Fried tarantulas – Cambodia
An arachnophobe's worst nightmare comes fried and crunchy in Cambodia. In Phnom Penh markets and in the town of Skuon, locals deep fry spiders for locals and adventurous tourists alike. Buy one of these crispy snacks from a wandering hawker and you may even get to play with a live tarantula before tucking into one of his hairy brothers. The abdomen is only for the truly brave and is said to taste like "licking damp cobwebs."
Cuy (guinea pig) – Peru
They may look cute in the classroom but a guinea pig on your plate looks less adorable. Peruvian families keep guinea pigs as they are a good source of protein for villagers living up in the Andes. Cuy, as they are called, are generally roasted before they are served with all limbs and the head attached. There is not a great deal of meat on them and the skin can be rather rubbery but otherwise they taste similar to rabbit.
Casu marzu – Sardinia
This is a Sardinian speciality that comes with a health warning. Most food that's crawling with maggots finds its way into the bin but the decomposition of this "rotten cheese" is positively encouraged. Pecorino Sardo is set aside so that cheese flies can lay eggs inside the rind which then hatch into crawling maggots. These feed on the cheese, aiding fermentation and producing a pungent smell. Officially banned in the EU, the maggots are eaten live with the cheese, assuming they haven't jumped away first – some can jump up to 15cm.
Hakarl (fermented shark) – Iceland
An Icelandic speciality, Hakarl is certainly an acquired taste. It is traditionally made by gutting a basking shark, placing it in a hole, covering the carcase with gravel and stones and then leaving it to ferment for up to three months. The shark is then cut into chunks which are hung for several months more. The smell is repugnant, though the taste is said to be reasonable.
Civet excrement coffee – Asia
Considered a delicacy in parts of Asia, these coffee beans are roasted after passing through the digestive system of a civet. Farmers on coffee plantations allow the weasel-like creatures to eat their crop in order to collect their bean-filled droppings for a steamy and surprisingly chocolatey beverage. While it has yet to make the menu at Starbucks, the beans can be bought in shops in London, including Selfridges
Fugu – Japan
Certainly not as repugnant as some of the other dishes on our menu, fugu – or puffer fish – has nevertheless become a notorious delicacy thanks to the fact that eating it can be fatal unless it is properly prepared. The fish's liver, ovaries and skin contains large amounts of the poison tetrodotoxin and there is no known antidote
Balut – Philippines
Sometimes described as "eggs with legs", Balut is an utterly gruesome – by some Western standards – delicacy from the Philippines. A common, everyday food, it is a fertilised duck or chicken egg containing a nearly-developed embryo – including feathers, feet, et al – that is boiled and eaten straight out of the shell. If you're not too squeamish, there are plenty of videos on YouTube.
Chicken feet – Worldwide
A common part of Asian, Jamaican and Peruvian cuisine, chicken feet are often served in soup or with black bean sauce. The foot is largely cartilage, while there are lots of small bones, so they certainly aren't for everyone.
Bird's nest soup – China
Made from the nests of cave swifts – a breed common to Borneo that builds its home using strands of saliva – bird's nest soup is a delicacy in China and hugely expensive, costing up to £65 for a single bowl. The trade in the nests is estimated to account for around 0.5 per cent of Indonesia's entire GDP.
Live octopus – Japan and Korea
Many Westerners would find the practice of eating squirming octopus legs particularly hard to digest. It can seem cruel to the bystander, especially when the octopuses wrap themselves around the diner's chopsticks in an attempt not to be eaten. According to one diner's report, the wriggly bits can taste like "a party in your mouth" – but the ****ers can be dangerous if they stick on the way down.