Have you ever wondered what it would be like to dine on extraterrestrial cuisine? While we can’t teleport to another planet for a taste test, our own Earth is home to bizarre and exotic foods that will make you feel like you’re dining in a sci-fi movie.
From wriggling tentacles to brainy delicacies, these ten foods look like they could have come from another world. Whether or not that makes them appetizing… well, that’s up to you. Join us on this gastronomic journey as we explore these alien-like dishes.
10 Casu Marzu from Sardinia, Italy
Hailing from the picturesque island of Sardinia, Italy, is a cheese like no other. Casu Marzu is an edible ecosystem. What makes it alien-like is the presence of live insect larvae called cheese flies (Piophila casei). These tiny insects are intentionally introduced into pecorino cheese to transform it into the infamous casu marzu.
The cheese begins as pecorino, a traditional Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese. To create casu marzu, the pecorino is left outdoors, exposed to the elements, allowing cheese flies to lay their eggs on it. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae burrow into the cheese, digesting the fats and proteins, making the cheese soft and spreadable.
The visual appeal of casu marzu may not be for everyone. The cheese can appear to be teeming with small white worms, giving it an almost alien look. But for those who can overcome the initial shock, the taste is a unique blend of creamy, pungent, and slightly spicy flavors. It’s an acquired taste, to say the least, but an experience you will remember.
9 Sannakji from Korea
Sannakji comes from Korea and is not for the faint-hearted. It’s live octopus served fresh and wriggling on your plate. “Sannakji” translates to “live octopus” in Korean, so you pretty much know what you’re getting into when you order it.
What makes sannakji look like it’s from another world is how the tentacles continue to move and writhe even after being severed from the main body. This eerie, almost hypnotic dance of the tentacles can be fascinating and slightly unsettling for those encountering it for the first time.
But rest assured, the tentacles are not actually alive. They are simply responding to stimuli. The sensation of the suction cups attaching to your tongue and the slight crunch as you chew is a sensory adventure. Sannakji is often served with sesame oil and seeds, adding a layer of flavor to this unique culinary experience.
Caution: The sannakji’s suction cups can pose a choking hazard if not properly chewed.
8 Balut Egg from the Philippines
In the Philippines, the delicacy balut looks like something straight out of Alien vs. Predator. Balut is a fertilized duck egg. The egg is allowed to develop for a specific period before it’s cooked and eaten.
The appearance of balut can be pretty startling. You’ll find a partially formed duck embryo when you crack open the shell. Complete with feathers, beak, and sometimes even tiny bones. It’s a sight that can make your stomach turn if you’re unprepared for it.
However, for many Filipinos, balut is a cultural and culinary tradition. The flavors are rich and savory, with a unique combination of textures. The yolk is creamy, while the embryo is soft and chewy. Balut is considered a nutritious snack due to its high protein content. It’s also believed to have aphrodisiac properties in Filipino culture. So, while it may look alien, for locals, it’s a delicacy that holds a special place in their hearts and stomachs.
7 Cuy from Ecuador
Ecuador introduces us to cuy—a dish that might make you feel like you’re dining on a different planet. Cuy is none other than roasted guinea pig, and it’s considered a traditional delicacy in the Andes region of South America.
What makes cuy look alien is the presentation. The roasted guinea pig is typically served whole. With its crispy skin and tiny claws still intact, it’s as if it’s ready to scurry off your plate. Seeing a guinea pig on a dinner plate might be startling for those unfamiliar with this culinary tradition.
Once you get past the initial shock, you’ll discover that cuy offers a unique flavor profile. Its flavors are a mix of chicken and rabbit, with tender meat that falls off the bone. The crispy skin provides a delightful contrast in texture.
Cuy is an essential part of Ecuadorian cuisine and culture. It’s often served during special occasions and celebrations, making it a dish that brings people together to share an out-of-this-world culinary experience.
6 Jellied Moose Nose from Alaska, USA & Canada
In the chilly landscapes of Alaska and Canada, you’ll come across a dish that might seem from a different planet altogether—jellied moose nose. This unusual concoction is made by preparing a moose’s nose until it becomes tender and then setting it in savory gelatin.
The result is a dish that defies traditional culinary expectations. When you slice into a portion of the jellied moose nose, you’ll find a translucent, quivering mass with pieces of moose nose suspended within. It’s an appearance that can be intriguing and off-putting, but adventurous eaters often find the taste surprisingly enjoyable.
Jellied moose nose is a testament to the resourcefulness of the indigenous peoples of Alaska and Canada, who have a long history of utilizing every part of the animals they hunt. While it may look alien to some, it’s a dish reflecting the deep connection between these communities and their natural world.
