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10 of the world’s most disgusting foods

A museum dedicated to challenging perceptions of food and what society deems “disgusting” has opened in Sweden, showcasing stomach-churning dishes such as maggot cheese, bull penis and mouse wine.

Fried fruit bat, a speciality in Indonesia

The Disgusting Food Museum, the first of its kind, opened in Malmo, Sweden, earlier this year, and is packed full of exotic and revolting dishes, designed to intrigue western palates, but also highlight the foods eaten in different cultures.

Disgusting, after all, is a relative term, with many of the dishes featured considered delicacies in some cultures.

“The evolutionary function of disgust is to help us avoid disease and unsafe food,” the museum explains on its website. “Disgust is one of the six fundamental human emotions. While the emotion is universal, the foods that we find disgusting are not. What is delicious to one person can be revolting to another. Disgusting Food Museum invites visitors to explore the world of food and challenge their notions of what is and what isn’t edible. Could changing our ideas of disgust help us embrace the environmentally sustainable foods of the future?”

The exhibits contains 80 of the world’s most ‘disgusting’ foods, with visitors also given the opportunity to smell and taste some of the dishes on display. Foods on display include Surströmming (fermented herring from Sweden), Cuy (roasted guinea pigs from Peru), Casu marzu (maggot-infested cheese from Sardinia), Hákarl (well-aged shark from Iceland), and Durian (the infamously stinky fruit from Thailand).

The exhibit also includes Vegemite (Marmite) and liquorice, which in western cultures are widely accepted as common foods, despite some harbouring a distaste for them.

“Our current meat production is terribly environmentally unsustainable, and we urgently need to start considering alternatives,” said Dr Samuel West, curator of the museum. “If we can change our notions of what food is disgusting or not, it could potentially help us transition to more sustainable protein sources.”

The Disgusting Food Museum will open from Wednesday to Sunday between October 31 and January 27, 2019.

Click through for a look at some of the most disgusting foods on display, and where they are enjoyed….

Bull penis

Picture credit: The Disgusting Food Museum

Many cultures believe that by eating penis, of any kind, imbues the diner with virility, health and power, but most simply as a source of lean protein. Bull, ox, yak and buffalo are among the most common eaten, particularly in eastern cultures, including China, and notably Beijing. There is a restaurant in the capital, called Guolizhuang, dedicated to serving penises of all kinds, from bull and buffalo to seal and snake. According to those familiar with the delicacy, penis tends to taste tough and sinewy, and benefits from being braised or slow cooked…

Casu Marzu (maggot cheese)

Picture credit: The Disgusting Food Museum

Casu marzu, translated literally as “rotten/putrid cheese”, is a Sardinian speciality made from sheep milk cheese. It contains live insect larvae (maggots), which are introduced to the cheese in order to promote an advanced level of fermentation to break down the cheese’s fats. This allows the cheese to mature beyond typical fermentation to a stage of decomposition, brought about by the digestive action of the larvae of the cheese fly Piophila casei. The result is a softening of the cheese, with some liquid known to seep out…

Century eggs

Picture credit: The Disgusting Food Museum

A delicacy throughout Asia, the century egg, also known as preserved egg, hundred-year egg and thousand-year egg, is made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months. Through this process, the yolk turns a dark green/grey in colour and develops a pungent flavour, due to the hydrogen sulfide and ammonia present. The white becomes a dark brown, translucent jelly with a salty flavour.

Durian

Picture credit: The Disgusting Food Museum

A commonly-known disgusting food, the durian fruit is renowned for its pungent odour, and is most common in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. While it is considered the ‘King of Fruits’ in many cultures, many find its overpowering aroma to be unpleasant, described as being similar to rotten onions, turpentine, and raw sewage. Due to its persistent odour, the fruit has been banned from many hotels and residences throughout Asia.

Fruit bats

Picture credit: The Disgusting Food Museum
Fried fruit bats are a common food source in the Pacific Rim and Asia, including Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Guam, due to their low fat content and high protein. They are prepared in a number of ways, cooked with green chilli, or deep fried whole. In Guam, Mariana fruit bats (Pteropus mariannus) are considered a delicacy, while the flying fox bat species was made endangered due to being hunted there. The 1999 version of The Oxford Companion to Food states that the flavour of fruit bats is similar to that of chicken, and that they are “clean animals living exclusively on fruit”. Apparently, the cook of a bat emits a strong odour similar to urine, which can be lessened by adding beer, garlic or chilli.

Kale pache

Picture credit: The Disgusting Food Museum

Kale Pache is a traditional dish common to countries including Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria and Mongolia. It refers to stew made from boiled cow or sheep parts, which could include the head, feet and stomach. Variations of the dish exist from country to country. In Iran and Afghanistan, the dish is made with a sheep’s head, including the brain, and trotters, seasoned with lemon and cinnamon. Its typically eaten for breakfast. 

Kopi Luwak

Picture credit: The Disgusting Food Museum

Kopi luwak, or civet coffee, is made from part-digested coffee berries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet. Fermentation occurs as the berries pass through a civet’s intestines, and after being defecated with other fecal matter, they are collected and brewed into one of the world’s most expensive coffees. Coffee aficionados claim the process has two benefits: The civets choose to eat only certain berries, meaning only the best are used, while their digestion is thought to positively alter the composition of the coffee cherries. A 125g bag of Kopi Luwak is on sale at Harrods for £250.

Mouse wine

Picture credit: The Disgusting Food Museum

Another speciality in China and also Korea, mouse wine is made by infusing rice wine with baby mice. It’s made by dropping live two-day-old mice into a bottle and leaving them to ferment for roughly a year. It is considered a health tonic. It’s thought to be a particularly effective remedy for asthma, as well as liver diseases, and is said to taste not unlike gasoline. After the wine has been drunk, the mice are often eaten.

Natto

Picture credit: The Disgusting Food Museum

Nattō is a traditional breakfast food in Japan, made from soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis var. natto. It’s an acquired taste due to its powerful smell, strong flavour, and sticky, slimy texture. It’s typically served with soy sauce, karashi mustard and Japanese bunching onion.

Su Callu Sardu

Picture credit: The Disgusting Food Museum

Finally, we have Su Callu Sardu, another Sardinian cheese, made in such a unique way that only a handful of companies are even allowed to produce it. It’s made by taking the stomach of a baby goat, which is then tied at one end with a rope and left to mature with all its contents of mother’s milk (raw goats milk). The cheese is then aged for at least two to four months, and then eaten slice on bread, including the stomach, or fried in lard…

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