10 Unusual Asian Delicacies

Asia is known not just for its diverse cultures and traditions, but also a galore of exotic food that often surprises and astonishes, sometimes not to a positive effect. Now to list all the unusual food found in this colorful region would be simply impossible, they are just too many. So instead, we are starting out here with a list of just ten unusual delicacies from all over the region. Know of any other delicacies that you feel should make the list? Let us know and we’ll compile them on our future update!

Tuna Eyes. Photo credit - Altons Images & chloeandliah.

Tuna Eyes. Photo credit - Altons Images & chloeandliah.

Tuna Eyes

Where to find: Japan
If you can handle your food staring back at you, feasting on tuna eyes should come as a pleasure. Except for the bizarre situation of having to look at your food in the eye, they are actually pretty tantalizing for its fatty, jelly-like tissues around the eyeballs. Some prefer to eat it raw, albeit the fishy taste, others would rather steam or fry it alongside garlic or soya sauce to spice it up. Selling for less than 100 yen (approximately US$1) in Japan, this is a popular local delicacy worth trying out!

Durians. Photo credit - DarkPaisleh & MelvinHeng.

Durians. Photo credit - DarkPaisleh & MelvinHeng.


Where to find: Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia
Either you love it or hate it. This “King of Fruits” has garnered avid lovers and intense loathers alike. So powerful is its aroma (or stench), it could be detected miles away, and the smell lingers in your breath and fingers long after you are done with it. In some areas they are even banned, such is the powerful odor that comes from it! The durian has a shell full of “spikes” which you cut open and take out the fruit. They are the size of a ping pong balls, and the flesh is yellowish, sticky and gluey. Coupled with its distinctive aroma, durians come in two “flavors” – sweet and bitter. It is worth a try, or at least a sniff to experience the acquired taste of the King of Fruits. 

Lamb's brains. Photo credit - The Rocketeer & QueenKv.

Lamb's brains. Photo credit - The Rocketeer & QueenKv.

Lamb’s Brains

Where to find: India
Before anyone gags, lamb’s brains are actually pretty mild and not as revolting as you may think. They are white (when cooked, of course), tofu-like and often considered a gourmet treat prepared with Indian roti and curry. You can enjoy lamb’s brain served in various concoction – fried with tomatoes, egg, masala or even plain.

White Ants Eggs Soup. Photo credit - Xose Castro & Marshall Astor.

White Ants Eggs Soup. Photo credit - Xose Castro & Marshall Astor.

White Ant Eggs

Where to find: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam
Walk along the streets of Sukhumvit, Bangkok and you’ll discover a whole new diversity of Thai gourmet. From restaurants to street stalls, the myriad of food will leave you bedazzled. But from delight to shock comes street stalls offering delicacies such as scorpions, beetles, grasshoppers, frogs, usually fried. White ant (or termites) eggs soup are probably one of the weirdest choice out of the rest, but they taste surprisingly good! The soup comes with a mixture of eggs, half embryos and baby ants. The eggs are soft and pop gently in your mouth with a wee bit of sour taste.

Smelly tofu. Photo credit - Mr Wabu & LexnGer.

Smelly tofu. Photo credit - Mr Wabu & LexnGer.

Smelly Tofu

Where to find: Hong Kong, Taiwan, China
As the name suggests, this popular street snack is renowned for its pungent smell, often likened to garbage or manure. The smelly toufu is actually fermented tofu, best eaten with sweet or spicy sauces. Despite a smell that turns most people away, even for its enthusiasts, smelly toufu has a light taste and once it tickles your fancy, you could be a fan of it.

Balut. Photo credit - Marshall Astor & Kerolic.

Balut. Photo credit - Marshall Astor & Kerolic.


Where to find: Phillipines
Native to Phillipines, Baluts are half-fertilized duck or chicken eggs boiled with its shell. It doesn’t exactly look inviting as the semi-developed ducklings are already visibly formed. However, the Balut is a popular local dish eaten throughout the Phillipines, believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack. Often served with beer, the biggest challenge in trying out balut is overcoming its unappetizing sight, but most people would agree that it tasted much better than it looks.

Fugu. Photo credit - Culinary Journal & moophisto.

Fugu. Photo credit - Culinary Journal & moophisto.

Fugu (Blowfish)

Where to find: Japan
This rare delicacy in Japan is only for risk-takers. Intensely dangerous due to its high tetrodotoxin content, which can thwart the nervous systems in minutes and kill in a few hours, this dish is served strictly in licensed restaurants. Like an art, the fugu is delicately prepared through various complicated procedures to ensure that the toxins are thoroughly cleared. It is thinly sliced and often served as sashimi (raw). Dip the meat with wasabi or Japanese soya sauce and pop it gently into your mouth. Some professional chefs prepare this delicate sashimi so there is a minute amount of poison in the meat, giving a prickling feeling and numbness on the tongue and the lips. Fugu is considered a luxury good in Japan, costing up to USD$200 for a full set.

