There are so many aspects of travel I love, among which food plays one of the most important roles. My interest in different food cultures have brought me around the world, sampling quirky eats and at times, bizarre wriggly bites. From roasted guinea pig to tender pigeon meat, I’ve tasted many weird foods around the world.
Today let’s take a look at some of the most bizarre eating rituals around the globe and how different they are from our own. People from different parts of the world have their own eating habits, beliefs and rituals, some of which are pretty weird – you have been warned!
Table of Contents
- Bizarre Eating Rituals & Food Traditions
- 1. Blood Drinking in Kenya
- 2. Phuket Vegetarian Festival in Thailand
- 3. Eating Deadly Fish in Japan
- 4. Slurping Loudly in Japan
- 5. Burping in Egypt
- 6. Drinking Urine in Siberia
- 7. Clearing Your Plate in China
- 8. Sticking Chopsticks in Rice in China & Japan
- 9. Eating Whales in the Arctic
- 10. Feasting with the Dead in Sulawesi
Bizarre Eating Rituals & Food Traditions
1. Blood Drinking in Kenya
In the West, cows are used primarily for producing either beef or milk. In East Africa, cows have always provided a different kind of sustenance. Drinking the blood of cows historically helped travelers cross vast tracts of desert when water and food was in short supply. In places like Kenya, the Masai people (also named Maasai) still follow the ritual of blood drinking, as a delicacy mixed with milk or directly from the veins of the beasts.
2. Phuket Vegetarian Festival in Thailand
The Vegetarian Festival on the island of Phuket takes place each year with locals abstaining from meat and observing holy rituals to bring luck for the rest of the year. Aesthetic displays such as walking over hot coals and inserting all manner of bladed objects into the cheeks are done as part of the spiritual cleansing. Not for the faint of heart.
3. Eating Deadly Fish in Japan
The Japanese pufferfish, or fugu, is one of the most poisonous and strangest foods in the world. Japanese chefs train for years to prepare the fish properly in order to remove the deadly tetrodotoxin, for which there is no known antidote. However, chefs aspire to leave just enough toxin in the fish to leave a tingling sensation in the mouth, whilst not enough to kill a person. An acquired taste for sure.
4. Slurping Loudly in Japan
Whilst slurping in most of the Western world is considered rude and ill-mannered, it is part of the Japanese eating habit. Slurping loudly as you devour a bowl of udon noodles means you’re enjoying it and that it tastes great. In fact, it is considered rude not to slurp when eating noodles in Japan. Oh, and don’t forget to use your chopsticks to get the noodles into your mouth.
5. Burping in Egypt
Similar to slurping noodles in Japan, burping in Egypt is the highest compliment a guest can pay to remark on the quality of the food prepared before them. When visiting Egypt, be sure to gulp down plenty of cola or other fizzy drinks to show your full appreciation for the meal.
6. Drinking Urine in Siberia
The Koryak people of Siberia have an unusual custom of combining hallucinogenic mushrooms with urine as part of a religious ritual which allows them to meditate and communicate with the spirits. The mushrooms are ingested as a ceremonial “entheogen”, and tribesmen will drink their own urine to sustain the intoxicating effects of the poisonous fungi.
7. Clearing Your Plate in China
In Chinese culture, it is considered rude to finish everything you are given to eat. Doing so is an indication that the host has not provided you with enough food to eat. To avoid such embarrassment, always leave some rice at the end of the meal to indicate that you have enjoyed your meal, but that you are indeed full.
8. Sticking Chopsticks in Rice in China & Japan
One of the biggest and most frequent taboos in China and Japan is placing your chopsticks vertically in your bowl. At Japanese funerals, a bowl of rice is left with two chopsticks standing vertically in the center. When you place chopsticks straight upright in a bowl, it’s said to bring bad luck.
9. Eating Whales in the Arctic
During my visit to Greenland, I met many Inuits who shared their interesting culinary culture with me. The Inuits inhabit the Arctic, specifically northern regions of Canada and Greenland. To survive in the harsh conditions of the Arctic, they have trained themselves to fish and hunt from their surroundings. Traditionally, they sustain themselves with a diet that range from walrus to whale meat and polar bear. Today the Inuits have adopted a more international cuisine, but they still eat some of these weird foods on special occasions.
10. Feasting with the Dead in Sulawesi
The Toraja are a people indigenous to the Sulawesi region of Indonesia. What makes the Toraja unique is their novel approach to death. After a member of the Toraja passes away, they’re not buried or burned. The cadaver remains at home until their funeral, usually some months after their death. The Toraja believe that the soul of the deceased is still with them. And the new life of the dead doesn’t simply end with their presence in the home — they’re fed, too. The body joins the family at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and will ‘enjoy’ the meal along with the others.
Did I miss any other weird food traditions? Let me know in the comments field if you have experienced any other interesting food traditions.
Inspired? Pin it!