On the popular US reality show, Fear Factor, contestants compete against each other in a series of challenges that test their biggest fears and aversions. Extreme heights, enclosed spaces, exotic animals and creatures, and submersions, are just a few of the stunts that contestants have to perform. But the most popular challenges by far are where the contestants have to consume bizarre things such as maggots, sewer rats and miscellaneous animal blood. It’s all worth it though because the victor in each episode takes home $50 000 (R674 640).

Elsewhere in the world, diners and restaurant patrons are doing it the other way round. They are the ones who pay to eat unconventional meals. The following trends in food show that one man’s fear is another man’s feast. Here are six bizarre delicacies from around the world.

Thit chuot (rat meat) – Vietnam

Rodents don’t rank highly on the list of sought-after meats. They’re more commonly associated with spreading disease and getting restaurants shut down by health inspectors. Unless of course, you live in the Vietnamese cities of Hanoi and Saigon where deep-fried rat meat is a popular food trend. The rats are skinned, gutted, deep-fried and served on skewers or their meat is used as a substitute in a variety of pigeon and pheasant dishes.

Casu marzu (maggot cheese) – Italy

On the island of Sardinia near Italy, the common culinary practice of fermentation is taken to the next level – decomposition. Pecorino cheese is left outside with a portion of the rind removed so cheese flies can lay eggs inside the cheese. The eggs hatch and the insect larvae eat their way through the cheese. It is the digestive juices of the maggots that soften the cheese to the creamy semi-liquid texture Sardinians love. Most actually believe that casu marzu is best served with the maggots still alive.


(octopus sashimi) – South Korea

Speaking of food that has a life of its own, South Koreans have their own in the form of San-nakji. It is a raw octopus dish usually served with sesame oil and sesame seeds. Even though the octopuses are killed and chopped up before serving, the pieces can still squirm and scurry away from the dinner plate if you’re not watching. The suction cups on the tentacles can also stick to the tongue, the inside of the mouth and the oesophagus. So chew thoroughly.

Frog’s legs – France

Frog’s legs are a food trend enjoyed all over the world, especially in places such as Thailand, Portugal, China and Albania. But it’s the French who are synonymous with the dish. In France, frog’s legs are called cuisses de grenouille and are usually deep- or shallow-fried and served with bread. This is one example of food trends and regional dishes that have filtered into mainstream Western cuisine. It’s thanks to two things: frog’s legs are rich in protein, fatty acids, potassium and vitamin A and they taste like chicken.

Mopane worms – South Africa

Mopane worms are a divisive South African delicacy. You either love them or can’t keep one down. There’s no in-between. They are large caterpillars of the emperor moth species, Gonimbrasia belina, that predominantly graze on the leaves of the mopane tree, which is where they get their name. They are prepared by squeezing out their juice, after which they’re dried in the sun, then boiled or sautéed. They’re a free source of high amounts of protein which is why they’re a staple in many rural southern African diets.

Blood tofu – China

Blood tofu is a straightforward Cantonese dish. Pig blood is essentially left to coagulate, then cubed and served. The main difference between blood tofu and the British black pudding is the omission of oatmeal. The Chinese delicacy is served in an endless number of ways. It can be prepared with congee or egg noodles, dropped into soups and stews, or served alone on a stick. It has also made its way from East to West and can be spotted on pan-Asian restaurant menus all across the Western world. However, it’s best enjoyed in moderation since too much of it can lead to iron poisoning.

Food trends change all the time and every restaurateur needs to make an effort to keep up to date.