Drunken Shrimp. Photo credit - VIPWorld & HuevosConLeche.

Drunken Shrimp. Photo credit - VIPWorld & HuevosConLeche.

Drunken Shrimp

Where to find: Shanghai
When I first heard about the dish Drunken Shrimp, my first thought goes to the usual style of steaming your shrimps in a healthy dose of wine and alcohol. It gives the shrimp an additional dash of sweetness, making it a favorite of mine. The actual Shanghainese Drunken Shrimp however, is an entirely different experience – most notably because of the absence of steaming, or any kinds of cooking whatsoever. The shrimps are not only raw, but live! They are served bathed in strong liquor, which helps to make the shrimps less feisty, and you eat the still twitching body right away after you decapitate the poor fellow.

Silkworm Larvae. Photo credit - KSBuehler & Lokhin.

Silkworm Larvae. Photo credit - KSBuehler & Lokhin.

Beondegi (Silkworm Larvae)

Where to find: South Korea
Literally meaning “chrysalis” or “pupa” in Korean, the Silkworm Larvae are a popular snack in South Korea. They are either steamed or boiled, and then seasoned before serving. If you can get through the subtle, nutty aroma, these little guys are crunchy with a unique, strange texture inside.

Tarantula snacks. Photo credit - spotter_nl.

Tarantula snacks. Photo credit - spotter_nl.


Where to find: Skuon, Cambodia
During the years of terror under the Khmer Rogue, starvation was rife across Cambodia, and the people began eating anything they could get their hands on. The tarantula was one such subject, and the people of Skuon, Cambodia, developed a taste for them, even long after the regime change. These distant cousins of the crab are crispy on the outside and gooey in the middle, with the white delicate meat in the head and body tasting rather like a cross between chicken and cod.

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50 Comments on "10 Unusual Asian Delicacies"

  1. Petal on Fri, 7th Aug 2009 1:18 am 

    Wow, very interesting things. It is amazing how different westen food is from the east. Most of these things I would only try as a dare or to broaden my horizons. I also have a blog of unusual travel experiences but so far haven’t written much about food in the east. Keep up the good blog!

  2. Nomadic Matt on Wed, 12th Aug 2009 9:27 pm 

    I don’ t know if I want to go eat dinner now….

  3. Amadhea Kaslan on Sun, 6th Sep 2009 10:00 am 

    Wow.. Interesting. I do seek exotic food when I traveled to Cambodia and Vietnam. In Cambodia I ate a Silk worm Larva that been cooked for the silk.. a Lotus Seed, but still not dare to try the Grasshopper and Cricket.. I can’t find the Ant Egg.. or the Tarantula back then.

  4. Windy on Thu, 10th Sep 2009 3:26 am 

    i am full already @_@

  5. Costa Rica Towns on Thu, 24th Sep 2009 3:46 pm 

    Michelle, great article ! I would love to try fugu sometime, hoping that I will survive !

  6. Mich on Sun, 27th Sep 2009 9:34 am 

    Thanks Costa, I’m sure you’ll survive the fugu… at a licensed resto that is! =)

  7. ciki on Sat, 24th Apr 2010 1:10 am 

    extremely cool. i am from asia, but some of those things still freak me out. great job LOL!

  8. Bethany on Tue, 11th May 2010 1:04 pm 

    you can find Balut and Durian in Vietnam, too!

  9. Stanley on Sun, 23rd May 2010 7:07 am 

    haha you can get Balut and Durien in America :)

  10. Jobs on Tue, 25th May 2010 12:02 am 

    Yeah trust me, Durians are great.

  11. Nik on Mon, 31st May 2010 11:00 am 

    Woww Balut and Durian in America?? I can envision Durian.. but Balut!? That’s amazing.. And to think that I had to travel all the way to the Philippines just to have a taste.. haha

  12. cathy x. on Mon, 8th Nov 2010 5:58 am 

    here’s a picture of bee larvae that you can add to your list in the future. for the record, it tastes faintly of honey but mostly really disgusting :)


  13. Suhendy on Sun, 28th Nov 2010 6:58 am 

    Its a fascinating information i get from the writing. It is broaden my knowledge about rare food in Asia. Thanks for the information!!!!

  14. Mia on Mon, 29th Nov 2010 3:19 am 

    durian fruit is also found in the Philippines…

  15. lia on Sat, 15th Jan 2011 12:29 am 

    hiiiiii…tarantula snakcs

  16. desman on Sat, 15th Jan 2011 7:48 am 

    in indonesia durian is a favorite fruit and also to make a cake.

    do you want to try???that’s so great food.

    so come to indonesia

  17. heshi on Sat, 15th Jan 2011 3:53 pm 

    durian is greeeeaaaaattt ^_^

  18. Bambang Wiyono on Sun, 16th Jan 2011 2:07 am 

    Yes…i love Asia and food from Asia

  19. sarah fai on Sun, 16th Jan 2011 11:57 am 

    Durians grow many in our country…some people can’t stand with the smell but you should try the taste….hmmmmm

  20. Bob on Tue, 18th Jan 2011 6:37 pm 


  21. Catalina on Wed, 19th Jan 2011 5:47 pm 

    I like durian eeemmmhhhhhh…a smelly,sophisticated,luxury and delicious fruit. The average people here in Indonesia usually eat it. We usually to eat smelly tofu,too.

