7 appetisers from around the world we bet you've never tried
Some are obscure, and some are a little out there. Meet the most extraordinary appetisers you might find on your travels
From fermented sausages through to deep-fried grubs, the world cuisine is full of fascinating ideas for appetisers. Some will make you laugh, others might make you run away. Here are seven that made me feel a little uneasy – at least the first time I faced them. And it's not always about ingredients or taste... presentation also matters. Let's take a look:
Nem Chua (Southeast Asia)
Particularly popular in Vietnam, this semi-dried sausage will blow your tastebuds away, as long as you're not aware of what it's made from. It's a mix of lactic-fermented pork meat, cooked pork skin and loads of spices. And I mean LOADS! The most googled question about it is "Nem Chua safe?" and the answer is "Yes!". I've had a Vietnamese girlfriend for two years and I've eaten plenty of Nem Chua, prepared by her mother. It is, hands down, the best sausage you'll ever taste!
It is roughly what it looks like - sautéed snails with lots of spices. If you spend your summer in Portugal, you can't go a metre without seeing them. They are literally being served everywhere! I have a thing against snails and I haven't tried them, but apparently they are the perfect complement to a cold beer. I trust my FoodTribe friends with my life, so when I'm back in Portugal (insert date here), if Filipa or Gabriel tell me it's ok, I'll try them. They can film me puking later, because I've really got a thing against snails!
Espetinho de Coração de Frango (Brazil)
Now barbecued chicken doesn't sound that unusual, but... those are chicken hearts. They are marinated and grilled to perfection, but you can't escape the picture. According to all the recipes I found, they're "a little chewier" than chicken meat, no matter how much you grill them. Yeah... people in Brazil are apparently not familiar with my "technique" of grilling until well, the meat is no longer meat. On a more serious note - Brazil, you've lost me there.
Fried plantains (Caribbean)
This humble cousin of the banana is a staple of the Caribbean cuisine, because there's so much of it growing there – and it tastes delicious. So people in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic can do just about anything with it. From chips with dips to deep-fried sweet desserts (*Richard Hammond intensifies) - the sky is the limit. But most of us westerners haven't come across it before, might just think it's a simple old fried banana, and make THE FACE. We're certainly the only ones missing out here.
It's a kind of bean (I think Lupin) that looks more like corn on steroids. Most places will throw a bowl of these for free, as a complement to your cold beer, but I was specifically instructed to peel them, before eating. They were salty as hell, like the cook tried to cover the actual taste of the thing by drowning it in salt, which was very discouraging. I'm not putting them in the list because they are something spectacularly weird - it was just weird for me, having not seen or eaten those before. And I still can't say how they actually taste.
Fried grubs (Phuket)
This is the one that ran away. I mean, I ran away back then! And never went back to Phuket or Thailand for that matter. Grubs weren't appealing to me then, but I would gladly give them a chance now. To be honest, it smelled great . . and then I saw what smelled great. Thai people fry them with herbs and spices and it's actually a useful protein. But when you're on one of the best vacations of your life, even a beautiful place like the island of Phuket can suddenly lose its appeal, when you see the grubs on your plate.
The Russians would literally take a fish and dry the living juices out of it to make an appetiser. Apparently it goes great with beer and I've had the chance to try it. It may be dried, but it was incredibly smelly and not in a pleasant way. I needed something much stronger than beer to keep it down – and now I know why the Russians love vodka so much. It's the damn fish's fault! How they can eat and love something like that is beyond me. I don't even know what kind of fish it was, but it was bloody awful! If you ever get offered one, take it with vodka and lots of it!