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What are Some Unique Delicacies from Around the World?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 17, 2024
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A delicacy is any food that a specific culture considers rare or especially valuable. Often, these foods seem very strange to people in other cultures, and some foods may be considered a treat in one culture, and may be considered commonplace, or even inedible, in another. They may be rare or difficult to prepare in one culture and easily accessible in another, leading to differing opinions about the food.

There are thousands of delicacies found throughout the world, with most cultures having at least one food that it considers particularly special. These may range from relatively common foods, such as Maine lobster in the United States, to fairly rare ones, such as bird’s nest soup, made from the saliva-based nests of the cave swift.

In many cultures, various parts of an animal may be considered special, even if the animal itself is not. This is often due to the limited amount of that part on the animal, although it may also have to do with the difficulty in preparing it. In Spain, the gizzards of chickens are fried and served as mollejas. In Newfoundland, a popular treat is the fried tongue or cheeks of cod. In Indonesia, people can enjoy deep-fried monkey toes, while in Vietnam, they might even find a restaurant that serves the heart of a snake, while it’s still beating.

People in America often find that insects are a strange delicacy, but in many cultures, in fact, they are actually a staple food. They are usually quite high in protein and various vitamins and minerals, and they are often much easier to hunt than larger game. In Australia, the larva of the cossid moth are eaten either cooked or raw, and are usually called witchetty grubs. In Vietnam, scorpion can be found on some menus. In parts of Africa, grasshoppers are served fried, and other locusts, such as the cicada, are also eaten throughout the world. In Cambodia, tarantulas are served in some locales, and chocolate covered ants can be found in specialty markets throughout the world.

Pretty much every animal is eaten somewhere in the world, and if that animal is rare enough, it may be considered a delicacy. Animals that one country considers sacrosanct, such as cats or dogs, might be considered a treat in another country and served at high-class restaurants. Animals that seem exotic and cute to most Americans, such as kangaroos, might be found at the neighborhood butcher in a country like New Zealand or Australia. Sparrows, sea cucumbers, turtles, snails, octopuses, boar, sea urchins, frogs, horses, and abalone are just some of the everyday animals that wind up as dinner in one culture or another.

Westerners in Africa often get a thrill out of eating local big game, as well, although they may simply be a staple in the diet of locals. Animals like warthogs, zebra, porcupine, and wildebeest are all relatively common. Those that it may require special permits to hunt, or may be outright illegal to kill, sometimes have particular status as food. This might include lions, elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, and various primates.

Ultimately, anything can be a delicacy, depending on where a person is. To those who live in Northern California, abalone might be just another seafood they eat with friends when it’s in season. For Japanese, however, it's a very expensive and exclusive dish.

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Discussion Comments
By Kristee — On Nov 15, 2012

Some delicacies can be dangerous. I've read that puffer fish is considered a Japanese delicacy, but it can kill a person if it isn't prepared properly.

It is more toxic than cyanide. A chef has to be licensed in order to cook it.

By orangey03 — On Nov 15, 2012

@JessicaLynn – It's hard to define a delicacy sometimes, because even though a food is rare, it may just sound atrocious to most people. I live in the southern United States, and some of the things that people eat around here sound gross to me, even though I've lived here all my life!

I didn't know until I read this article that chicken gizzards were a delicacy in Spain. They are also a delicacy in my area. I have friends who rave about how great they are.

I won't be eating any unless that is all there is to eat and I'm about to starve. I guess some people are just braver than others and have more of a palate for delicacies.

By lighth0se33 — On Nov 14, 2012

I'm always scared to try European delicacies when I travel overseas. The menus at restaurants don't always explain what the food is, so I'm scared I'll go with a fancy name and end up eating guts or bugs.

The only delicacy here in the United States that sounds appetizing to me is Maine lobster. I'm a fan of seafood, and I've eaten lobster from the Gulf coast. It tasted great, so I'm sure that lobster that is considered a delicacy would taste amazing.

By Perdido — On Nov 14, 2012

I made the mistake of reading this article while eating. I am now nauseous!

At least I was snacking on nuts and berries instead of meat. When I'm eating meat and I read about something gross like exotic food, my mind immediately associates what I read with what is in my mouth and replaces reality with the idea of the delicacy.

By anon295577 — On Oct 07, 2012

I don't know about the witchetty grub thing being a common delicacy but I can vouch for the kangaroo. Peppered kangaroo with steamed beetroot is really nice. Definitely try kangaroo. It is a really nice lean meat, very rich. (I'm Australian)

By Monika — On Sep 02, 2012

It's really interesting how supply and demand affects what might be considered a delicacy. As the article said, someone from the United States might consider zebra meat or kangaroo meat to be a delicacy, but in some countries, it's just a food that's eaten, like chicken or beef is here!

By strawCake — On Sep 02, 2012

@JessicaLynn - I've always considered myself a fairly adventurous eater. I'm always willing to try new things and new styles of cooking. However, I'm with you on the bugs and monkey toes! I guess I'm not as adventurous as I thought, because a lot of stuff discussed in this article sounds gross to me.

Anyway, I think it's kind of interesting that people in other countries eat animals we consider cute or exotic. I had no idea that kangaroo meat was eaten in Australia, for example!

By JessicaLynn — On Sep 01, 2012

It's really interesting what some cultures consider a delicacy. I think fried monkey toes sound absolutely disgusting, but as the article said, I'm sure some people in Indonesia are willing to pay big bucks for them! I also don't see myself eating a bug unless it's my only option.

By anon108987 — On Sep 05, 2010

I've been drinking bird nest soup every night (i only get the homemade kind back at home). the only reason why i drink it is because it's supposed to be good for complexion.

I've been taking the store-bought kind online which is directly mailed from Hong Kong. this would be at a more affordable price. --Katherine

By averagejoe — On Jul 03, 2008

How about balut? A fertilized duck egg that's popular in some Asian cultures.

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