  22. mahadewi on Wed, 26th Jan 2011 9:16 am 

    Durian is great !!! King of fruits… it’s tasty !! we (indonesian) love it..! must try durian.. come visit indonesia..

  23. yulia on Tue, 1st Mar 2011 5:39 am 

    we also have brain in our menu here in Indonesia, especially padang (west sumatra). but normally it’s cow brain, not lamb. it is cooked as ‘gulai’. as for durian, indonesian people have many ways to serve and enjoy it. you might wanna try durian cake, durian ice cream, durian jam to accompany your sticky rice (bread would also be ok) or other menus of durian.

  24. nicko philippines on Wed, 9th Mar 2011 10:20 pm 

    you forgot to include Philippines, we have also white ant eggs, smelly tofu and the most popular durian, It smells really bad i must admit but that’s one of the most unique fruits we had. Balut was really good, you can see a lot of people eating that stuff, you can’t buy it at day time because nobody sells that during day time only at night time, it tastes really good and very nutritious…

  25. Candra on Tue, 15th Mar 2011 7:39 am 

    Let Asia lead the world…

  26. Laurence on Fri, 15th Apr 2011 10:21 pm 

    If you take ALL that sh(* listed above, grind it up, stick it inside an intestine and cook it, you get something slightly healthier than American Hot Dogs!

  27. dian on Tue, 19th Apr 2011 8:49 am 

    i like duren.. ^_^

  28. Druid on Wed, 20th Apr 2011 10:18 pm 

    Yumm! I’d try it. Bring on the Dog!

  29. rizaleonolido on Mon, 30th May 2011 9:38 am 

    i realy like durian it smels weird

  30. Marta on Wed, 22nd Jun 2011 7:37 am 

    Durian? oh, love it.
    next destination Philippines, hoh Balut seems so scary. But, i must try

  31. clarence on Thu, 7th Jul 2011 8:02 am 

    smelly tofu is SUPERB!!!! XD

  32. van on Tue, 12th Jul 2011 8:05 am 

    where can i buy BALUT(fetal duck egg) in malaysia ?

  33. vietnamvisa on Tue, 6th Sep 2011 9:32 am 

    oh my god!

  34. setena cr on Tue, 27th Sep 2011 11:04 pm 

    I can not believe the Balut, it is nasty.

  35. keith on Tue, 11th Oct 2011 7:54 am 

    Err… where to eat raw monkey brain??

  36. Chloe on Mon, 14th Nov 2011 8:27 am 

    i am from Philippines, and yes i love BALUT, but not durian! hahahaha

  37. dodong on Sat, 3rd Dec 2011 1:55 am 

    i love durian, balut, crunchy mole crickets, adidas*(chicken feet), smelly tofu, etc. thank God i’m asian!

  38. mata dewa on Tue, 6th Dec 2011 2:02 am 

    Beondegi? what kind of delicacy it is? i don’t imagine how to eat it…

  39. AlexBerger on Tue, 6th Dec 2011 10:12 pm 

    Whew, some of that stuff looks intense. I’m eager to try…most of it.

  40. Gina on Fri, 10th Feb 2012 12:02 am 

    Eeeeeeeeeew! This is so digusting, what is wrong with these people? They need help! *barf*

  41. love on Fri, 24th Feb 2012 10:19 pm 

    — yes it luks nasty but youll
    love our BALUT in the PHILIPPINES ..

  42. taliah (bonquiequie) on Wed, 4th Apr 2012 7:05 pm 

    no one asked you if you were not gonna eat your dinner retard

  43. rosa on Wed, 9th May 2012 6:05 pm 

    its nasty ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!! yolo niggas

  44. rosa on Wed, 9th May 2012 6:06 pm 

    its nasty ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww yolo niggas

  45. rosa on Wed, 9th May 2012 6:06 pm 

    im tired and bored it sucks

  46. reynold on Thu, 9th Aug 2012 7:37 am 

    durian is a good fruit,but i want the tuna eyes!

  47. Sassy on Sun, 12th Aug 2012 6:37 am 

    How there you say that to balut? Balut is the best food you could ever eat here un asia….. If you consider dinuguan, which is fresh pork blood….

  48. Summer on Wed, 29th Aug 2012 2:04 pm 

    I saw balut egg once in Fear Factor and it refrained me from eating egg yolks until now… I’m scared.

  49. Michael on Fri, 8th Mar 2013 7:05 pm 

    Tarantula is best raw and with beans and parsley. Tarantula sandwiches must yet be warm and served with cold beer.

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