5 Escamoles from Mexico
Escamoles, often called “insect caviar” or “Mexican caviar,” are deeply rooted in Mexican cuisine. However, what sets escamoles apart from traditional caviar is that they are not fish eggs but rather black ants’ edible larvae, specifically the Liometopum apiculatum species.
These tiny cream-colored larvae are harvested from the roots of the agave and maguey plants in various regions of Mexico. Their collection is a delicate process, requiring carefully digging through the soil to find the ant larvae. Once harvested, the escamoles are typically cleaned and cooked, often sautéed with butter, garlic, and spices.
The taste of escamoles is nutty and slightly buttery, with a hint of earthiness. Their unique texture combines creamy and somewhat crunchy, making for a delightful mouthfeel.
Escamoles have a long history in Mexican cuisine, dating back to pre-Columbian times when they were considered a prized food source. Today, they continue to be enjoyed in various dishes, including tacos, omelets, and soups, adding a distinct and exotic flavor to Mexican gastronomy.
4 Kiviak from Greenland
In the remote landscapes of Greenland, you’ll discover kiviak, a dish that takes preservation to an extreme level. Kiviak is created by stuffing hundreds of small seabirds, typically auks, into a hollowed-out seal skin. Next, the seal is closed with grease and buried underground for several months.
The result is a dish that can appear quite alien in terms of its preparation and appearance. When you unearth a serving of kiviak, you’ll find a fermented, aromatic, and intensely flavored delicacy that might challenge your culinary comfort zone.
Kiviak’s aroma alone can be overwhelming, as the fermentation process infuses the birds with a strong, almost gamey scent. The flavor is equally bold, combining sour, salty, and umami notes. The texture can range from tender to slightly chewy, depending on the specific bird and how long it’s preserved.
This unique dish reflects the resourcefulness of the Inuit people, who have relied on innovative preservation methods to sustain themselves in the harsh Arctic environment. While kiviak may look and smell alien, it’s a treasured part of Greenlandic culinary heritage.
3 Hot Vit Lon from Vietnam
Vietnam introduces us to hot vit lon. This unusual treat consists of fertilized duck embryos, similar to balut, but with a twist. Instead of being boiled, hot vit lon steams the duck embryos, creating a unique visual presentation.
The translucent nature of the duck embryos within their shells sets hot vit lon apart. When you crack open the shell, the partially developed ducklings are clearly visible, suspended in their translucent chambers. It’s an appearance that can be startling, even for those familiar with exotic foods.
The taste of hot vit lon is rich and savory, with a complex combination of textures. The yolk is creamy and luxurious, while the embryo is soft with chewy elements. It’s a dish that pushes the boundaries of culinary exploration and offers an intriguing and delicious taste to those willing to try it.
2 Pidan Eggs from China
China brings us pidan eggs, also known as century eggs or thousand-year eggs. These eggs may appear alien due to their unusual appearance, but they are a testament to Chinese culinary ingenuity. Contrary to their name, these eggs are not centuries old but preserved using a unique and ancient method.
To create pidan eggs, fresh duck, chicken, or quail eggs are preserved by coating them in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice straw for several weeks to several months. During this time, chemical reactions occur, transforming the egg’s texture and flavor.
When you crack open a pidan egg, you’ll see a gelatinous, translucent egg white that has turned a deep amber or greenish-black color. The yolk becomes creamy, with a texture ranging from custard-like to slightly chalky, depending on the specific preparation.
The taste of pidan eggs is complex, with hints of sulfur and ammonia. It’s a flavor profile that might not be to everyone’s liking. For those who appreciate Chinese cuisine’s unique and acquired tastes, pidan eggs are a culinary adventure worth embarking on.
Despite their otherworldly appearance, pidan eggs are beloved in China. They are in traditional dishes, such as congee and century egg tofu. They are a testament to the rich culinary heritage of the country.
1 Brain Curry from India
Our culinary journey ends in India, where brain curry reigns supreme in exotic cuisine. As the name suggests, this dish features the brains of various animals, such as goats or sheep, cooked in a flavorful curry sauce.
What makes brain curry appear alien is the unique texture of the brains. They become incredibly soft and delicate when cooked, with a creamy consistency similar to a custard-like filling. The rich and aromatic curry sauce adds depth and complexity to the dish.
Brain curry reflects the diverse and adventurous nature of Indian cuisine. It’s a dish showcasing the skillful use of spices and flavors India is renowned for. For those willing to step outside their culinary comfort zone, brain curry offers a rich and unique taste. Tender brain matter and bold curry spices create a sensory experience.