket, their larger sea cricket cousins may be paler, but their spindly insect bodies still make many squirm. Not Zimmern.

Photo courtesy Andrew Zimmern.

"They taste exactly like shrimp heads: briny and intense," he said. As such, sea cicadas are typically cooked like shrimp in Southeast Asia, either as part of stir-fry rice or noodles, or tempura-battered and deep-fried.



From creepy crawlies to hopping wallabies, Zimmern's always prepared to hunt down his dinner. In the Australian outback Zimmern caught, skinned, skewered and seared "one of [his] favorite red meats" over an open fire.

These kangaroolike marsupials, which Zimmern insists are "delicious," are also a very important meat source for aborigines living in the bush.

In contemporary Aussie cuisine, wallaby is often diced and substituted for beef in dishes like shepherd's pie or lasagna, or can be roasted whole as a steak.


La Lattume

Italian cuisine is revered worldwide and likewise tuna are globally gobbled up. Down on the south side of Sicily though, the merger has yielded an unlikely, and some say off-putting, delicacy: la lattume, or tuna sperm sac.

Once the tuna capital of the Mediterranean, Marzamemi is one of the few fish plants still processing the three-foot-long gonads, salting and drying, or soaking the slimy specialty in olive oil.

Similar in taste and substance to botarga, la lattume is popularly used in pasta dishes, salads or fried.


Eat Bizarre Foods Around the World

Sugar Cane Rat and Ants

Africa's rain forests and grasslands offer endless exotic edibles. Perhaps that's why this New York City native was most surprised by just how much he enjoyed the Ugandan version of his hometown critter: sugar cane rat.

These 25-pound rodents eat only sugar cane and are surprisingly sweet once skinned and roasted.

Photo courtesy Andrew Zimmern.

While in Ethiopia Zimmern also drummed up some 3-inch ants, which he enjoyed raw. "They taste exactly like roasted almonds," he claimed.

Here he's not alone though, and nowadays these chocolate-covered creatures are popular candies even in the United States.


Moose Nose Jelly

From Gulf Coast critters to Pacific Northwest moose, Zimmern says he's a huge fan of America's diverse indigenous foods. Pressed for a favorite, he concedes he has a soft spot for moose nose jelly.

Photo courtesy Andrew Zimmern.

"Moose is one of the most fabulous tasting meat," Zimmern said. The jelly is made by boiling the head of the moose, pulling off the meat and cooling it overnight in a pickling liquid. He describes the headcheeselike result as "very gamey and intense."

Photo courtesy Andrew Zimmern.


Click here to check out Zimmern's recipes for Hot & Spicy Chicken Feet, Grilled Octopus and Nutria Jumbo.

An array of unusual dishes in a Taiwanese market. Photo courtesy Andrew Zimmern.

You can check out Andrew Zimmern's blog at

Find out more about the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern" at

What's the weirdest food you've eaten? Post your story and share recipes on our comment board.

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